By Lani Duke
Reimagining Depot Park
Calls continue to come in to the aldermen from residents worried about the fate of Depot Park. The city’s Community and Economic Development Committee voted to pursue a Community Development Block Grant for studying the feasibility and cost to dissolve Depot Park as it now stands in the process of turning Evelyn Street into a pedestrian mall. The aldermen approved the request at their Oct. 5 meeting.
Brennan Duffy, Rutland Redevelopment Authority executive director, has emphasized that this a request for study only. Any planning will take place over several years, and the city is only looking at a design concept. Concepts frequently change during studies like this, he noted.
Some question the loss of Depot Park’s historicity. Seemingly, it really doesn’t have much. Although there was once a spacious park between Merchants Row and the now demolished passenger train depot, it wasn’t much like the one that exists now. Historic photos on display in the Asa Bloomer building and City Hall show the former depot with its park.
Proponents see more promise than drawbacks. They envision more green space than is currently in place, a boutique hotel, not just added retail space, perhaps even a near-resort, with proximity to specialty shops, tasty food, theatre performances.
Fighting solar siting in Rutland Town
Rutland Town is taking its fight against a new solar project within its bounds to the Vermont Supreme Court. On Oct. 28, town representatives told the court they feel the state violated the town’s plan and solar facility siting standards when the state Public Service Board failed to consider the impact that a 15-acre, 2.3-megawatt solar installation on Cold River Road would have on the community.
Town Attorney Kevin Brown argued that the facility is too large for the site, with possible negative impact to eight neighboring historic properties and scenic vistas from Bald Mountain. It violates the Quechee Standards, he said, guidelines that bar projects that affect “scenic or natural beauty, aesthetics, historic sites or rare or irreplaceable natural areas.”
Another pillar in the Rutland Town argument is that the three-member PSB is not an elected body, yet makes decisions of this magnitude that can overrule decisions made by officials who are elected.
A Rutland Renewable Energy representative told the court that the land had been lying unused for 18 years and that the town plan calls for the site to be used for industry or commerce.
The court’s decision will determine much more than what happens to this one solar development. Another, larger development has been proposed right next to the one under question. It would sport some six times as many solar panels, covering more than twice the number of acres in the original groSolar proposal. The ECOS Energy project would clearcut the entire 55.9-acre parcel.
Other towns have a stake in the results, too. If the PSB can issue a “certificate of public good” that overlooks or negates standards approved by this town, it can do so to other communities. Fifty communities have signed a “solar resolution letter” to persuade the Board to yield more say-so to local government.
to NeighborWorks of Western Vermont for receiving $10,000 from NeighborWorks America and $1.75 million from the State of Vermont. Money from the national organization is intended to aid in developing a more positive public relations strategy. The state funds are to be lending capital for home improvement loans, including to landlords for improving rental housing.
to all who have been urging completion of the Western rail corridor. A $10 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant shrinks the time delay for achieving passenger rail service to Burlington to four years.