A roomful of people gathered in Waitsfield this week to talk about where the town’s offices should be built. Discussion was lively and respectful as people discussed whether the offices should be in Waitsfield or Irasville and which site in either location was more logical, important, historically accurate or appropriate to the zoning and Town Plan.
Those present discussed the six sites and discussed the importance of the building, considering the pros and cons of various sites without having specific dollar amounts attached to each of the potential sites. There was some agitation for specific dollar amounts from those present, but members of the town offices task force committee rightly refused to get drawn into a site by site, dollar for dollar discussion.
This discussion is not about money. It’s not that money doesn’t matter, because it does. But this project is too important for the future of Waitsfield to let money be the overarching concern.
This building will be as important to the next 100 to 200 years of Waitsfield as the Joslin Memorial Library, the Waitsfield United Church, the Wait House and Bridge Street. This is a big deal project and how it is executed really matters. This is our one change to get it right for the next generations.
If the new offices are built in Irasville, we need sidewalks and more pedestrian access, but we don’t need more parking. If the office is built in the village its gravitas must meet that of the surroundings and it must be on Route 100 in keeping with the historic settlement pattern of the village. And we’ll need parking.
In the village, there is the opportunity to purchase one of two parcels of land. If money were no object, it would make sense to buy both parcels of land because of the absolute value of that land that abut the tow-owned Flemer field, and then build the town offices on the farm stand parcel along Route 100.
In the village, the idea of trying to fit one more building on the land that holds the Wait House and the Waitsfield fire station is less desirable. The fact that the town already owns the land is simply a red herring. To cram one more building into that building cluster that includes a pole barn fire station and an historic structure, meticulously rebuilt to conform with historical standards does a disservice to the existing buildings as well as new town offices.
In Irasville, town investment in the area would go a long way to turning it into a village scape, similar to Waitsfield. The current zoning and Town Plan call for re-creating historic settlement patterns in Irasville. It could be done.
Pros of Irasville? It’s where people go for food, banks, the post office, the hardware store and the coffee shop. Pros of the village? It’s where people go to the library, church, school and medical center. You can make the argument either way. This is our one chance to get it right. Get involved.