CASTLETON — The Planning Commission is contemplating a change in the town’s residential zone that would allow Castleton State College to conditionally use property in the surrounding residential and village business center areas as office space.
According to John Hale, chairman to the Planning Commission, the current residential zone on the north and south sides of the college only permits one- or two-family homes, day cares and businesses like a bed and breakfast, but it does not allow the college or other academic institutions to operate things like administrative offices or a conference center.
“We wanted to accommodate ‘schools’ as they should be allowed to use the properties with conditions,” Hale said Monday. “The Development Review Board would establish the conditions.”
He said the proposed changes will allow the college, which has its own zoning district (College Campus), to use the Reinfort house on South Street, just north of the Jeffords Center.
More than a year ago the college wanted to use the house — which it inherited — as a veterans home, but were unable to because it is within a residential zone. Hale said the Planning Commission did not take on the matter at the time, but it seems the college wants to convert the building into its main admissions office.
“The college has not approached the Development Review Board (for a conditional use permit) but this will allow them to,” Hale said. “Right now they are standing by and waiting to see if the town will consider this.”
He said Middlebury College has its main campus but owns property around the town for office space. He said it could be similar for Castleton and that it will not change the view or feel of the town.
“The college is generous with their presence in the town,” Hale said.
Arguments against the proposal include wanting to keep the college within its designated zone without letting it expand elsewhere in town. Another argument is that the town would lose tax income from the properties the college uses.
Hale said, for the house in question, he believes the loss in taxes will be miniscule. CSC does not pay property taxes on the buildings it owns, but donates funds to the town.
The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to hold a public hearing on the matter. Hale said he does not believe the hearing will be contentious but people will have their thoughts on the matter.
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