Read More.In 2019 Town officials informed the Select Board that Westford Town Offices were running out of space. We need more office space, meeting space, better parking, and most critical we need more vault space for required record keeping. The plan is to either add onto our existing Town Offices, or construct a new larger building. The Westford Planning Commission was tasked with developing a cost-effective solution. Our community’s strong desire for our Town Offices to remain within our Town Common is the reason why we approached the adjoining neighbors, the Pigeon family.
Neddie and Roland Pigeon had recently passed away and the property was not on the market yet. The Planning Commission asked the Pigeon family if they were interested in working with us to explore the possibilities of acquiring their property for our Town. The Pigeon family graciously agreed.
The Planning Commission then formed a sub-committee of community members with relative professional experiences to allow us to study the property’s potential to serve our Town’s needs. As we examined the property we began to envision what could take place. More than adequate space for improving our Town Offices, the old bus lot along 128 seemed an ideal area to explore affordable homes and mixed residential with professional space. Best of all the property possesses ideal river access. Allowing us open space and recreational uses contiguous with our Town Common.
By late 2019 the Planning Commission and its sub-committee, The Bus Project, had complied its feasibility findings and formally presented them to our selectboard in a public hearing held at the Westford Elementary School in January 2020. Our select board unanimously approved moving forward with this project. In 2020 the Planning Commission reached out to numerous potential partners and funding sources. Two partners that came through immediately were the Vermont River Conservancy and Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. Steve Libby, of the Vermont River Conservancy, after a site visit, confirmed 1705 is well suited for public river access and expressed interest in exploring opportunities to be involved with our project. Plus, the River Conservancy had experience working with non-profit housing partners and offered to help us enter conversations about the possibility of small-scale affordable housing and mixed use.
From the start, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission became involved with securing funding for an environmental assessment of the property. They also loaned us their senior planner Taylor Newton, who immediately set about helping us with organizing partners and applying for project funding. With Taylor’s help, Westford was awarded a Planning Grant from the Vermont Community Development Program to develop a site plan for 1705. This VCDP Grant has made it possible for us to contract with the consulting firms to help us develop a conceptual site plan for 1705.
Our consultants are Button Professional Land Surveying who is working on determining the property boundaries, the SE Group who is working on a conceptual site design, and KAS Consulting who will handle the engineering portion that will move our conceptual design toward preliminary engineering plans. Our proposed housing partners are Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity who will construct these new homes and the Champlain Housing Trust, who after construction is completed, will become the stewards of the property, managing the property and occupancy to ensure they remain affordable to our community. To manage this project, Westford and its partners formed the Project 1705 Steering Committee. This has been a smooth transition from our community volunteers, to our professional consultants. It may be the smallest project these professional partners have undertaken, but they appreciate and respect our desire to maintain our rural Town Common character and are committed to this project successfully benefitting our community.
The reason for Vermont River Conservancy working with Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity and Champlain Housing Trust is to secure funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Environmental conservation combined with providing affordable home ownership places our project in the ideal position for funding. This eliminates the need for our community to bond for the purchase price of the 3.3-acre Pigeon Property, saving our taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What we envision is the Vermont River Conservancy will purchase 1705 from the Pigeon Family Trust. They will then subdivide the land and sell the parcels for $1.00 each to our housing partners and the Town of Westford. The Town would own the green space contiguous to our common that provides access to the Browns River and a portion of the Pigeon property that will allow us more space for our future Town offices. The Vermont River Conservancy will retain an easement on the properties they sell to ensure continued public access and riverfront use and the Champlain Housing Trust will manage the new homes and future occupancy to ensure they always remain affordable to our community.
In November 2021 the Westford Planning Commission held a public informational meeting at the Westford Elementary School to update residents on the Project 1705 and to show some conceptual site plans prepared by SE Group illustrating different possibilities and densities that could occur on the property. As a result of this meeting and the survey that followed, rental units with professional mixed-use space were deleted and the affordable homes were reduced to the bare minimum required to secure funding. A new site plan with reduced homes and maximized public green space is currently being developed. This revised plan, when adopted by the Planning Commission, will be posted on this website for continued public comment.
The Planning Commission would like to thank all the engaged citizens who are working to improve our Town Common as the center for our community while maintaining our rural character. We hope you enjoy this website and become involved.