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Some comments on the Irasville section of Waitsfield growth area

01/31/2008

By Mary Alice Bisbee

As someone who lives in the Waitsfield (Irasville) suggested growth area, I have been following the Waitsfield Planning Commission's finalizing of the wording of the grant proposal and, now, the Development Review Board's discussion of the Graves/Brother's proposed building site next to the farmers' market. Although I have not seen the final design, it appears that the current parking area, which most of us at Evergreen Place (EP) use to cross over to shopping, is going to be totally built up, if not with this current building then with another building proposed as building #6, to be built in the future for Bisbee's.

Yes, this is progress, I am sure! For those of us who actually live in the Irasville growth area, I do think we should have a say in how the parking and sidewalks are configured in this area. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to point out a few "problems" for those of us who live at Evergreen Place, the subsidized housing complex run very well by the Central Vermont Community Land Trust (CVCLT).

Undoubtedly, this winter has been extremely severe with huge amounts of snowfall that have made walking to the post office, the banks and stores extremely difficult for many of us who are either elders or people with disabilities, some using wheelchairs for all pedestrian visits to retail stores. And as I continue to listen to the CVCLT proposal on Channel 60, I hear the word "handicapped" used. Are you aware that this word comes from the old habit of people with disabilities who had to go "cap in hand" to beg for alms to stay alive? Why not just use the much more acceptable language of the ADA, which includes ALL disabilities, and none of them need to be considered a particular "handicap." The word "accessible" gets the meaning across without the derogatory modifier.

It is certainly wonderful that Waitsfield is finally starting to build structures, and particularly bathrooms, that can be used by people in wheelchairs, those who are visually impaired and elders, who may move a little slower than younger folks and with a little more urgency. It still seems strange to me that the one public bathroom that is totally accessible at EP is locked, except when the Mad River Seniors are using our nice building. What about visitors? And those at the farmers' market who need a bathroom, quickly?

We are grateful that our walkways and driveway are now being plowed, shoveled, sanded and salted so that we can continue to use them in foul weather and fair. One real problem is a huge mud puddle and/or ice pond at the bottom of our walkway heading towards the shopping area. Sidewalks are sketchy, and with this new development project planned I do hope the DRB will work diligently to provide for parking, walking and using wheelchairs to transit the growth area without getting maimed or killed.  

In recent visits to the post office and to Shaw's, I noted that although there are three curb cuts along the long covered sidewalk in front of all the buildings leading to the P.O., only two of them, the ones in front of the post office, are kept unencumbered (most of the time) by cars. The other curb cut has usually had a car parked in front of it, over in front of "The Collection." I bet many folks don't even know it is there! And some don't know what a curb cut is for. Although I am not restricted to a wheelchair, I often am pushing a shopping cart right down the traveled lane (often worrying if I will be hit by an out-of-state driver buzzing through at top speed) and have to lift the cart up onto the walkway in order to avoid being run over. Think about what this must be like in a wheelchair.

This was particularly difficult during the Christmas holiday season. And, heaven forbid, what will happen when there is going to be another, and perhaps two buildings, between our walk to Shaw's and the post office? And where will all the cars park for the Irasville farmers' market? Will it have to be moved? Or paved over for parking? And another thing, I thought the reason to have a second story on a building in the growth area was to have the second floor to be used for rental housing, not for Bisbee's storage.

Yet another concern is a plea to Waitsfield voters to pass the water and sewer regulations on Town Meeting Day so that we can at long last have sidewalks! And be able to cross Route 100 safely and access the lower areas of this new growth area through connectivity as well as Mehuron's store and the adjoining complex. Evergreen Place, unfortunately, has some real problems with water and septic. Although I have no expertise on whether our water is potable or not, there are times after a midwinter thaw or hard summer rain, particularly, when many of us have discovered very yellow water coming out of our faucets. Several of us have decided to purchase bottled water. This should not be a way to provide for our low-income elders and people with disabilities. Are you aware that the "honeywagon" comes to Evergreen almost once a month to be sure we are not living in you know what? The odor, at times, when there is a good thaw, is more than most of us can stand!

Please note, I do not blame the Land Trust at all. They are doing the best they can to make affordable housing available to seniors and people with disabilities in our Valley until such time as adequate infrastructure is created. This land in Irasville, which once was just a group of houses, a cemetery, a school (the Den), and not ever a real "growth area," now really is one whether we like it or not. For those concerned about a rise in their taxes because of the sewer and water systems, just stop and think what our growth center is becoming without these very necessary amenities. I don't think we want to become the garbage dump, sewage filled place with no potable water that is usually found only in third world countries.

I also have a suggestion for the DRB and planning commission when it comes to the CVCLT creating affordable condos for sale on Butcher Block Road. Perhaps the town, or some well-endowed Valley citizen or group, could provide the solar hot water panels and the very expensive individual unit monitors that will be needed to support this wonderful idea. Perhaps it could be a grant-supported pilot project. As noted, the CVCLT does not have the funding to make this amenity available to people seeking to purchase "affordable units."

And, lastly, isn't it wonderful what one can learn by tuning in to Channel 60? The staff and photographers at MRVTV really do deserve our praise for making these town meetings available to those of us who would rather sit in our living rooms watching, than go sit on the hard chairs at the Town offices.

One post script for those who don't know me: Please note that Bisbee's Hardware has not been owned or run by Bisbees for over 20 years; and the Bisbees, my second cousins who did own the original Bridge Street pot-bellied stove hardware store, no longer live in The Valley.

Mary Alice Bisbee lives in Waitsfield.
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