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Selectboard approves Downtown Improvement District application

BRATTLEBORO—The Downtown Improvement District application is one step closer to renewal, but not all property owners in the designated area voted to continue it.

At the April 3 regular Selectboard meeting, the Board voted 4-0 to approve the application to renew the district. The next step will likely come in June, with a hearing before the Department of Housing and Community Development’s downtown program coordinator.

Planning Director Rod Francis explained a little bit about the process and what the Downtown Improvement District brings to the town.

Towns participating in the DID, which is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, have to reapply every five years.

Properties in the district are assessed an extra tax, and property owners are eligible for financial assistance with things like elevators and other life-safety improvements.

Building owners can also receive historic tax credits for renovations and improvements, and this program, Francis said, greatly contributed to rebuilding the Wilder Block and Brooks House.

Francis described the application process for renewing the DID as “lengthy.” Requirements include the Selectboard’s review and approval of the application and a vote by the affected property owners.

The results of the vote, Francis said, were 56 in favor and 12 opposed, or, 82 percent versus 18 percent.

Why the dissent?

Selectboard member Brandie Starr asked Francis, “Is that a normal split?” Francis had data only from the previous vote because he wasn’t there for prior renewals, and he hadn't seen a record of the decisions. “It’s very similar to the vote that was conducted last time,” he said.

Starr asked a follow-up question about the reasons for the dissenting votes.

“It remains a mystery,” said Francis. The vote was by paper ballot, and was a “yes/no” question, he said, and “we didn’t seek any other information.”

But, Francis said, “it roughly corresponds to people’s views on what they’d like to be taxed and what benefits they derive from that.”

Selectboard member David Schoales noted the many opportunities townspeople have had to express their opposition to the Board. “We haven’t heard from anybody in quite a while.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #454 (Wednesday, April 11, 2018). This story appeared on page A2.

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