On October 4, the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Mad River Valley Television (MRVTV) hosted a forum for the four candidates for Washington-2 state representative at the Big Red Barn at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield. Candidates Rebecca Baruzzi (I), Fayston; Gene Bifano (I), Warren; incumbent Kari Dolan (D), Waitsfield; and Dara Torre (D), Moretown, answered questions related to the local business community. The full video will be available at https://mrvtv.com/category/politics/.


Eric Friedman, chamber executive director, asked “What do you see as the most vital issue for businesses in the MRV and how would you address them?”

Torre: “The lack of housing means lack of workers. That’s a huge threat for our communities to not have [workers] live here.”

Bifano: “How can we make [zoning] regulations more amenable [to businesses]? We need to have a safe environment, a place where taxes aren’t crazy.”

Dolan: “Housing is a crisis in this area. We see that every day when we try to go to a restaurant and find out they can’t find employees to work there. When we can address the housing crisis we will be able to then attract businesses that come in here. We can support our small business and their capacity to be able to find people.”

Baruzzi: “Workforce, housing, and child care. One thing I’ve been working on is an accessible dwelling program (ADU). That’s not going to solve everything, but if we do five of those in each town, that could be 25 units every year. The ADU program is funded by the community fund. We’ll see what happens at the housing summit (on October 12). If we had a local option tax to fund housing with tangible measures on how it’s going to happen, I would support that.”

Friedman: “What’s your view on short-term rentals in The Valley and their impact on housing?”

Bifano: “They have to be registered. You have to know who they are. You have to make sure that business is not going to interfere with the neighbors. There should be a special tax for those people who have a short-term rental as a business.”

Dolan: “It does raise concerns about the availability of housing. What we did last year in the L egislature was just a small step forward, which is to have that registration (for short-term rentals) to make sure we knew who was in these homes, who owned these homes.”

Baruzzi: “I definitely think we need some more regulation on short-term rentals. We’re taking inventory out of The Valley that could be our workforce, it could be our middle class. We’re not getting enough tax revenue, enough incentives, enough getting back here and we need to change that.”

Torre: “We’re at the beginning of figuring out how best to manage these. They are providing income for people who may be struggling to pay their taxes. We need to make it possible for some people to continue to use and to benefit from short-term rentals while not impacting the overall availability (of housing).”


Friedman: “What would your first priority be in resolving not only the MRV’s housing crisis but statewide?”

Dolan: “I’ve been a champion of full funding for the Vermont housing and conservation fund. It’s time to start fully funding that.”

Baruzzi: “For the first year or two I’d work on strengthening leadership at the local level so that we are ready and have the correct entities avail to receive funds when they start coming down from the state and do that in a coordinated fashion as five towns.”

Torre: “I would bring it back to our local ordinances in our communities. We do have to make decisions about where we want building to happen. Infrastructure has been a real big problem in rural areas in being able to create housing.”

Bifano: “All I hear about is ‘the government, the government, the government.’ I would spend my time looking at all the laws that are impeding businesses. If government really got out of the way and made it easy for businesspeople.”

This is a small sample of the discussion between the candidates and Friedman. Watch the full conversation at https://mrvtv.com/category/politics/.