Shelburne hopes to upgrade downtown with block grant

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

SHELBURNE — After more than a year discussing parking issues in the commercial/village portion of town, the Selectboard is setting its sights on a Community Development Block Grant to reshape the Deerfield Avenue cul-de-sac into a more accessible, user-friendly public parking lot — sparking redevelopment of commercial property in downtown Shelburne Falls, mixed-use housing and stimulating the local economy.

The Selectboard is hoping to secure a block grant of up to $567,926 for the parking redevelopment and $25,000 for its share of the West County Emergency Food Pantry. The block grant for parking behind Deerfield Avenue would help to pay for drainage improvements downhill into the parking area, embankment stabilization, tree-trimming, lighting, pavement and the addition of sidewalks. Also, part of the money would be spent on signs directing the public to the lot.

At a public hearing Monday, Michael Muilenberg of Shelburne Falls Booksellers urged the board to go forward with parking improvements.

“Having a business on Deerfield Avenue, it does impact us,” said Muilenberg. “I park there during tourist season. It’s quite dark down there at night, and its a very unattractive place.” He said, with landscaping and lighting, it could be an appealing place, especially if trees were trimmed to improve the fenced-off Deerfield River view. He pointed out that a broken tree branch fell on his vehicle, breaking a window.

The Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association also submitted comments recommending the town develop the parking site along with more signs, letting people know there is parking behind the former Mole Hollow Candle Co. building.

On Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. the Selectboard will meet with business association members for an engineer’s presentation on how the site could be improved. That meeting takes place in Memorial Hall. The Community Development Block Grant application process requires a second public hearing, so another public hearing on the parking plans will be held on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

During the most recent grant period, from October 2016 through December 2017, the West County Emergency Food Pantry fed 370 Shelburne, Buckland and Colrain residents an average of 19 meals per month per person. About 29 percent of those served were children, 21 percent were over age 65, and 25 percent were disabled.

The emergency food pantry also delivers food to Highland Village twice per month and is open on the second, third and fourth Wednesdays of each month, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside the Cowell Gymnasium building.