Manchester Design Advisory Committee shrinks to 3


Readers: This story was updated on Monday, Dec. 10 to correct that the Design Advisory Committee reports to the Development Review Board, which was incorrectly identified. 

MANCHESTER — The Select Board on Tuesday agreed to reduce the Design Advisory Committee from five members to three and appoint Riley Moore as an alternate.

Town planning and zoning director Janet Hurley requested the change, saying the current makeup of the board, which has operated with three members since Moore stepped down as a full-time member in June, was necessary for its successful operation. The committee provides recommendations to the development review board, or to Hurley as zoning administrator, for all applications requiring design review.

The trouble, Hurley said, is that as a five-member board with only three current members, maintaining a quorum was a constant struggle — particularly when one of the board members had to recuse themselves because of to a conflict of interest.

"We don't have a Design Advisory Committee if we don't do this," Hurley told the board.

Board vice chair Wayne Bell called it "a practical, responsible solution" and moved to approve the request. It passed 4-0, as member Jan Nolan was absent.

The decision gives the committee a makeup of John Watanabe, Beth Whitaker, Ramsay Gourd and Moore as a full-time alternate.

The board also opened its second public hearing on the downtown plan, which, if approved, would become part of the town plan. The downtown plan, the result of resident input and a planning forum last summer, focuses on ways to establish and build Manchester's downtown district as a vibrant residential and commercial area. Its implementation matrix focuses on ways to increase and diversify mixed use commercial-residential development, a network of pathways and streets promoting pedestrian and bicycle access and supporting parking, and visually improving the gateways to downtown, among other goals.

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Discussion of the plan veered into its larger economic implications and challenges the town faces — most notably, its workforce housing shortage, and the jobs needed to support housing costs for those workers. Hurley noted that an estimated 3,000 Manchester workers live outside the Northshire, and board member Steven Nichols said many such workers who can afford to live in Manchester do so in subsidized housing.

While Nichols brought up the recent loss of two businesses in part due to problems finding workers — he did not specify which ones, but the Spiral Press Cafe and The Perfect Wife both cited employee scarcity when they closed — member Greg Cutler took what he called a "glass half full" approach and listed several businesses that have recently opened. "There have been a lot of good developments here. It's not as dire as it sounds," Cutler said.

"I agree but you have to look at who's working these jobs and what they're paying," Nichols said.

Only a few residents were in attendance for the public hearing, and the board, which seemed satisfied with the plan, briefly considered whether a continuance to a third meeting was needed. But the board had previously pledged to carry the hearing over, as the first hearing was not listed on the board's meeting agenda, and Bell suggested the board make good on its word. The hearing was continued to the board's next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 18.

The board also unanimously approved a request from the Southern Vermont Fusion youth soccer club to rent field time at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park at the residential rate of $7.50 an hour, rather than the non-residential rate of $10 an hour.

Club president Sarah Perry said the club, which plays home games in Weston, currently practices at Maple Street School and at the field behind Riley Rink at Northshire Civic Center. She said its teams, which are about 70 percent comprised of Manchester youth, would share Knapp Field at the park with Equinox Lacrosse and would take care of lining the field themselves.

Other youth sports organizations with a mix of youngsters from Manchester and its neighbors, including Equinox Lacrosse, Equinox Football, and Burr and Burton Academy's athletics program, also pay the residential rate.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 332, attending the meeting to fulfill a badge requirement, filled the front row and were invited by the board to lead the Pledge of Allegiance to open the meeting. The scouts were also asked to introduce themselves, and they learned that two members of the board - Nichols and Bell - are Eagle Scouts.


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