Preserving the best of Guilford while planning for the future

After 20 years, nonprofits eye much-needed affordable housing at the edge of Algiers village

GUILFORD — As one drives south on Canal Street, rounds the corner, and enters Guilford, perhaps it's easy to take for granted the change from the commercial development in Brattleboro to the pastoral scene in Algiers Village, but if it weren't for the extraordinary efforts of a group of our residents more than 20 years ago, it could be a very different scene.

In 2002, when the 24-acre piece of land at the entrance of Guilford on Route 5 - the gateway to our town - went up for sale and was in danger of being commercially developed, a group of concerned citizens formed Guilford Preservation Inc. With the Vermont Land Trust as an active partner, GPI raised $182,500 to purchase the parcel.

GPI immediately conveyed a conservation easement to the Vermont Land Trust on the parcel, thus ensuring its conservation in perpetuity, with a 5.5-acre exception for future development of affordable housing (later reduced to 3.5 acres to prevent intrusion into wetlands).

The 8-acre meadow along the highway will forever be maintained as pasture and agriculture.

Recreational use includes the vast snowmobile trail that crosses the property. In an exciting development this spring, 2 acres have been leased to a local resident for growing organic cut flowers. The parcel also offers the possibility for community gardens as well as other agricultural and recreational uses to benefit Guilford residents.

* * *

In the meantime, after a long wait, GPI is fulfilling the other promise to those individuals and grantors who made the purchase possible - the development of new homes to be built up on the knoll, well beyond the meadow, and accessed from Partridge Road.

To fulfill that promise, GPI has partnered with Windham-Windsor Housing Trust, which for 35 years has developed high-quality homes for Vermonters with modest incomes.

WWHT, which paid half the expense of bringing the Brattleboro water line into Algiers when that housing was built, has shown itself to be a great partner in providing and maintaining the other homes they've developed in Algiers - projects that revitalized that area and have proven a significant asset for our town.

These existing buildings are fully occupied with waiting lists. This new development, located in the village center of Algiers, can help provide critically needed housing in Guilford, reducing scattered housing throughout our farmlands which changes the rural landscape that so many Guilford residents treasure.

Existing water and sewer lines can accommodate the project, and its proximity to the Guilford Country Store and bus lines make its location ideal.

We also recognize that there are current residents who would like to downsize but who want to remain in town, and the availability of these new apartments may provide that opportunity. That will make more houses available for families who desperately need them.

When completed, the housing development will pay significant annual property taxes to the town. Funding will include a mix of private equity, state, and federal funds and rebates that incentivize energy efficiency in the building's operations.

* * *

At this early stage, there are no designs, no specific number of new homes determined, no specific income targeting, no clear understanding of the impacts.

All of these questions - and many more - get worked out during the development process, which hasn't begun and will be done with engagement with the community. This process will take at least a year, maybe several, before construction can begin.

GPI is currently working on creating a website to provide the latest information as it becomes available.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates