Bellows Falls includes housing leaflet to water bill

The Selectboard met to discuss including a leaflet in their March water bill on Jan. 25. Photo provided

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Jan. 25 the Bellows Falls Village Trustees acknowledged the request by the Rockingham Incremental Development Working Group to add an information flyer to the March water bill. This flyer would include resources for homeowners such as directions to a website with marketing studies and workshops.

Development Director Gary Fox said that one of the task forces from the Take Action Rockingham meetings in 2020 was for the redevelopment of buildings. He said that through the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation the Town was able to receive technical assistance from the Incremental Development Alliance (IncDev) and RIDWG was founded. This assistance included workshops, extra education for property owners, and a marketing study on housing needs.

Fox introduced John Dunbar, a member of RIDWG who is also on the Planning Commission. Dunbar said RIDWG was made up of volunteers, community members, and stakeholders. He said it was not easy for a community member or out-of-town landlord to get access to resources. RIDWG wanted to provide information and resources to everyone who pays the water bill; some of whom live elsewhere. Dunbar said there were two reasons to add their information flyer to the water bill: to get the information out, and share that the committee was working with the town. Dunbar referred to the energy downtown: the lights, the painting projects, and the train station and said, “let’s capture that energy while we have it, and let’s expand on that.”

Village President Deborah Wright asked why they were requesting this information be sent by the village when it seemed like this was a town group.

Fox explained that the outreach focus was on Bellows Falls and that the benefit was to village and town and an increased Grand List.

Fox said RIDWG has identified the challenges of local employers to attract employees due to the shortage of affordable housing. He asked Dunbar about the large number of carriage houses they had discovered in the village. Dunbar explained that IncDev identified carriage houses as possible accessory dwelling units.

Dunbar described large-scale development as taking “a lot of money and a lot of time.” But, if twenty people within the village created an ADU, it would increase housing “on a much faster trajectory than waiting on a 26-unit [structure].” RIDWG offers resources for owners on rental rehab, home energy loans, and landlord groups.

Wade Masure suggested that the village seal be added next to the town on the flyer.

Wright said her only concern was that other nonprofits might want to include their information in future billings and mentioned extra postage costs and added administration.

Fox said that RIDWG was part of the Development Office and not a nonprofit. He explained that IncDev projects were on the homepage of the Rockingham website under the Municipal Project tab. He advised interested people to visit the town website to find the available workshops, recordings, and marketing information. Fox said there were also instructions on how to write a Pro-Forma – a formula for redevelopment so people could find out easily if a modifying their carriage house was cost-efficent.

James McAuliffe made the motion to approve the insert of RIDWG information to the water bill and the motion passed unanimously.

The Village Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.

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