DORSET — The Dorset Select Board got an update on the Raptor Lane Master Plan at Tuesday's meeting and a new town office remains at the top of the wish list for the new town property.
Town Manager Rob Gaiotti and Greg Kepler of Kepler Consulting presented the highlights of the master plan filed Sept. 1, the result of about a year and a half worth of work.
"The town has spent a decent amount of resources to get a better understanding as to where things stand," Gaiotti said.
Kepler had been brought on board to examine permits, memos, maps and other information related the previous development of the property to help the town understand what was already known about the 308-acre property.
An in-depth environmental review completed in the fall of winter 2019 was limited to the 210 or so acres located below 1,300 foot elevation because it is believed the approximated 100 acres above that was too steep and difficult to access for development.
The environmental review showed that there are two primary consideration that determines the land's value for development — the slope of the land and environmental constraints such as bear habitat, wetlands or deer wintering areas.
"We looked at areas where significant environmental constraints are not present and slopes are generally less than 20 percent," Kepler told the board.
That analysis resulted in nine usable areas ranging from a couple of small 3-plus acres areas up to on 46.6 acre space with only some wetlands dotted throughout the area that limits the land's use.
Area 1, which is the first area right off of Route 30 is a 5.5 acre area that provides access to the rest of the property.
A couple of the identified areas are not conveniently located, but Kepler said they could be they could be accessed by road or trail. Five of the areas, making up the majority of the useable land, is directly accessible by the existing road that leads in from Route 30.
A committee established in 2019 has also been busy, and one of the prime activities was conducting a survey of area residents about the potential uses of the property.
A survey was conducted that drew more than 160 participants on the town website.
Participants were asked to rank options for land use in categories of municipal, housing, recreation or
conservation, energy and commercial.
The top ranked recommendations for municipal were community center or playground/greenspace; for housing, participants suggested a planned sustainable community or single unit housing; for recreation, the results were hiking or biking trails or leaving it as a natural area; and under the energy category, the top choices were small-scale solar or large-scale solar.
But there was one item at the top of most of the board's list and that's is the item that topped the wish list when the board first took up the potential use of the land more than a year ago: a new town hall facility.
"I think it could be a really good location to put in a new building rather than fiddling with the old one that isn't working so well," said board chairwoman Megan Thorn.
Board member Henry Chandler agreed and said he sees a new town office being the core of what could become a town center type location.
The master plan included a map showing the potential uses for the land. It was purely speculative but based on the survey results showed a community center and municipal offices building, new fire department facility, playground, athletic fields and community gardens with plenty of room for parking, green space and many acres remaining for potential housing and recreational trails.
"Our current town offices are not adequate," Chandler said. "It's not big enough, not private enough. We need a larger building. This is a great opportunity because this is a property that is fairly well centered. I think we can get a larger building that suits our needs. It can become something like a core tenant for the other buildings up there that can really benefit Dorset."
Chandler said the town offices is the biggest need.
"I think the first step is the town offices," Chandler said. "A really good town office that will serve us for the next 50 to 100 years. Let's put our best foot forward."
Chandler said he would be happy to work on pushing that vision forward as the town continues the work to determine what the town would want to pursue, which would require funding studies and input from the public.
Thorn tasked Chandler with that duty, working with Gaiotti, to bring forward ideas for the next meeting to start that process.
Board members were, overall, very happy with the work of the committee in getting the process to this point.
"It was a really good process," said board member Jim Salsgiver. "A lot of really good people put their thinking caps on. It highlights a number of opportunities."
Board member Liz Ruffa said the committee provided opportunities for community engagement and the survey provided rich information despite planned events being canceled by COVID-19.
Thorn said the committee's work has put the town in position to move forward.
"I think the committee did a great job," Thorn said. "We now have a better idea of what's possible and where."
Contact Darren Marcy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at 802-681-6534.