Friday February 22, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- Of the 300 people who responded to a survey asking what they wanted the town to look like in the coming decade, most were over 60 and liked things just the way they are, except for property taxes and recreation options.

The survey was sent out late last year by the planning commission to residences on the grand list. Copies of the survey were also posted around town and made available online. On Tuesday the commission met to begin talking about the results.

Most respondents over 60

"Some people just want to leave Pownal the way it is," said commission member Jim Winchester, owner of Winchester’s Store, where hard copies of the survey were available.

The vast majority of those who responded were over age 60, Winchester said. Not a single person 18 or under returned a survey. Winchester said respondents were, however, not satisfied with property taxes and wanted more recreation opportunities.

"The overriding thing is people kind of want things the same," said Planning Commission Chairman Michael Slattery.

To qualify for certain state grants, towns must have a town plan that is updated every five years. The town’s zoning bylaws have to largely be in agreement with the plan, and it’s the bylaws that govern what types of development are allowed in what areas.

Slattery said the commission will use the data from the surveys to update the plan.


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The commission has divided into work groups to tackle different aspects of it and his hope is to have a draft to present to the public by summer, but that may be overly optimistic. He said the ultimate goal is to have it complete by the end of the year, but it’s possible it could go beyond then.

Once a draft is complete the commission will host public meetings, likely at the Pownal Elementary School gym or the Solomon Wright Library, to attempt gaining further input from the public.

Slattery said a large portion of what the plan contains is required by the state to be there. The town has to account for what it wants to see in terms of things like economic development, renewable energy, and so on.

Commission member Rose-Marie Pelletier said the online version of the survey returned results from a slightly younger demographic than the paper surveys, but there was nothing substantially different in their comments. "There were not a lot of surprises," she said.

Pelletier said over the coming months the commission expects it will begin forming more concrete ideas on the updated plan.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr