After hearing about the city’s proposed halfway house on Elmwood Avenue, I feel I may be in a unique position to comment on it [“Ex-Prisoners Can Make Good Neighbors,” June 2]. Ten years ago, I purchased a home on North Winooski Avenue near Pearl Street, restored the home as a labor of love and, in the back of my mind, I also expected the neighborhood to gradually improve (Burlington being one of the “top livable cities in the U.S.”). Surprisingly, the opposite has happened, and I can see no other reason than the city planners — the same ones who are proposing the new halfway house on Elmwood Avenue.
In the span of 10 years, I have seen two families leave the block, a COTS shelter move in next door, the Howard Center set up a detox center six houses away, Spectrum services set up shop a half block away, and Section 8 housing noticeably on the rise. In short, this street is in rough shape.
I recently tried selling my home, but to no avail. The police are now on my speed-dial, but with so many incidents, I have at times executed vigilante justice while telling my daughter to go inside. I never really had a position either way on state and federal housing, but now I think it would be hard for anyone who has been in my shoes not to see it as bad social engineering. The [issue] isn’t “not in my backyard,” but “why so many in my backyard?”
What does it take for city planners to realize their ideas have given birth to the demise of a neighborhood? I know part of their reasoning is to have the recipients of welfare programs close to the services of downtown, but maybe they could, like, walk? The lesson for the city is an old one: You never get something for nothing. Unfortunately, the city has failed to see the balance of this equation. If they come, I will leave.
Following the Trail
Mr. Zucker’s letter is great [“Railing on Stanak,” Feedback, May 26]! I just wanted to add that this also has a great impact on out-of-staters who frequent Vermont and were looking forward to the trail being built, and having close to 100-plus miles of trail to travel, and towns to visit and stay in … [Stanak’s ruling] really hurts the small-business owners and the state of Vermont. I contacted the Vermont Natural Resources Council several times about this, and they continue to ignore me…
Track Is for Trains
At the risk of antagonizing Vermont’s recreating middle class, the letter extolling the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail [“Railing on Stanak,” Feedback, May 26] prompts me to note that Vermont should be extremely cautious about relinquishing railroad rights of way to uses other than those originally intended: moving freight or commodities and, possibly, people. While it’s clear that what was essential to one generation changes for another, we should consider that we may again return to rail.
Whether or not one accepts the concept and implications of “Peak Oil,” legacy transportation assets have the potential to again serve all Vermonters — at a more economical and less energy-intensive cost — for economic purposes far more essential than recreation. (I’ve nothing against bicycle riders; some of my best friends ride bicycles.)
The presumption that we will never again need efficient rail transportation as technologies (and energy costs) grow looks short-sighted. If we lose legacy assets to nonessential functions in the name of recreation and tourism, it’s easy to foresee political firestorms when restoring those assets to their original — and higher — purposes when circumstances change.
Right now in central Vermont, for example, there are objections about renewed activity on Washington County’s nearly moribund railroad (WCRR), shortly to ship granite for southern breakwater construction — shipping activity that, one can reasonably presume, should result in Vermont jobs.
WCRR already exists. How much more difficult will it be to re-establish shipping or light rail (perhaps even powered by Vermont-grown and -produced biofuels) when rights of way have been relinquished in the name of tourism or recreation?
Clearly, the recreational community has worked hard to convert these rights of way, but the prospect of renewed rail use should have a superseding — if not primary — place in those conversion plans.
Robert T. Nuner
It was hard for a young male such as myself to sympathize with Shay Totten’s article on the winners and losers [“Fair Game,” May 19] with such a short mention of … the lower classes of Vermont. One class in particular is oftentimes overlooked: prescription-drug addicts … For the first time in history, the population’s newest addiction has been perpetuated by professionally accredited doctors who overprescribe dangerously addictive medications … The current maniacal dishing of drugs has showed this state that crime rates increase, children are adversely affected and state budgets are battered by the need for preventative and consequent measures of the Rx epidemic … While users and abusers get arrested and reprimanded for their consumption, the doctors who are mistreating and overprescribing narcotics get a free ticket to continue their foul ways. So, when we mention losers and winners at any point in the legislative biennium, we must not forget the ones who society has given up on, not to mention the ones who may have given up on themselves.
One of our May 26 “Facing Facts” suggested that Burlington College would be exempt from paying property taxes on its new campus — the Vermont Catholic Diocese property on North Avenue — on account of its nonprofit educational status. In fact, Vermont statute requires that colleges pay property taxes on the assessed value of any property acquired after April 1941. The city can’t capture the added value of any improvements to the property, however, as long as they further the college’s educational mission. Three contiguous properties make up the diocese land, which is currently assessed at $19,880,300 and will generate an annual property tax bill of $446,391. The property does not currently generate tax revenue because religious institutions are statutorily exempt. The diocese land will likely be reassessed next year, according to Burlington City Assessor John Vickery.