By Curt Peterson
The Killington hazard mitigation team made up of planning commission member Ricky Bowers, planning consultant Lisa Davis, Selectman Steve Finneron, Town Manager/Road Commissioner Chet Hagenbarth and Killington Fire and Rescue Chief/Emergency Director Gary Roth, voted to give preliminary approval to a revised town hazard mitigation plan (HMP), designed to be a risk-aware guide when making planning and permitting decisions.
Public comments are due by Nov. 16, Davis told the Mountain Times. The planners may make alterations in response to comments, ultimately sending the final draft to the Select Board for review.
After making any changes at their level, the Select Board will forward the HMP to the state FEMA office for further review.
“We can expect comments from the state,” Davis said. “Once those comments have been addressed and the state is fine with the document, they ‘approve pending adoption’.”
If the Select Board adopts the HMP, it immediately takes effect. The new plan focuses on four major vulnerabilities specific to Killington: flooding/fluvial erosion, winter storms, thunder/windstorms, and wildfires.
The town’s previous HMP, approved in 2016, included a more general list of hazards. Davis emphasized the HMP is a guide, and not legally binding. “A good comparison,” Davis said, “is the difference between the Town Plan and Zoning.
The Town Plan is a tool supposed to guide development and decision making, whereas Zoning is [an enforceable] regulatory tool.”
It is also intended to increase risk and preparation awareness, identify cost-effective strategies, and to rank naturally-caused threats by severity and probability.
The Rutland Regional Planning Commission participated in development of the HMP, providing some pertinent statistics to guide the team:
- Killington has the highest elevation in Rutland County.
- Since 2020 town population has increased 73%, to 1,407.
- Plans to develop and improve infrastructure include 31,622 square feet of commercial/retail space, a municipal water system and hundreds of new residential units that will be susceptible to natural disaster.
- Average annual rainfall of 46 inches snowfall of 240 inches.
Flooding is a major threat, but Killington doesn’t participate in the National Flood Insurance Plan, a federally-funded FEMA program to repair or replace flood-damaged property, and often required to satisfy mortgage lender requirements or be eligible for private flood insurance.
Davis said non-participation preceded her involvement, possibly reacting to FEMA’s requirement for flood zone mapping. Killington has 760 acres of Class II wetlands.
The HMP labels 55% of Killington’s roads “at risk of flood and erosion,” and, of the 924 culverts, 21% are in “poor, critical or urgent need” of repair or replacement, a reminder of Route 4 corridor devastation from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
The town has been working hard since 2016 to reduce risk to the town’s transportation system.
A 2021 wildfire behind Goodro Lumber to the North of Route 4, caused by a property owner attempting to clean a wooded area, highlighted the threat of wildfire. (Burn permits are required and withheld if conditions do not warrant safe burning. The resident who started the wildfire did not have a permit. The fire burned 30 acres and lasted for the better part of two weeks,)
Recently recognized concerns also include the effects of drought and invasive species, such as the Emerald Ash Borer.