WEST RUTLAND — Redeveloping the Flory’s Plaza site was recommended as a top priority Wednesday night at the final public work session for the Smart Growth Connection project.
About 17 people attended the work session at the West Rutland Town Hall to discuss potential improvements to the Route 4 corridor between West Rutland and Rutland Town.
Representatives and residents of both towns listened to the presentation along with members of the Rutland Economic Development Corp., the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and the Rutland Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a long time coming, a lot of work has gone into it and the feedback I’ve gotten from folks … is that it’s all very exciting, and I would share that,” said Tom Donahue, CEO of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.
“Part of it is that corridor has been neglected for a long time,” he said. “Now that it has the infrastructure, i.e. water and sewer connecting the two towns, it definitely has that potential for very positive growth.”
Jim Donovan, project manager for Broadreach Planning & Design, said the draft recommendations that have come out of the project were aimed at enhancing the economics, transportation and overall livability of the area.
The recommendations divided the 3.6-mile portion of Route 4 into three study areas — Center Rutland, West Rutland and the Business Route 4 strip. Donovan said while no overall priorities were outlined in the recommendations, priorities were outlined by section.
While speaking of land use recommendations along the Business Route 4 strip, Donovan spoke of the need to create incentives for under-performing properties. He added that properties such as that often discourage businesses from moving in. He said the second priority in that section was the redevelopment of Flory’s Plaza.
Donovan drew a laugh from the crowd when he referred to the property as underdeveloped.
A recommendation that drew mixed reactions was turning the Route 4 entrance intersection in West Rutland into a roundabout.
Transportation engineer and project adviser Chris Gendron said a roundabout would be safer for pedestrian traffic and vehicles.
Gendron said traffic would get through the area faster with a roundabout than with a red light.
“It does slow you down, but everyone is constantly moving,” he said. “You’ll get more traffic through.”
To promote economic development, project adviser Doug Kennedy gave a list of priorities that included relocating and expanding the existing railroad museum. He outlined highlighting the area’s arts community and building upon the rich marble history.
“You may think the word is out,” Kennedy said. “The word is not out.”
After the presentation, those in attendance were able to ask questions and take a closer look at the projects proposed for the area. A final presentation to both town’s select boards is planned for March. A final draft of the plan can be found at www.broadreachpd.com/west-rutland-rutland-town-smart-growth-connections-plan/.
“I applaud Mary Ann Goulette and the West Rutland Select Board for taking the time and the energy to go through a strategic planning process,” said Lyle Jepson, REDC executive director. “Strategies that provide for growth and development, like the one they are going through, clearly pay dividends when it comes to providing what both the community and businesses would like to see.”