Wilmington facade program policy to see tweaks
WILMINGTON -- While reviewing applications for a new program where business owners can receive funding through 1 percent local option tax revenue for improving their building facades, it was determined that a few revisions to the policy may need to be implemented.
"There were three of them that we ruled as disqualified. We left them in there if you want to talk about them," Town Manager Scott Murphy told the Selectboard Wednesday night. "This is the first rush of the applications that we've had. A lot of them came in right at 8 o'clock on Monday morning. Someone sat on the sidewalk for an hour before we opened. It's kind of like selling tickets to a concert."
The policy had included wording that made only projects seeking to improve the building front eligible for the funding. Issues that came up involved deciding whether to allow landscaping projects as well as signage and roofing.
Before running through the various applications individually, Wilmington Economic Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk told board members a precedence was likely going to be set after the meeting on Aug. 20.
The facade improvement program was pitched to the board by Havreluk. Applications were submitted starting on Aug. 4. The program is funded at $49,000 a year.
Selectboard-approved grant applications included projects for properties such as 9 South Main Street; Youth Services at 48 North Main Street; the Crafts Inn at 10 West Main Street; North Star Bowl on Route 100; Chapman's In Town Antiques at 7 West Main Street; and Jezebel's at 26 West Main Street. Project plans involved replacing shudders, fencing, lighting, clad boards and decking as well as re-painting.
After approval, a permit must be obtained if necessary then an agreement with the town is signed by the applicant. Funds will only be received once a project is completed.
A project was denied due to a question of ownership. One was tabled due to the how the property owner claims the property as a residence to the state when filing for taxes. Havreluk said the policy states that properties must be a business or a rental property of more than one unit.
Another application was tabled due to its seeking funds for a stone wall that would not be connected to the business' building. The last application reviewed was a request for lighting that was tabled after board members wondered whether wiring would qualify for the program.
"When I envisioned this, I envisioned landscaping, I envisioned signage and actual facades to the building and obviously, it's not completely clear," said Havreluk. "I think we need to add the word landscaping if that's what you want to do. I just think it's important to think about properties within our town that do have signage that is off of their building and things that could improve the look of a place tremendously."
Selectboard Chairman Jim Burke read the definition of a facade as "generally one exterior side of the building... but not only always the front," while adding that he was not against the idea of expanding policy language to include landscaping.
When board member Susie Haughwout asked if any project would be hurt by the delay of approval, Havreluk said she was not sure. Haughwout said the tabled applications should be addressed directly after changes to the policy language are made and suggested the word "property" might be used in the language rather than "building."
"The whole idea is to make the town look better and facade is the name associated with it but there's more to it than just facade," Selectboard member Jake White said. "It's the general appearance. We have to address what is the whole package."
The board may also look into allowing rental properties with only one unit into the program at its next meeting on Sept. 3. New applications are still being accepted for this round of funding and are available at wilmingtonvermont.us.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.
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