by Kristen Miller
The legal voters of the town will be called together Thursday for the second time this month to vote in a special meeting.
Some voters are upset by what seems to be a controversial issue: a 3.4-acre parcel of land the town has the opportunity to aquire.
In February, Nat Tripp, the chairman of the planning commission, applied for and received a grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation to provide a scenic overlook on Barnet Center Road.
The agency awarded Barnet $24,800, enough to buy the lot. However, the town has to provide funding for a parking area. The cost of establishing a parking area is estimated at about $5,500, but the money does not have to be paid in cash. It could be paid in donated services.
For example, the town could think about donating crushed rock from a repaving project this summer. If this were the case, it might save $1,500.
Last month, a petition with enough signatures to warrant a town vote was handed in to the town office. Voters will now have to decide for themselves whether the town should acquire the land and spend approximately $5,500 for a parking area.
The issue has become controversial because some people feel turning the land into a parking area might take away from the town's tax base in the future. They feel the land should be left in its current state so taxes will still be paid on it.
"I feel that it's unnecesary," said Gordon Goss.
Goss is against the town buying property that will be taken off the grand list.
"If someone's paying taxes on it, let them pay taxes on it," said Goss.
According to Goss, Barnet receives about $415 per year in tax money from the property.
Perhaps the biggest reason people are worried about the land has to do with the unknown. Currently, two power companies, New England Power and Central Vermont Public Service Corp., are disputing the amount of money they owe Barnet in taxes. Because they pay about 40 percent of Barnet's taxes, the dispute makes people worry about spending extra money.
Tripp sees it another way. He says the tax base is protected by its existing property values because they're worth more with it there.
"You hurt your tax base by developing every little lot," said Tripp.
Tripp added the scenic area will show people interested in moving to the town that taxpayers want to live in an attractive place.
"I think it shows people that we care about making Barnet an attractive place to live," said Tripp.
"This is an opportunity that won't come up again. This grant is the last chance we're going to get, and we're planning ahead for the future by buying that lot now," said Tripp.