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Selectboard unanimously approves grant application to support gateway beautification and visitor center development

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the Selectboard unanimously approved proceeding with a grant application to enhance gateway beautification efforts and support the development of a Visitor Center at Bill's Country Store.

The overall project, which includes the grant, will accomplish four main objectives:
•    Properly manage storm water run-off from US Route 4 and Killington Road by treating it with a series of landscaped retention ponds;
•    Create a vegetation management plan to remove the invasive species phragmites australis in the public right of way;
•    Repurpose private property for public use, allowing the Town to place its Municipal Park & Ride facility adjacent to the new Killington Visitor Center with public restrooms;
•    Facilitate the creation of a consolidated entrance from Route 4 to the Visitor Center (formerly Bill's Country Store), Base Camp Outfitters, and the Park & Ride, and align the single entrance with Killington Road.

"Locating the Park & Ride at the new Visitor Center, consolidating and lining up the entrances of Basecamp, the Visitor Center, and Park & Ride will improve the sense of arrival and safety of the Killington Road and Route 4 intersection" said Selectboard Chair, Chris Bianchi.

In December, the Town was awarded an $80,000 grant to construct a Municipal Park & Ride and recently received authorization to move the Park & Ride to Bill's Country Store after developing an agreement with the owners to provide a 50 year easement.

The new owners of Bill's Country Store purchased the facility at an auction in November and plan to convert it into a Visitor Center for the Town and Region. The Killington Chamber of Commerce plans to move into the facility in the spring and operate the Visitor Center. The Chamber is currently working to finalize the terms of a lease/purchase agreement.

"Having a real Visitor Center at the crossroads of two Vermont Byways and Killington Road has been a long term goal of the Chamber. It will be a benefit for businesses and the community at large" said Bill Vines, Chamber board member.

To place the Municipal Park & Ride at the Visitor Center and consolidate the entrance with Base Camp Outfitters, the Town will apply for a state grant to fund the site preparations and beautification. The scope of work the grant would fund includes properly managing the storm water run-off from Route 4 by treating runoff with a series of landscaped retention ponds, and eliminating the invasive species phragmites australis. The work would take place on land owned by Bills Country Store LLC and Free Heels Inc., both of which have agreed to provide public easements to the Town. The grant application requests $174,987 in state funds, for which the Town would provide a match of $43,746.

To ensure the Selectboard of their intention to convert Bill's Country Store into a Visitor's Center, the owners of the Store signed an agreement with the Town, committing to reimburse the grant match of $43,746 to the Town if the Store is not developed into a Visitors Center.

"The project allows the town to improve our gateway and support the opening of the Visitor Center without purchasing the facility or incurring debt or new maintenance costs to the Town" said Town Manager, Seth Webb.

The grant application has received unanimous support from both the Selectboard and Planning Commission which wrote letters to that effect.

In addition, Killington Resort has backed the visitor center concept. President, Mike Solimano, says, "The Resort supports the concept of a visitor center in this location. I think it will help us move forward with our "One Killington" initiative by improving communication with our guests and making sure they have the information necessary for them to have an enjoyable visit to our community."

The Town expects a response from the grant application in March and hopes to continue with the project in the spring of 2013.