Public meeting seeks input on Bethel buyouts
A public meeting on Thursday, August 7 from 6-8pm at the Bethel Town Hall will raise awareness about four FEMA “buyout” properties in Bethel and seek input from community members about the potential public use of the properties and the re-use planning process. The meeting will include a short presentation about the four sites, followed by a field visit to the Marsh Meadow Road buyout site in the village. After the site visit, Cockadoodle Café will provide ice cream donated by the Bethel Selectboard. The meeting is co-hosted by the Bethel Conservation Commission, White River Partnership (WRP), and Vermont River Conservancy (VRC).
The four Bethel buyout properties are located at 15 Miller Drive, 251 Marsh Meadow Road, 132 Spring Hollow Road, and 2811 Gilead Brook Road. All four sites were privately owned and severely damaged during Tropical Storm Irene. Bethel applied for FEMA buyout funding to purchase the properties from the private landowners, to remove the damaged structures and infrastructure, and to grade and seed the sites. Permanent deed restrictions will limit future development to reduce flood damages at the sites. A Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) easement will ensure permanent public access to the Marsh Meadow Road site.
The state has set aside $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help towns plan and construct buyout site improvements that meet community needs. Bethel is considering applying for CDBG funds to conduct a community planning and design process in 2014 and to implement site improvements in 2015.
Since Tropical Storm Irene, the WRP, VRC, VHCB, and Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission have worked with watershed towns to raise awareness about FEMA’s buyout program; to submit buyout project applications on behalf of eligible landowners; and to raise awareness about allowable uses and community re-use options for completed buyout projects. Project support has been provided by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program and the Vermont Watershed Grant.
For more information, please contact Mary Russ, WRP Executive Director, at (802) 763-7733 or mary[at]whiteriverpartnership.com.