HEARD ON THE STREET: 12.15.16

Survey Says: Residents Want Indoor Rec Center WITH Swimming Pool

MONTPELIER — The results of the Montpelier Indoor Recreation and Aquatics Task Force’s Preliminary Survey have been compiled. Over 1,000, or about 12 percent of Montpelier’s residents, responded. At least 93 percent of them believe Montpelier needs a multi-use, multi-generational indoor downtown recreational facility. The survey results reflect an overwhelming desire for an indoor swimming pool and a location close to the downtown that is affordable and financially sustainable. Next steps for the task force include working on a business plan and reaching out to volunteers. More information and complete results of the survey can be found at: www.jumpandsplashvt.org.

 

Levy Speaks To Rotary Club About Researching His World War II Uncle

MONTPELIER — A rapt audience gathered Dec. 5 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel for the Montpelier Rotary Club’s presentation featuring author Paul Levy. Levy told attendees about his post-retirement adventures trying to trace his Uncle Phil’s tracks across Europe during the latter days of World War II. A book, “Finding Phil: Lost in War and Silence,” Bauhan, 2016, resulted.

Levy told Rotarians of getting a 96-page handwritten journal and some letters from a family member and turning that into a trek across the globe to find the uncle he never knew. After extensive research, phone calls and travel, Levy located his uncle’s final resting place when he was killed by a German SS officer in the mountains near the German border.

The book can be purchased online at www.amazon.com/Finding-Phil-Lost-War-Silence/dp/0872332241. Please see a review on page 9.

 

Review Board Denies Request For Offices At Old NECI Building

MONTPELIER — In a unanimous 7-0 decision, the Montpelier Development Review Board issued a decision Nov. 21 denying the owner of the old New England Culinary Institute offices at 56 College St. permission to use the building for general offices. The board said that general office use would be more intensive than the academic office use that the culinary institute had made of the building, which is called Harris Hall and was once part of Vermont College.

One of the owners of Harris Hall, Jeff Nick, told The Bridge he has appealed the decision to the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division. The Harris Hall case was listed on the agenda for executive session discussion at the Dec. 14 city council meeting.

Meanwhile, the new zoning proposed by the planning commission would appear to allow Harris Hall to have personal or professional offices by right and general offices as a conditional use.

Nick had requested of the development review board that one non-conforming use — general offices — be substituted for another non-conforming use — academic offices. City staff supported the substitution, and the one neighbor who appeared at an Oct. 17 hearing on the subject supported the change.

But the board said academic offices had only been allowed because Harris Hall had remained part of the Planned Unit Development master plan, even though the building was under New England Culinary Institute ownership. In 2014, the Vermont College of Fine Arts, successor to the Union Institute, amended its academic plan and removed Harris Hall.

In its decision, the development review board wrote: “While the current zoning bylaws do allow under §803.B the exchange of one non-conforming use for another, the use must be the same or of a more restricted nature … The term ‘office use’ is broad enough to encompass uses that go beyond and are more intensive than academic offices.”

The owners of Harris Hall have separately asked for conditional use approval to use the building as a residential care facility or group home. A development review board hearing on that request is scheduled for Jan. 17.

 

Montpelier Joins Chicago, NYC to Become a ‘Sanctuary City’

MONTPELIER — Effective Nov. 30, Montpelier joined several other major United States cities in becoming a ‘sanctuary city.’ The proposal was introduced by Mayor John Hollar and passed unanimously. What does this mean for Montpelier?

“The resolution is not intended to benefit any specific group, as we have a very small immigrant population,” Hollar told The Bridge.

The proposal states, “As a Sanctuary City, the City of Montpelier will have policies that direct employees to refuse the application of any request from a state or federal agency that requires the identification of a resident’s immigration status; and the City of Montpelier shall refuse any requests to be an extension of any federal immigration policy enforcement actions and shall not enter into any agreements to carry out such enforcement; and the City of Montpelier requires all City departments and divisions to develop and/or codify policies that reflect Montpelier’s status as a Sanctuary City, and we will further resolve our status as a Sanctuary City upon codification of those policies.”

Residents weighed in on Front Porch Forum, a social media website. Richard Sheir wrote Dec. 3, “Last Wednesday night, Montpelier joined capital cities Austin, Santa Fe, Sacramento and Salem and became a Sanctuary City. Joining Burlington, Winooski and Middlebury, Montpelier is now on record as refusing to cooperate with federal immigration roundups of our neighbors. City Council should be commended for taking steps to explicitly place Vermont values first.”

However, George Bollenback disagreed stating, “As an American citizen and taxpayer of Montpelier, if I break the law I face consequences. This could be a step to opening the floodgates for people we do not want living in our city or anywhere in the USA. Criminals are now welcome.”

City Council member Jessica Edgerly Walsh weighed in on the cyber conversation, writing, “In announcing Montpelier’s Sanctuary City status, my colleagues on City Council and I are simply confirming and highlighting the policies our staff, particularly law enforcement, already follow to ensure that anyone in our community who is the victim of a crime can access services.”

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