Created on Thursday, 15 May 2008 09:09
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2008 09:09
By Linda Lloyd
My path to living full time in The Valley was an interesting one, starting in 1992, when I came from my home in Pennsylvania to take a class at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School. And I continued to head north from Virginia, to take classes and eventually to serve on the Yestermorrow Board for nine years.
My first-owned real estate in The Valley was three acres of Mad Riverfront property in Waitsfield. The first night I was to move into my earth-roofed home turned out to be the night of the 1998 Flood. Sixty feet of treed riverbank was gone, my well and telephone pole were left in the middle of the river.
In early 2006, I bought a damaged property next to the covered bridge in Warren Village. After taking more than 30 tons of debris off the site, I began construction of a wonderful new home. David Dion mentioned to me about the Mad River Valley Planning District and the vacant executive director's spot. I did some research, interviewed and got the position, which I started shortly after moving to The Valley on Memorial Day weekend.
The Mad River Valley Planning District is a real boon to The Valley. The District helps to coordinate efforts of the member towns of Fayston, Warren and Waitsfield. With Sugarbush as the fourth funder and the Chamber of Commerce as a participant, the MRVPD gives The Valley a unique entity in which to discuss issues and projects, secure grants and move forward with Valley-wide initiatives. The MRVPD also administers the Rural Resource Commission, Certified Local Government, the first three-town CLG in the entire United States. This CLG entity has secured more than $140,000 in grants for The Valley, mostly in the area of historic preservation.
In January of 2008, I was asked by Phil Hawes, architect of the Biosphere 2, to visit Amarillo, Texas, where a group was forming to develop an off-the-grid ecoVillage. I was quite struck by the flatness and lack of trees and water, but the group of people and the incredible ideas for the village were quite enticing. I was made an offer to join the Natural Systems Developers team, and in March gave my notice to leave the planning district position.
I left with a variety of projects in process, including the construction of my much loved house on the river. I would like to speak to the two most important MRVPD projects.
What most concerns me relative to the future of The Valley is the affordable housing crisis. I sat at meetings where neighbors indicated they did NOT want a particular housing development near them because it would be "affordable" or "workforce housing." The lack of understanding about those terms is a serious problem. Had I not sold properties in Virginia, I would not have been able to find a suitable house in The Valley on my $45,000 salary. There are many families in The Valley with two wage earners who cannot find a home to buy. Children of long-term residents cannot stay in The Valley because they cannot find a home and/or cannot find a job. Businesses will not locate in The Valley or expand in The Valley if their employees cannot find places to live.
The business environment and the lack of affordable housing are intimately intertwined. Workforce housing is housing that is for the normal average wage earner in our Valley, our teachers, our shop owners, our Valley employees. I urge everyone to get involved in the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition (Charlie Hosford, president, and Bob Ferris, vice-president) and to work to get new housing that is affordable, approved. This is a problem that affects full-time and part-time residents alike, if you wish The Valley to stay vibrant.
Approval of the water and sewer systems in Waitsfield will allow for affordable housing and live-work opportunities in the Irasville area where people can walk to stores and other amenities. Although this is an issue that only Waitsfield voters can approve, it is truly one of the biggest Valley-wide issues in many years, as it affects housing and businesses and the future.
As gas gets more and more expensive, businesses will absolutely be unable to get workers to come from out of The Valley to work at service wages in The Valley. Valley residents who currently commute will be faced with trying to find a job in The Valley, or moving because they cannot afford to live here and commute out. If we cannot attract and retain new families, our schools will suffer and maybe face consolidation, we will be unable to find young volunteers for the ambulance and rescue squads and our businesses and our quality of life will suffer.
The completion of the Mad River Path was a top priority for me and will continue to be a top priority of the Mad River Valley Planning District. Why should you care? The Mad River Path provides recreational opportunities for our residents and gets them out walking, meeting their neighbors and exercising. The Mad River Path will help to bring visitors to our Valley and dollars to our businesses. The Mad River Path will connect the Warren School to Moretown, pass through wonderful scenery and sensitive areas, connect to shopping and other amenities and provide educational opportunities.
BUT, the Mad River Path will only do these things if you support it by becoming a member. Yes, the Path Association is a non-profit organization that relies on fund raising and memberships for support. To ensure that the Path continues and expands, I suggest you join by visiting the web site at www.madriverpath.com. To ensure the Path for the future, support the granting of easements for the Path by the towns and by private landowners. Having the Path go by your property can help your property get sold in the future and will connect our communities and help our Valley!
Those are my parting words to The Valley -- I have enjoyed being a part of your community and soaking up your "people energy." Other than where I grew up, The Valley has been the place I felt most alive and connected through my 16-year involvement. I am developing new connections here in Amarillo and hope to be able to come back and talk about Mariposa. If I can do anything to help out there, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks and be well!