The Mountain Times

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Shumlin, key lawmakers support $500,000 for program to strengthen Vermont’s downtowns


On Nov. 6, Gov. Peter Shumlin, joined by key lawmakers, supporters of Vermont's downtown tax credit program and others, outlined a proposal to provide an additional $500,000 annually to strengthen city and town centers, while restricting until 2020 some of the big-box retail development that can sap the economic vitality of community centers.
Under the plan, lawmakers will be asked to approve a 30 percent increase in the $1.7 million Downtown and Village Tax Credit program, which supports historic renovation, housing, job creation and other qualifying efforts to strengthen the economic vitality of the 24 Designated Downtowns and 107 Villages in the program. That money was used in 2013 for 21 projects and leveraged over $22 million worth of construction activity.
The $500,000 proposed would enable the program to fund another five or six projects per year, or $7.5 million more in investment in our downtowns and village centers annually.
The Administration's commitment to seek this downtown funding helped facilitate an agreement between the Preservation Trust of Vermont, Vermont Natural Resources Council and Wal-Mart developer Jeff Davis. The Preservation Trust and VNRC have agreed to drop their opposition to a proposed Wal-Mart project in the Northeast Kingdom, clearing the way for Davis to construct the store in the Newport-Derby area and bring affordable shopping to an underserved area of the state.
In exchange, Davis has agreed to halt any similar projects in Vermont through 2020. He will also contribute $200,000, through the Preservation Trust, to help support Orleans County communities. That is in addition to the $600,000 mitigation funds already earmarked to Newport to help the region prepare and adapt to the arrival of a Wal-Mart outside the downtown area.
"The primary goal of this package is to ensure Vermont's downtowns and villages are strong, vibrant places to work, play and live," Gov. Shumlin said.
"The Wal-Mart moratorium gives downtowns time to plan for any future big-box development coming down the pike," Gov. Shumlin said. He said St. Albans, for example, was able to strengthen its downtown in advance of the arrival this fall of a nearby Wal-Mart, hopefully mitigating any significant negative impacts from the nearby big-box store.