On February 10, 2021

Killington considers new town center

By Curt Peterson

The Killington Planning Commission discussed creating a “new town center” on Killington Road on Feb. 3. Its hope is to qualify for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from the state, a program by which the town might “claw back” education taxes paid because Killington is designated a “gold town.”

According to commission member Jennifer Iannantuoni, the amount available might be between $12 million and $14 million. Town Planner Preston Bristow said the previously planned work on Killington Road will cost around $8 million, and the TIF money should allow the town to recover most of that, if the town project qualifies.

Ed Bove, executive director of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, assured the commissioners that TIF financing would not mean any money would be taken from school operations or education.

“You must have either a state designated downtown center (which Killington does not …) or a state designated new town center in order to get TIF financing,” Bristow explained. “Hence, we are considering.”

When Bristow listed the eligibility requirements for a new town center in Killington, some challenges became evident.

A town must establish “architectural standards,” including a design review board to approve new structures, or other codified requirements;  “on-street parking,” which Bristow said the Killington Road master plan accommodates via side-street parking; and “walkable streets,” which Bristow said is also satisfied in the Killington Road master plan. However, it also requires “mixed income housing,” a “a public water system” (or at least a commitment to build one), and a “civic building,” or town offices and community center within the area — harder criteria to satisfy, many noted.

“We were hoping the Killington Elementary School could be the civic building,” Bristow wrote in an email to the Mountain Times. “It’s possible we could change the shape of the new town center to include the new public services building (fire station). Or, we could have a plan to move the town offices to the new town center.”

As far as the “mixed income housing … we’re not sure what that will look like,” Bristow added, “but it will have to be included.”

Bristow said the new town center program has been in existence for 18 years, but only two projects have been approved.

“Berlin’s submission review is still in process, and they have been working on it for five years. Their proposal is 159 pages long,” he said.

It’s apparent that Killington will have to invest money to achieve eligibility, and that the cultural changes, i.e., architectural design reviews, possibly moving the town offices to Killington Road, building a public water system, and meeting other requirements, may be significant.

Brandy Saxton, owner of
PlaceSense, a land use planning consulting firm in Windsor, is preparing an estimate of what it would cost Killington to prepare its new town center application, Bristow said.

Commission member Chris Karr, who owns three businesses on Killington Road, asked: “What is the driving benefit to creating a new town center?”

Bove said a TIF-designated area would generate more taxes from businesses and new housing and pay for infrastructure that would benefit those businesses, residents and the municipality.

“However,” he added, “there are only seven approved TIF programs in the state, and none of them are like Killington Road.”

They are all traditional-looking villages, rather than ski resort towns. The idea is to create a growth area, Bove said. “What we need is numbers, quicker than anything else,” Jennifer Iannantuoni said, referring to the cost of applying for the new town center designation and expected benefits.

Steve Selbo, commission member, said: “This just doesn’t line up with the town’s ideas for Killington Road.”

Selbo also sees flaws in the current plan for reconstruction of the main artery, including designing traffic flow contemplating 250 new units in Phase I on the SP Land development, a.k.a. the Killington Village, when 2,300 units are in the ultimate plan.

Looking to the future, Bove suggested rethinking Killington’s contemporary single-family housing development model, and aspire to something between “urban,” like Rutland, and “full-on sprawl,” which increases automobile dependence, requires more infrastructure with insufficient tax revenue to build and maintain it.

Bristow handed out his ideas for zoning regulation changes, and suggested the formation of three joint Select Board/Planning Commission working groups, including a Killington Road working group, new town center working group, and town plan/zoning bylaws working group, which will be discussed at the next Select Board meeting.

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