Workforce Housing Engineering Report

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  1. Dear Members of The Senior and Affordable Housing Committee,
    I am responding to the letter I received from you regarding the planned Senior/Low Income housing proposed in Post Mills. I have a number of concerns.
    I know the property has a deed on it which allow for a subdivision of only two lots as my parents are the forward thinking people that deeded the property that way. They were stewards of the land. I imagine the town has hired a lawyer to find a way to get around the deed. I’m also quite sure you were confident that I (and my sister) do not have the funds to defend the deed legally. I know that my parents understood that the deed might not hold up forever. It was possible for someone to come along and be able to undo what they had hoped to do. However, I’m very certain they did not think that the town that they loved and made their home for 80+ years would be the entity that would undo their efforts to help maintain the character, charm, beauty of their beloved Post Mills. This is very distressing and disappointing.
    You see, my parents, like my Mother’s parents (Glen and Marion Aldrich) who owned the property before them realized the importance of open spaces – of pasture land, agricultural land, land that is not developed. My parents when they inherited the land could have chopped this land into many building lots and probably made a pretty good sum of money, but knew there was more intrinsic value to keeping the lot whole.
    The plan posted on your website looks like a development you would find in many suburban communities, not like rural Vermont. It really is not in character with Post Mills or the rest of the Thetford villages for that matter.
    Your letter says that you feel that this property is the best available for this project. I’d like to know why you feel that way. It doesn’t seem like a place for seniors. There is nothing else there. I know it is tough in Thetford as there is so little commercial property, but wouldn’t someplace where seniors could walk to the store, post office, and other services be a better choice? I would imagine that not everyone who lives in this development would have a car.
    I would also like to turn this around a bit and ask if is this the best use of this piece of property. I would contend that it is not. Currently there is state wide interest in keeping as much land available for food production as possible, especially with the current issues surrounding the weaknesses in the national food chain. This movement is encouraging that lands be preserved in an effort to increase food production regionally (New England) and less reliant on the national food supply. We should be preserving these spaces that can be used as pasture lands or farming and this would be in line with the current thinking of the state. Once these areas are developed with the population density that this proposal promotes, they are lost for other uses forever. I believe that Thetford’s town plan not only recommends pursuing policies and actions to accommodate affordable housing, but there is part of the plan that also encourages the preservation of agricultural lands.
    It would be a great place also for a solar array given the openness on the property and the sun it receives. What I’m saying is that this land is suitable for many things. I’m sure there are places in town that are only suited for residential growth and do not have the potential for food or energy production.
    I believe that one concern that the regional planning commission (TRORC) had was the potential for sprawl in the corridor from Route 113 down to the lake along routes 244 and West Fairlee Road. This concern seems very real to me. The “race track” property, the airport, the Hadlock Property, the LaRiviere Farm, several properties owned by Fred Budzyn are all parcels that could be subdivided into many small building lots should their current owners decide to sell them. I can envision a scenario when the whole rural character along route 244 is forever changed. Vermont’s strongest asset is its natural beauty and we should preserve that.
    I have concerns too about the wildlife that make that field part of their homes. In the last few years we have witnessed a mother fox and her kits there and deer and turkeys frequent this pasture as well.
    Other concerns include: what effect will this development will have on property values in the area? What long term consequences there will be on the town budget and the town tax rate? (I do understand that federal funding is available for this development, but assume that there will be expenses in the short and long term that will not be covered by grants.)

    Peter Estes

  2. I am purchased my home on Lakeshore Rd in August 2019 and feel hypocritical to speak out against this project since based on the notes posted here, the town was already exploring the option to purchase the subject property. However, having lived in the area for almost a year, I hope the town considers the following:

    1) Traffic: Rural dirt roads off of 244 including Crosst St and Lakeshore already get larger than normal amounts of traffic from drivers cutting through to connecting streets. I am concerned about how the addition of 12-32 cars in the area will impact this even more. I did not see a traffic study in the engineer report and hope that the town would produce one before purchasing the property. At a minimum additional signage should be put in place and tenants should be discourage the use of these rural dirt roads as cut through’s to and from 244/113.

    2) The town should explore the option of a public drinking water well at the proposed site (Depending on interest from the surrounding residents). With the discovery of PFA’s at the Post Mills landfill it will be important to the residents of Post Mills to have clean and regularly tested drinking water. I would also allow more options to homeowners when replacing their septic systems on the smaller lots around the lake. If a public drinking water well is not feasible, at least test for PFA’s and share the results with the community regularly.

    3) Allow residents of Thetford to privately increase affordable/senior housing and not just rely on the town to do so. This can be done by allowing AirBnB’s, tiny homes, and in-law apartments to be built on private properties. Allowing a homeowner to build a small studio to rent for additional income or Seniors to live in/on the property of their relatives would be an example. This would provide affordable housing easier way and be quicker to scale than the town being on the hook for $1M+ complex they have to maintain/manage that only gains 12-16 units.

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