Lots of questions about proposed LOT

  • Published in News

Local folks have a lot of questions about a proposed local option tax that a subcommittee of the Mad River Valley Planning District has begun presenting.

The planning district subcommittee is taking its Mad River Valley–Funding Local Opportunities (MRV-FLO) presentation to select boards and other community groups. This week the proposal was heard by a small group of Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce members on December 4 and was also discussed by the Waitsfield Select Board on December 3.

Members of the MRV-FLO committee will hold their first communitywide presentation on the proposal next Thursday, December 13, at the Waitsfield United Church of Christ Village Meeting House at 7 p.m.

The MRV-FLO proposal would ask voters in the three member towns of the planning district (Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston) to adopt a charter for the planning district that enacts a 1 percent tax on rooms, meals, alcohol and retail sales. Such a tax would generate about $1 million of which $700,000 would come back to The Valley where it would be invested in projects like affordable housing, recreation, infrastructure and destination marketing.

As currently envisioned, the LOT funds as well as the process by which local groups, organizations and municipalities would apply for them would be managed by a commission made up of one person appointed by each member select board plus one person elected from each member town and one person from the planning district’s steering committee.

Several members of the Waitsfield Select Board were less than enthusiastic about the idea when the board discussed it on November 19. Board member Kari Dolan detailed 30 questions she had about the structure of the proposal and board member Sal Spinosa suggested the proposal should not be presented to the public until the select board had vetted it.

At this week’s meeting, board member Darryl Forrest (who serves on the MRV-FLO committee) said the committee had already worked its way through 20 of her questions and planned to keep at it. Forrest advised his fellow board members that the FLO committee was adapting the proposal, specifically the charter, as members received input from the public.

Spinosa said he was working on his own list of concerns and didn’t “know what form it will take.”

Spinosa said he’d also meet with two other members of the MRV-FLO committee and noted that he told them he appreciated their concern for the future of the town; he thinks they have chosen the wrong model, “especially outsourcing so much authority to the planning district.”

Board chair Paul Hartshorn said that it was his sense, from talking to businesses in the community, that people want proponents to take it real slow.

In addition to the December 13 community meeting, the Waitsfield Select Board has also asked the MRV-FLO committee to come to its December 17 meeting for further discussion.

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