Jamaica board turns down college offer

Wednesday May 1, 2013

JAMAICA -- The Selectboard voted three to two against Marlboro College using town property for seminars on the planning process.

"It's an educational experience," said Selectboard member Paul Fraser. "They'd be using our community as visual aid for this particular planning. They've asked since the beginning if we could provide them space for seminars. There's no requirement that we do anything. But they're going to use us as a real aid in their teaching."

Marlboro College recently received a grant to teach students involved in community planning. The students are going to learn how to plan for a greenspace as well as obtain grants for municipalities in such events.

Windham Regional Commission Executive Director Chris Campany sent e-mails to the Jamaica Selectboard asking if the town would be interested in the college's project. If not, the college will work in another town going through a similar process.

The property in question was on Water Street, where four homes were damaged by Tropical Storm Irene. Currently, the property owners are waiting to see if they will receive buyouts for the properties after FEMA denied them.

"We don't know what's going to happen with the buyouts," said Clark. "We don't have any more information from the buyouts than we did a month ago."

The Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission is facilitating grants through Community Development Block Grant Program funds.

Clark said she didn't feel right allowing students to do a study on a greenspace on property "we don't really own yet."

She mentioned that Marlboro College might expect the town to use one of the designs or plans the students created if they do all the work. Fraser said that the college would not require the town to use their plans.

"They could go to another town with similar circumstances," he added. "They picked us because we have a dramatic one."

The public was even more weary about allowing the school to use their situation for an academic endeavor.

"It's very concerning," said one resident, who was particularly concerned about the possibility of that property being turned into a public park. "Privacy wise and security wise."

Another member of the public suggested that the town plant flowers and trees at the location.

"Make it a beautiful spot," the person said, recommending that the board eventually make it a community project. "Something the town wouldn't have to maintain. That's the other thing. Who's going to take care of it if we do put something in?"

Fraser wondered if the college's project calls for students to meet with neighbors and the community in general.

"If it wasn't (in the learning process), it ought to be now," he said.

The Selectboard already received an extension for deciding whether or not Marlboro College could use town property for its studies. Since the board did not meet the week before, it had to decide at the meeting.

"Our concerns are for the people who live in the area," said Clark. "We think it's important to think of their concerns. They wouldn't be here today if they weren't concerned. I think we owe them. They've appointed us as a Selectboard."

Two members were for giving Marlboro College permission to use town property for its students, while three were against it.

"I think it's a great idea but there's too many unknowns," said Selectboard member Judy Flower, who had just joined the board the night of that meeting.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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