Springfield reviews ordinance for “nuisance” properties near schools

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Springfield Select Board will hold a public hearing Tuesday, May 29 on proposed amendments to the town’s ordinance regarding neglected properties located near schools or child care facilities.

At Monday’s town meeting the Select Board approved revisions to the town’s current ordinance for addressing “nuisance” properties, meaning properties whose poor condition or human activities pose a health or safety risk to the community. Examples of nuisance properties included building dilapidation like graffiti, broken or boarded up windows, or properties where criminal activity is occurring.

There will be a public meeting Tuesday, May 29 on the ordinance about potentially dangerous properties near schools and childcare facilities. Photo provided.

The ordinance affects nuisance properties located within 500 feet of a school or state licensed or registered childcare program. Property owners in violation may be subject to a municipal fine of $500 or additional penalties by the town or state.

The proposed amendments mostly comprise of tweaks to key terms to provide more legal clarity and specificity to the current ordinance. The ordinance adds language so that “child care program” will read “state licensed or registered child care program,” and adds “a town designee” to those authorized – currently the Select Board and town manager – to implement or enforce the ordinance.

The amendment also changes the parameters for which building renovation plans would require prior Select Board approval. Originally the Select Board had to approve any property renovation plans whose cost would exceed $100,000. In the amended ordinance the amount is increased to $500,000.

Selectman Walter Martone said the purpose was to narrow the plans needing Select Board approval to larger commercial projects, rather than a broad list, which also included many residential renovations.

The public hearing will take place at the next Select Board meeting May 29. There are currently eight registered childcare programs in Springfield. Town Manager Tom Yennerrell said that a map showing these program locations will be displayed at the hearing. A list of these childcare programs is also available to the public on the town’s website.

At Monday’s meeting, the Select Board approved a proposal to reclassify two federally managed highways into town, upgrading Route 11 from a “major collector” to “minor arterial” and downgrading Route 10 between the Chester Road junction and Route 106 from “minor arterial” to “major collector.”

Katherine Otto from the Southern Windsor Regional Planning Commission explained the proposal to the Select Board, saying that switching the classification will provide a more accurate description to the Federal Highway Administration of how each road actually functions within the region.

Currently the federal government categorizes Route 11’s function as a local road, with less traffic flow but typically more businesses or target destinations, while classifying the northern section of Route 10 as a more fluid traffic route. The issue, Otto said, is that contrary to the federal classification, Route 10 has more access to businesses and other high-volume destinations, not Route 11.

Otto said that the intent is to designate Route 10 as a route containing local business access and Route 11 as more of a through way, which is actually the function of each today.

Switching the classification is not expected to affect federal funding of the roads, and designated responsibilities for the federal government in highway emergencies would only change to the other road, Otto said.

Otto also said that changing federal classification should not affect navigational maps, saying that navigation companies like TomTom use their own mapping data.

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