By Mara Brooks, Editor

East and West Charlotte are officially village centers.

In a meeting on June 28, the Downtown Development Board found that the East Charlotte and West Charlotte applications for “village center” status met statutory requirements and designated the village centers to receive state benefits, said Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development’s Richard Amore in an email to Town Administrator Dean Bloch.

“To be clear, these designations are not changes to the zoning districts,” Bloch said.  “The designations allow benefits that help property owners make improvements to their properties and also provide priority consideration for various state grants.”

Village-center designation qualifies owners of commercial and multifamily properties within the designated area for tax credits and increases grant-scoring points for projects anywhere in town, said attorney and Friends of the Lyceum School Chair Michael Russell, who worked on the application. The designation also helps Act 250 applicants within the designated village center “by eliminating the need to satisfy certain review criteria,” he added.

According to Russell, the designations were approved based on the Charlotte villages having “a concentration of structures housing commercial and civic uses, such as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in the East Village and the cluster of civic buildings in the West Village.”

Charlotte Grange #398, a local, nonprofit organization under the Vermont State Grange and National Grange, intends to utilize tax credits for code compliance and “possibly” facade improvements to the Lyceum Schoolhouse/Grange Hall, Russell said.

“Village-center designation is an important step in expanding the opportunities to restore the Lyceum Schoolhouse,” said Grange President Michael Walker, who worked with Russell on the application. “It opens to door to potential funding from the tax-credit program as well as being an additional positive factor when applying for historic-preservation funding.”

Obtaining village-center status also serves as “important recognition” that the East and West villages are “part of a cohesive settlement pattern, and focal points for civic activity,” Walker said.

According to the state’s 2018 State Designation Program manual, village-center designations were created to promote traditional settlement patterns and offer “tools and incentives” to keep village centers economically vital. “This approach not only builds Vermont’s economy – but helps achieve related goals like protecting the working landscape and our historic and natural resources,” the manual states.

The East and West Charlotte designations will remain in place until June 2029. The renewal process, required every eight years, involves “amendment of the Town Plan to show the boundaries of the designated Village Centers and a statement of how the designation has furthered the goals of the Town Plan,” Russell said.

The town applied for the designations in May. At a May 27 Selectboard meeting, Bloch described Russell and Walker as having been “instrumental” in the application process.