Dover embarks on economic development project

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DOVER — The community's future and economic destiny could be shaped by a new, collaborative planning project.

"This process can only work with your assistance and involvement and should be fun," Steve Neratko, director of economic development for the town, wrote this week in an email to merchants and residents.

He is looking for volunteers to join 10 working groups, each with a focus on projects related to beautification, business and workforce development, events, housing, infrastructure, marketing, public safety, telecommunications, trails or venues. The latter group will look at places where different events could be hosted and the potential for a skatepark.

Layla's Riverside Lodge owner Sandy MacDougall, who is joining the beautification group, said this summer was the third in a row where local businesses saw a decrease in visitors.

"I think we have everyone's attention," he said Wednesday. "It's time to act."

Groups will review "any relevant plans" with an eye toward helping Neratko and the Select Board as they prioritize projects for the town.

"I need your help!" Neratko wrote. "At the last Select Board meeting, a path forward was approved."

He said planning will result in figuring out how to best use the 1 percent local option tax revenue earmarked for economic and community development projects. His expectation is that each work group will meet once a month or more often if deemed necessary.

"I don't anticipate there being a large workload outside of these meetings, unless you are so inclined," he wrote.

Neratko said he hopes to develop a "long range work plan" and a timeline to complete projects by the spring.

Surveys are going to be developed and circulated to residents, property owners, business owners and visitors. Results are expected to be in by December.

Work groups will provide an update at the town's next monthly economic development meeting on Oct. 23. They will pick "priority projects" from October to November. And a "point person" from each group will discuss those projects with the Select Board in meetings from December to March.

The Mount Snow ski resort, MacDougall said, "wants to work with us and we want to work with Mount Snow."

"They're going above and beyond," he said.

MacDougall said the biggest project will be building infrastructure to attract more visitors.

"It's not going to happen overnight," he said. "This is a three- to five-year plan and I think everybody that has an understanding of what business is, understands that. But unless we start the actions now, we're never going to be able to assess whether it's going to work."

His hope is to get business owners and the ski resort working together by promoting local offerings.

"While Mount Snow is not directly involved with these working groups, we do have several employees who are passionate residents and have expressed interest in helping Dover grow and thrive," said Jamie Storrs, communications manager for the resort. "This is an exciting time for our town and we are happy to see the 1 percent fund helping improve this special community."

The resort is the biggest contributor to the fund.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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