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Guilford looks at town plan, village center


By MIKE FAHER / Reformer Staff

GUILFORD -- Last year, with help from the Vermont Council on Rural Development, Guilford residents came together at two well-attended meetings to brainstorm ideas for the town's future.

Members of the Guilford Planning Commission now want to take some of those ideas -- as well as the energy from those sessions -- and incorporate them into a revised town plan.

The commission has scheduled a public forum for 7 p.m., April 16, at Broad Brook Grange to discuss the town-plan process as well as other developments.

"It's really trying to keep that transparency and inclusiveness -- letting people be a part of the process and know about things as they are transpiring so that they can give their input and ask questions," said Michelle Frehsee, Planning Commission chairwoman.

Added Sheila Morse, Planning Commission secretary: "One of the things that came out of the VCRD process is this great sense of community. We want to nurture it. We want to encourage it."

From October and November sessions organized by VCRD, locals settled on three priorities -- redevelopment of the grange, creation of a small-business incubator and development of Guilford Community Church as a community and early childhood education center.

Task forces have taken up those causes. And it so happens that Guilford's town plan, last updated for 2010, now is due for a mandatory revision: A final draft is due by October.

Planning Commission members see a connection between that work and the big-picture thinking that happened at last year's meetings.

"There was a lot of active community engagement in that (VCRD) process. And I think one of the things that we came away with was that we can't just edit the 2010 plan," Morse said. "We have to look at what's going to happen in a very different environment from 2015 to 2020 and anticipate the community's needs and what the environment is going to look like over those five years."

One proposed change in the town plan is a recommendation to form a new Guilford Recreation Commission. Other initiatives include "Trying to figure out how to enhance the visibility of the businesses within the community so that we can support our community," Morse said.

The Planning Commission is "mostly new members, and it's a very active group" that is meeting twice monthly, Frehsee said. But the April 16 forum, scheduled to last 90 minutes, is designed to bring in more members of the public.

Attendees also will hear about an effort to obtain a state "village center designation" for Guilford Center. The label, through the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, could open the door for village revitalization through tax credits and planning grants.

"It's purely for Guilford Center at this point, and it's because it's the historic and civic core of Guilford," Frehsee said, adding that some ideas from the 2013 VCRD process stem from Guilford Center.

"That's why the planning commission went to the Selectboard with this," Frehsee said. "We felt, with all the momentum heading in this direction, that it would be a good time to go ahead and apply."

Planning Commission members hope to have a village-center application sent to the state by May 5.

They are working on defining the boundaries of Guilford Center for the purposes of that application. After commission members met this week with a state official -- a meeting that included a walk around Guilford Center -- the village proposal consists of a triangular area including Guilford Historical Society, the grange and the old brick schoolhouse. The area would include the town library but not the town office or Guilford Central School.

More information about a village-center designation and its potential benefits will be available at the April 16 forum, Frehsee said.

Mike Faher can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.