Former Waterbury Village voters to weigh in on town center housing project

WATERBURY, Vermont (WCAX) – A major affordable housing project in the heart of Waterbury is on the line in a special election next week. Only about 1,500 voters in the Village’s Public Services District will vote on the project, which could have implications for the entire city.

Ask anyone in Vermont and they’ll tell you how hard it is to find affordable housing.

“The rent is so expensive. Even with a two-income family, it’s tough,” said Melodie Campbell, a former Waterbury resident who says she faced housing insecurity. She now lives in Barre but is keeping a close eye on Monday’s voter in Waterbury. “Everyone knew everyone and everyone helps everyone.”

The site at 51 South Main is where the old City Hall and municipal offices once stood before they suffered heavy damage during Tropical Storm Irene. They were demolished in 2019 to make way for parking as the massive Main Street development project was underway. Monday’s vote will determine the future of the site. Affordable housing developer Downstreet Housing wants to buy the land for $138,000 to build 24 new affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Waterbury is not immune to Vermont’s housing crisis. Local employers have raised the red flag on the need for more units. City officials say some local jobs are vacant due to a lack of housing for workers. “A project like this definitely starts to help bring that needle and bring in the supply to meet the demand,” said Mark Pomilio, Waterbury’s director of economic development.

But the housing proposal does not appeal to everyone. Some residents say they are worried there will be too many units for the space and others say it could lead to safety issues downtown. One resident even offered to buy and develop the property himself.

City officials say they held several public hearings to answer questions about the project and who would qualify to live there. “Many people working in normal jobs here in Waterbury would qualify here,” said Skip Flanders of the Public Services District.

The special meeting is Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Street Fire Hall for eligible voters.

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