Trustees: Lights Out, No Smoking, Cut the Noise and No Tickets Either

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?

6 responses to this post.

  1. Love the ‘think tank’ idea! What’s happening in WRJ is interesting and becoming ‘vibrant’. Some Quechee folks mention heading over for lunch, coffee meet-ups, etc, as bridges being out make it closer for them to go to WRJ rather than Woodstock. Hmmm.
    There is so much going for Woodstock – we can make a positive shift.
    Rachel Kahn

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  2. Posted by Clay Gillette on July 11, 2012 at 15:53

    Julia,
    I think the last paragraphs of your post are as perceptive a statement of the issue as I have seen. The belief that attracting weddings will secure the economic future of the area strikes me as, well, overly optimistic. I’m dubious that even hordes of twenty-somethings up for a weekend will do much to attract more residents (full or part-time) and small businesses, clear the available housing stock, or keep current businesses thriving. In my short time in Woodstock, however, one of the things that has impressed me most is the amount of intellectual capital and entrepreneurial spirit that is floating around. There must be ways to harness all that energy in some collective manner to think about a larger economic vision that is consistent with the benefits that have attracted us here. I am confident that current political and business leaders try to address these issues regularly, but perhaps an expansion of the discussion would bear some fruit.
    By the way, I doubt that anyone thinks of the Woodstock Inn as “the enemy.” It would be unfortunate if those who object to giving the Inn carte blanche are characterized as having such extreme and unjustified views.

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  3. Posted by Margaret (Peggy) Kannenstine on July 11, 2012 at 16:28

    Hi everyone,
    I serve on the Board of Trustees of the “Center for Cartoon Studies” in WRJ, and would like to add to the info about it. It is a degree-grnting college: MFA or one year certificate. CCS is now using space rented from the state, and some from telephone company and is about to complete purchase of the Old Post Office Building in downtown. It is very vibrant and full of vitality. And many graduates stay in the area. hmmmm..
    Some years ago, in 2004, I chaired the Upper Valley Creative Economy Summit. It involved a “discovery tour in WRJ on Sunday April 25. Thousands of people of all ages strolled the streets, discovered the restaurants (now different and even better), and all the arts gong on “right under their noses”.
    The next day, Monday, as held here in Woodstock. Keynote speaker was Joe P Riley, the mayor of Charleston SC, who has brought his city from depression into a lively economy through the arts and smart design and restoration of historic town center. (Familliar to anyone 😉

    After the speeches at Town Hall, people moved over to the Inn for breakout sessions.
    Just to give you a sense of the gathering: two sessions were “Business Support and the Creative Economy” and “Promoting Technology”-a third was “Public Policy-the role of local, state and federal government.

    We had people attending from all over the area and beyond, from the arts sector, sure, but also from business, planning, and government. It was great.

    I mention all this as very relevant to what we are (still) learning around here abut the Creative Economy and things like the Digital media festival!!!

    It’s all promising for our continued prosperity if we as a group of citizens take notice and value the creative potential here.

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  4. In light of the recent discussions on sound and it’s effect on life in Woodstock village members of the community may be interested in attending an art event which is open to all. This timely “art” event will have an opening reception this coming Sunday ,July 15th..at the new artist in residence studio at the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Park..
    details at Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Park website

    Briefly :
    Andrea Polli (acoustic ecologist/artist) and digital media artist..is the current artist in residence at our national park. . Among other interesting art projects Andrea created a soundscape for Central Park which considered sound pollution and a connection to global warming. The work at our national park studio concerns both her artistic work which will allow one to hear sounds of different frequencies through artistically rendered glass forms related to historical Helmholtz resonators..of soundscape sounds from our amazing park.
    Polli will also have work reflective of a collaboration with park scientists on the brown nose bat.
    We could send word out to our friends and colleagues in the “up to date” White River Junction community which is inspiring a strong regional contemporary “art scene” as well as to those among us who may have to spend a long time figuring out some of these presentations. In my case the digital exhibition at the Artistree Gallery required three visits to take in at least some of the new ways of presenting thoughtful and interesting art. I loved it and learned a lot.. but it took time to investigate as all new forms do .

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  5. Posted by Molly on July 13, 2012 at 18:31

    Julia:
    Your comments in the last paragraph are insightful and speak to what the future
    should and must hold for Woodstock. While the Woodstock Inn is superb, it is not to be
    regarded as the highest entity the town is capable of offering. Woodstock needs to
    rethink how they can be of help, not a hindrance, to their wonderful retail stores. One
    glaring mistake is the old thinking and rules that are holding back your other source
    of revenue—all the highly-unique stores with great products right here. Why give
    the Inn such reverence while ignoring what your stores could offer?

    From my own business experience as a vendor selling my products at Revolution in White River, I see that this store offers the same array of unique products I see in
    Woodstock–but with one glaring difference. White River’s parking is customer friendly,
    without the hassle of over-zealous tincketing. Also, I see a steady stream of customers there that I never see in Woodstock. The town clearly needs to update and improve upon on how it regards the retail environment. With the closing of Arjuna, the town should now finally get the point.

    The Woodstock Inn is hardly the ONLY source of revenue.

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  6. Posted by Peter Saman on July 14, 2012 at 08:34

    Looking at a map of the Village (Google Maps works good) from the intersection of Pleasant and Central west to the Church St. Bridge and from River St/North St south to the Village Line appears to represents a little less than half of the land area in the Village. Yet, for historic and aesthetic reasons, this area receives the vast majority of attention, as perhaps it should, to protect the perceived municipal asset. At the same time, the other 50+% of the Village land area is significantly ignored and or only seen in it’s relation to the judged historic area. My sense is that the Village’s future lies in proactive planning and effective new utilization of the 50+% of the land base now essentially overlooked. As a first step in mitigating this limiting condition, I would suggest creating a historic district, as Bennington and other communities have done, to assure the perpetuation of that municipal asset. (Planning and Zoning Law can get that done) Then, do an inventory of the 50%+ property base falling within the Village, but outside the Historic District, to develop a picture of some existing parameters. In addition, the Village Charter provides for property in the Town, upon petitioning of the owners, to become part of the Village. New parameters may also be able to be developed. If Planning and Zoning etc. in the 50%+ is utilized to enable and facilitate tasteful, economic vitality opportunities, Woodstock Village would be in a position to compete. As it is now, the preservation, stopping and preventing Planning and Zoning mode, perhaps effective in historic districts, is also preventing our future from materializing.

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