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There’s no denying that Waitsfield’s new sidewalks are fabulous and worth waiting for – even if we waited almost 20 years for them.
The sidewalks themselves are awesome and the granite curbing is amazing and it is a great thing to be able to walk from Point A to Point B in Irasville and (soon) Waitsfield without walking on the edge of Route 100.
With another section of sidewalk slated for the west side of Route 100 at the north end of the village we will have achieved an impressive level of connectedness and vastly improved the pedestrian friendliness of our town.
But here’s the rub. It seems there are Vermont Agency of Transportation and state utility regulations that require three existing power/utility poles on the east side of Route 100 through the village to be moved to the east side of the sidewalk. That means they need to be moved closer to the three homes or businesses than they currently are.
If they are moved closer, to the inside (property side versus Route 100) side of the sidewalk they will almost surely cause the demise of some of the trees that form the scenic tree canopy on that stretch of road.
There is no question that they must be moved. Rules are rules and there is no getting around them. The state has a four-rod right of way on state highways such as Route 100 which means the state’s right of way extends 33 feet from the center line in both directions.
Another option is to remove those three utility poles and replace them with one pole on the west side of Route 100 – also impacting a property owner but not leading to the demise of the trees.
No one wants to impact other people’s homes and businesses unduly and it’s hard to imagine a worse impact than having a utility pole moved into your village front yard causing your trees to die. But rights of ways exist and people need sidewalks and this decision must be made.
The Waitsfield Select Board will discuss the issue at its next meeting on May 28 at 7 p.m. in the town offices.
Public input is welcome.