Old high school may be new housing
by Josh Karp
GREENSBORO — At the Highland Center for the Arts, long-time Moderator Tim Nisbet welcomed about 100 residents back to in-person Town Meeting. While many folks wore a mask, everyone seemed enthusiastic to be meeting in person again after two years of pandemic-induced Australian ballot Town Meetings. Much appreciated were the coffee and doughnuts provided by Smith’s Store in Greensboro Bend.
The select board had decided no meal would be served due to COVID concerns, and changed the start time to 9 a.m. so the meeting would likely wrap by lunchtime.
With outgoing select board member Tracy Collier home with a cold and board member Gary Circosta up in Alaska for his daughter’s ski race, just three out of five board members were present: Chair Peter Romans, Ellen Celnik, and David Kelley.
Mr. Nisbet and Town Clerk Kim Greaves were both re-elected unanimously.
The Greensboro Award was presented to Dan Predpall, who was thanked for his years of volunteer service on a number of town boards, including the planning commission and the Greensboro Bend Revitalization Committee.
Surprising many, RuralEdge Executive Director Patrick Shattuck spoke about an upcoming feasibility study to look at converting the Greensboro Town Hall to a residential complex with up to 20 “modest income” units.
Mr. Shattuck said RuralEdge has been looking for affordable housing options in the Greensboro area for a number of years, and hadn’t found anything until this opportunity came along. Despite the town offices in the basement, and the Rural Arts Collaborative and Giving Closet on the middle level, the building is considered underutilized, and is expensive to heat and maintain.
The cavernous third story has been unused for years. It seems likely that some or all of these current tenants will have to be relocated if housing was constructed, but that was not discussed. The town hall is a very prominent historic building in town, and Mr. Shattuck said RuralEdge has worked with many such buildings over the years and respects their historical nature as projects are planned.
Before spending money on the feasibility study, Rural Edge asked the town for a one-year option agreement. That would allow the organization to move forward with the project if it’s found to be feasible, in which case occupancy would likely be in 2026.
Orleans County Sheriff Jennifer Harlow, whose department is contracted to provide policing services for the town, spoke briefly. She said she enjoys working in Greensboro and is always available for questions or concerns. No questions were asked but she did get a round of applause.
Eric Hanson was unanimously elected to the uncontested three-year select board seat formerly held by Tracy Collier. Eric said his wife heard that if he’s elected, she won’t see much of him for three years. She was apparently enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Board Chair Peter Romans was unanimously reelected to a two-year seat, also uncontested.
There was some discussion about town appropriations but all were ultimately approved as presented.
The biggest discussion of the morning was Article 10, which would have changed the way zoning bylaws are approved. Currently, changes to the bylaws come before the voters. Article 10 would have eliminated the Australian ballot vote and moved bylaw approvals to the select board.
Planning commission Chair Kent Hansen said that currently, even the smallest changes to the bylaws must go to the voters for approval, an inefficient and unwieldly process. Voters, however, felt the status quo was the best approach and the article was easily voted down.
Inflation finally caught up with the municipal budget, which increased by 6.6 percent. When asked by a few residents about possible cuts that could be made, Mr. Romans replied that the budget had been carefully gone through and there was no fluff.
While the ever-popular driveway plowing service and police coverage provided by the Orleans County Sheriff are considerable parts of the budget, those are services a majority of residents appreciate. Fire department and highway department expenses were up considerably, and included an expensive bridge replacement over Porter Brook that can be delayed no longer. Mr. Romans said paving costs are up, so if residents want to save money some roads could certainly be left unpaved. While there were some chuckles, no one took him up on that.
The $2.1-million budget passed unanimously.
Representative Katherine Sims arrived and gave an update on her work in the Legislature. Representative Sims said that, big picture, the state government is still operating with great surpluses but that this COVID federal stimulus era will be coming to an end soon, which will affect many aspects of the state budget.
Under other business, Mr. Romans thanked Ms. Collier, the outgoing select board member, for her service to the town. Ms. Greaves spoke about the upcoming town-wide reappraisal, caused by an increase in property values from pandemic-era property sales. Many towns in the state are having to do reappraisals, and with only a few firms available to do the work, Ms. Greaves said it could take two to four years for Greensboro’s reappraisal to get underway.
There was a brief discussion about moving Town Meeting to Saturday to make it easier for working people to attend, followed by adjournment just before noon.