If you see some pretty bleary-eyed Village Trustees dragging a bit, going through the motions of their day today, it’s because their meeting last night went three and a half hours, until 10:30pm and took up almost almost two WCTV Channel 8 camera tapes. Usually, when the first tape ends and Macy’s pay stops (around 9pm) we, who attend, usually know it’s time for the Trustees to “get ‘er done.” But not last night.
It wasn’t that there was anything in particular that held up the proceedings, although there was more dithering over a general weekend evening noise ordinance — whether it should be changed to 10:30 or 11pm or just left as is with variances duly given out. This topic has been widely discussed and has been going on for weeks now. However, once again, last night, Trustees decide not to take action, but to table the subject until the next meeting.
However, the broader issue of noise as a “quality of life” issue that should be addressed in the context of Woodstock’s “Master Plan” was raised again by Mountain Avenue resident Gay Travers. Following up on the last Trustee’s meeting she suggested a committee be formed to address all issues related to noise — ensuring that regulations, ordinances, plans and directives concerning noise be consistent and specific across the board. While Trustees seemed generally lukewarm to creating such a committee and appeared ready to move on without dealing with it, Rep. Alison Clarkson pushed for creation of such a board to open the conversation about noise as a question of Village life.
Chairwoman Candace Coburn, who acknowledged her 22 years of work for the Woodstock Inn and Resort, responded that the Inn is the largest property owner and that “We lose huge” if that business isn’t kept viable, a reference again to her support of longer hours for outdoor band events. Eric Nesbitt concurred, making the point, “The Inn is not the enemy here.” And Economic Development advisory board member Charlie Kimbell suggested that vis a vis noise and the business community, the more flexibility the better, the more balance of needs the better and the less regulation the better.
However, Trustee Bob Pear and Travers said their concerns are not just about music from the Inn but more about a larger ”umbrella picture” of Village life. ( At the last meeting these issues came up as to idling motors, lawn mower usage, leaf blowers, trucks, etc.) To that end, with some urging from Trustee Trish Compton, who thinks ALL Village ordinances should be reviewed, Coburn said she would take it upon herself to make some inquires about just who might be on a “Noise” board.
Gay Travers volunteered to head up such a committee and Church Street resident Clay Gillette also volunteered. He had pointed out, earlier in the conversation, the need for actual statistics and facts to back any claims that the Woodstock Inn might be losing customers due to Village noise regulations. Coburn did not confirm that those two would be on such a committee and did not yet have an idea of how many might be asked to participate.
Some other bullet points from this meeting:
1. The Village Trustees decided, following a presentation by Two Rivers Ottauquechee River Commission’s Chris Sargent, that they will be turning out some lights. Not immediately and not without notice. But, in an effort to save some dollars, perhaps $2,000 or more overall, an audit was done to see if some lights could be turned off. Those lights – on some dead end streets or in outlying parts of the Village — will be dimmed. Trustees say it will only be a TRIAL light’s out. If questions of safety arise the lights can be turned back on.
2. No Smoking on the Village Green. The Trustees approved a plan for small signs to be affixed to each end of the Green that say no smoking. A new ordinance to the effect is in progress that backs up the signage.
3. What is perhaps the buried headline of the evening (and of this post) is that Village Public Safety officers will be directed away from ticketing cars parked around the Village Green during permitted events there. Trustees approved the measure despite Chairwoman Coburn’s dissatisfaction with making any changes to parking meters or regulations. She said the Trustees have done enough to help mitigate the unwelcoming features of visitors getting ticketed with a popular voucher program. However, the decision to steer tickets away from the Green from one hour before to one hour after a permitted event does not effect the meters themselves. As other Trustees pointed out, locals and visitors can still feed the meters, they just won’t be penalized for spending time, or extra time, at a given event. This action came, in part, due to recent complaints from organizers and visitors to both the Markets on the Green and the Digital Media Festival who ended up with many tickets on their cars while participating in events to which they had been invited.
Seems pretty clear, don’t invite someone to your Village or to your special event and then give them an extra hard time for being here. Woodstock Early Bird has started visiting White River Junction more often in part because she can frequent downtown businesses there or the Court House with their free un-metered parking and no tickets on the windshield as a “Thank You For Visiting.”
Let’s also mention White River Junction for a minute. There was some odd talk at last night’s Village Trustees Meeting about the strange, “avant-garde” nature of the Woodstock Digital Media Festival and how people (including our Chamber of Commerce apparently) don’t quite know what it is.
Woodstock Early Bird listens to the conversations at these Trustees meetings and what comes to mind is that many at that Town Hall meeting room might well have benefitted from attending seminars presented at the Woodstock Digital Media Festival. There were talks about emerging technology and how it’s is good for business and good for downtowns. This was not some esoteric discussion about global trends. It was concrete locally-based evidence.
At the Woodstock Digital Media Festival we heard about White River Junction and the “Cartoon College” which is helping to revitalize the downtown area. The people running the place and attending school there are working in digital media, they are paying rent in buildings used for thinking, knowledge, creative pursuits. The people who attend need coffee, restaurants, places to live. They are revitalizing the “scene.”
And as some would say: Show Me The Money! We also learned at the Digital Media Festival Investor Showcase that the Vermont Office of Creative Economy (which has some grants) is working with the college – in White River Junction — to provide funding for new projects and a new “think-tank.”
The point is this: Someone had a vision that a place like WRJ might be perfect, that it could become something other than a down-on-its-luck industrial town. These folks at the ”Cartoon College” have merged the essentials of “The New Economy” with life in Vermont. Laugh as you might at such an idea — and certainly Woodstock Early Bird has wondered — but the idea is working, the people are in WRJ, the business is flourishing.
So. Perhaps it’s time for Woodstock to look ahead, to consider a time when it can no longer rely on the Woodstock Inn to be its entire basis for economic life — which is the message sent out – more dire every time — at every Trustees meeting. While we love the Woodstock Inn as the centerpiece and showcase of our lovely New England Village, it’s very narrow-minded and even alarmist to conjecture that Woodstock cannot survive without the Resort. There are hundreds of experienced, trained, thoughtful people who live here. Why not plan for something additional, something different, to diversify Woodstock’s economy, something new upon which to build a future?