Wilmington sidewalk plans taking shape


WILMINGTON — Officials are preparing for summertime construction on a sidewalk project on West Main Street.

"It is a really dangerous place for people who are walking as pedestrians on this side of the street to get to businesses. It is a really tight area. It's really unsafe. It wasn't handicap accessible," said Gretchen Havreluk, Wilmington's economic development consultant, referring to a section deemed a priority after completion of a scoping study on all sidewalks in town.

She acted as agent for several property owners from Bartleby's Books down to the Wilmington Inn during a Development Review Board hearing last Monday. The board will meet again tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss the application.

Plans call for curbing to be granite and the sidewalk to be concrete. A permit application included three lampposts, two new crosswalks and a new retaining wall. This 520-foot stretch of sidewalk is only the start of a big push to replace sidewalks downtown and make for a safer pedestrian experience.

Although a schedule was not set in stone, the West Main Street project has to be done by December. The requirement has to do with guidelines under a $300,000 disaster recovery grant through the Vermont Community Development Program. The funding was secured by the town last March. The town has to contribute 10 percent of the project, meaning $38,000.

Proposed grading that starts at Bartleby's and goes to the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce office will provide "an illusion of a sidewalk," Havreluk said.

Zoning Administrator Craig Ohlson explained that a single property abutting the project was subject to the state's Act 250 permitting guidelines. But that didn't mean the entire sidewalk project would be.

"It's just one piece of the puzzle," he said.

The state's Agency of Transportation asked the town to bring one section of the sidewalk in, Havreluk said. The whole retaining wall in front of Fashion Plate needs to be replaced. Two stone staircases have to be eliminated as they currently are going into a flow of traffic and are not handicap accessible. A ramp will replace one leading to the restaurant Folly.

With the design, trees are expected to be saved. If not, Havreluk said they will be replaced.

"Right here is an 80-year-old, 70-foot-tall white spruce (tree) that I'm not sure if this construction may kill it," said Peter Wallace, who was sitting in the audience because his Folly property abuts the project. He normally chairs the DRB. "It may be fine. But if it dies, it's going to be really expensive to take down. And I'm sure I'll drop it on the house."

Wallace called for putting a condition on the permit, making the town responsible for the cost if the tree dies within a year or so.

A "laurel" design for proposed railing is historically appropriate for the downtown and it looks similar to railing at the pergola park downtown, according to Havreluk.

"We're keeping the pointed piece in it but we're capping it," she said.

The proposed LED lighting is "black and closed at the top so it's not illuminating" and it looks similar to other lighting downtown which is considered "historic in nature," Havreluk showed the board. The specifications call for posts to be no taller than 10 feet. A light near Bauman Paint will likely be higher since the location is at a lower grade.

DRB Vice Chairwoman Wendy Manners asked for more details on the brightness of the proposed lighting, citing "some sensitivity in town" over lighting at Town Offices, and the hours the lights would be on. Also requested was more information on flood hazard mitigation.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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