Housing initiative among grant awards in Woodstock

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2022 9:10:50 PM
Modified: 4/3/2022 9:09:47 PM

WOODSTOCK — The Woodstock Economic Development Commission has completed a three-month grant application process and has selected 19 grants totaling $302,947 it will recommend to the Selectboard for approval Tuesday at its regular meeting.

The Woodstock Selectboard meets in regular session at 10 a.m. Tuesday to consider the EDC grants.

The funding comes from a 1% local option tax on room, meals and alcohol approved by voters in 2015. Part of that approval was the requirement that the money raised be used for economic and community development, said EDC chair John Spector.

The grants focused on improving housing options, supporting childcare, rejuvenating downtown, supporting events and marketing the town.

In addition, Spector said the grants are intended not to replace funding available elsewhere, but to help fill in gaps where funding isn’t otherwise readily available.

While for-profit businesses were not ruled out, they were subjected to a higher level of scrutiny with the result that 97% of the funding went to entities not pursuing profit.

One of those grants is a $35,000 effort to spur long-term rental opportunities in town.

The effort to expand housing for local workers received 31% of the funding approved.

The EDC’s own project will provide incentives to local property owners who currently use their housing for short-term rentals to convert those into long-term rentals to assist someone in constructing a new rental property. The funds will also help fund a housing advisor to help community members navigate the process.

Spector said the EDC has seen a similar program work in other places and wanted to give it a try in Woodstock.

“We don’t know if it will work,” Spector said. “If it works, we may continue it in the future.”

If it does the commission may choose to expand the program in future years.

Along with this year’s funding supporting the conversion of short-term rental units into long-term rentals, the EDC is also going to be studying ways to support small developers to construct accessory dwelling units.

Other major fund categories include allocation to continued revitalization of the downtown village area including benches, trees, flowers and lighting making up 21% of the allocations.

The EDC is also supporting existing events like Wassail Weekend and Bookstock, while also supporting a new TEDx event that, according to the EDC, “fits very nicely with the ‘Woodstock Brand.’”

The Commission is allocating 10% of its grant money to fund a part time grants manager to better take advantage of grants available to local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.

The EDC is funding the Woodstock Nursery School to help it fund an additional teacher to restore its prepandemic capacity for preschool space meeting a need of parents in the community and providing a financial cushion for the school.

Funding is also allocated to continue funding a part time digital marketing manager position to handle website, social media, blogs and email campaigns through the end of the year.

Spector said the commission initially received 49 grant pre-applications in early January for a total of $1.1 million. Applicants then had two months to file final applications and 28 completed applications were submitted totaling about a half million dollars.

At its annual meeting, the EDC, which is appointed by the Selectboard, took 15 hours over four days to come up with the 19 grants to recommend to the selectboard for approval.

Spector said the Selectboard has approved the commission’s recommendation in the past, but it does retain the authority to make its own decision.

“We we basically recommending funding for those projects,” Spector said. “The Selectboard legally has to approve our funding decisions. They’ve always approved them in the past and I hope they will.

Spector, in a memo to the Selectboard, said about 40 community members participated in the open meetings over the four days with about 25 more participating through an online discussion forum.

The full list of grant applications, meeting minutes, video, the online discussion and more is all available at www.woodstock-vermont.com.

Darren Marcy can be reached at dmarcy@vnews.com or 802-291-4992.

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