READSBORO- Executive Secretary of the Vermont Board of Transportation John Zicconi, board member and hearing officer Tom Daley, and Windham Regional Commission Senior Transportation Planner Matt Mann came to Readsboro for a hearing on the Route 100 Scenic Byway.
The selectboard had previously declined to have Readsboro included in this designation due to their concerns that opponents to the Deerfield Wind electrical generation project might try to use the road’s inclusion in the byway as a reason to stop the energy project’s construction.
The project, which received US Forest Service approval earlier this year, will be located near the existing Searsburg wind project, in Readsboro and Searsburg. Seven turbines are planned to be located in Readsboro. According to Iberdrola Renewables, the towns are expected to receive a combined total of more than $400,000 annually in direct payments, totaling approximately $7.8 million during the life of a proposed power agreement.
In 2012, environmental groups, including Vermonters for Clean Energy (VCE) and the Wilderness Society, challenged the permitting process in court. Those challenges failed to stop the siting of the project in Readsboro.
Following the Forest Service’s approval of the energy project, the selectboard sent a letter to the agency of transportation requesting that Readsboro’s section of Route 100 be included as part of the scenic byway. Addressing the board and audience members, Mann touched on some of the board’s previous concerns.
Mann emphasized that one difference between scenic roads and scenic byways is that scenic byways are not used when enforcing regulations. “Scenic byways are by no means used as a regulatory tool, for example, Act 250 permits. The scenic byway is used for marketing and tourism, and allows Vermont to show off what it has to offer.”
Zicconi added there is little money for grants for road improvements at this time but that funds for marketing were available to towns on the byway.
During the comments period following Mann’s presentation, selectboard member Teddy Hopkins said that the board had never been opposed to the idea of having the road be part of the scenic byway. “The selectboard was always behind it, but we were being careful because of legal wranglings. We didn’t want to give arms to the opposition.”
Planning commission chair Susan Bailey spoke strongly in favor of the designation.
“We have long supported this project. Route 100 runs through our historic village, from end to end. We want to market those businesses on Main Street and the ones close to it. I think that it is critical to us as a town.”
Zicconi said that public comments could still be sent to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org, until September 15, and the board would make its decision on September 17.
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