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Fairlee sets tax rate

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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FAIRLEE — Fairlee residents will see a slight increase in their property taxes this year. A 5-cent dip in school tax rate on homesteads will nearly offset the 6.7-cent rise in the town tax rate adopted by the selectboard on July 27.

Taxpayers with non-residential property will be less fortunate, because the legislature raised their school tax rate by 4 cents. This will bring their total increase to 10.7 cents over last year, although their total tax will still be lower than the tax on homestead property.

The selectboard has a say only in setting the tax to cover municipal operations, the town's capital budget, the highway budget and payments on two bonds, the long-term water bond and the new bond to replace the dam at the foot of Lake Fairlee (see related story on page 1).

Following the advice of treasurer Melissa Gahagan, the board adopted a tax rate that is about a half cent higher than the rate estimated in March. This will provide a small — $12,500 — cushion to cover any surprises that may occur during the year.

The first payments on the dam bond are due in January and July 2016. They added another penny, bringing the town's total rate to $.4871 per $100 property value.

The remaining three-fourths of the property tax pays for education and is set by the state, through formulas that take into account statewide and local school expenses. The school rate is $1.7478 for homestead property and $1.5212 for non-residential.

In other business, the selectboard prefaced its scheduled meeting on Monday night with a quick emergency meeting to adopt redrafted town regulations for flood hazard areas.

Peter Berger, a member of both the selectboard and the planning commission, said it was important for both Britton Lumber and the town to comply with federal regulations as the lumber company prepares to rebuild in its current location within the 100-year flood-plain. Furthermore, compliance is needed to qualify for flood insurance.

Zoning administrator Chris Brimmer said Britton's plans will be reviewed by the development review board through its conditional use process to ensure the buildings are safe.

The coming month promises to be a busy one. Lake Morey Road is scheduled for paving in the middle of August, and town administrator Brian Hanson has been drafting a bid document for Quinibeck Road work.

The selectboard is inviting business owners to a forum on Aug. 10 with community development and economic development professionals to discuss improvements in Fairlee's village and community.

The board also set a public hearing for Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m. to hear comments on the latest draft of Article III (zoning districts) of the zoning regulations. This hearing will follow a planning commission hearing on Article IV (special provisions) already warned for 6 p.m. that evening.

Both hearings are steps in an ongoing process to design ordinances that guide new development in the direction townspeople indicated they wanted in a recent survey and in the town plan. The hearings are required as the selectboard continue to adopt interim bylaws to protect the town for up to two years. This allows them to be tested and refined during the next couple of years before going to a town vote.

The Fairlee Selectboard has also invited the Orford Selectboard to its Aug. 17 meeting.


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Original Publication Date: July 29, 2015

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