ENOSBURG FALLS — A pitch Wednesday night proposing $2 million in changes to downtown Enosburg is being met with both support and criticism.
The presentation by Julia Ursaki, of engineering firm Dubois & King, lays out three alternative projects, adding curb bump-outs and extensions on Main Street, as well as widening green space and changing the parking layout on both sides of the street.
Residents like Suzanne Hull-Casavant expressed irritation over the timing of the project.
“I am so frustrated, not with your work, but where I thought we were. We spent $60,000 and over a year getting all sorts of public input in the park pre-COVID. I thought this phase was actually going to be where it’s shovel ready,” said Hull-Casavant.
Others said they like the project.
“Slowing traffic down is wonderful. We are hoping it’s much busier in the future, so I would propose to keep as much parking as possible,” said Sandra Ferland.
Rep. Felisha Leffler, R-Enosburg Falls, conveyed concern over a perceived lack of information.
“In your line of work as well as mine, understanding how the public accesses this information is as important as where we’re posting it. I am terrified discussing multi-million-dollar changes to our village like this,” said Leffler.
She also noted that state projects such as this take seven years to complete.
“Understanding that engineering costs can be roughly 10% of any given project, it is of significant concern that, in the scoping stage of this, I am not seeing a greater level of participation or awareness of what is being proposed,” she said.
Ursaki responded by saying that Dubois & King did do an initial concerns outreach.
“We went door to door handing people flyers and inviting them, letting them know about the project,” she said.
The ultimate decision on whether to move forward with construction will stand with the village board of trustees, according to Village Manager John Elwell.
“This is only a scoping study right now. Probably the most logical move beyond the scoping study, if the board of trustees is supportive and there is general public support, is do an engineering study,” Elwell said.
Elwell also says that the parts of the scoping study that stay in the project would be determined in the engineering phase.
“We’re still a long way away from actually building anything. You couldn’t hand this document, even when it’s finished, to a construction company and say, ‘Ok, go build this,’” said Elwell.
Many of the issues related to the project revolve around parking. Business owners like Ashley Johnston of The Beverage Gallery expressed hesitance.
“We definitely need more parking on Main Street. We cannot afford to get rid of any of it. We’re constantly fighting with other businesses for customers to have parking,” she said.
Ben Maddox, owner of The Flying Disk, who has been an outspoken critic of the plan, says that his business, as well as The Beverage Gallery, receive supplies from trucks that park on the street.
“These right now are being used as loading zones. That’s also where the ambulance parks when it goes across the street. We have a lot of elderly people who live in Champlain Housing. They’re the biggest landlords on the street,” said Maddox.
The project dates back to 2018 when the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) awarded $54,000 to Enosburg Falls in partnership with the Town of Enosburgh to fund the master plan, as part of the Vermont Better Connections Grant Program.
Greta Brunswick, with the Northwest Planning Commission, says that the scoping study on the project is intended to take one element from the master plan and take it to the next level.
“DuBois and King have developed new alternatives that further the initial concepts from the Vital Village Master Plan and the scoping study is considering their feasibility, including local concerns,” says Brunswick, who expects the study will wrap up in the next few months.
“At the master plan level, really we were just sort of drawing in areas where there could be potential bump-outs and the feasibility wasn’t really being considered at that time,” said Brunswick.
The next phase of the project, according to Ursaki, is another planning project where more details will be hammered, then a 16-month public engagement period.
“So I’m very open to some ideas if you want to talk about how to make the idea more accessible,” said Ursaki.