People & Places

Milton committee proposes new uses for lakeside town garage

A Milton public works facility on Ice House Road, where a town committee has proposed a host of new uses including a waterfront community space and expanded access for boats. The building is along the shore of Arrowhead Mountain Lake. Photo courtesy Town of Milton

Cathy LaClair lives at the end of a street in Milton along Arrowhead Mountain Lake. She said people frequently pull into her driveway looking for a place to access the water.

Most places to safely enter the lake, which straddles the border of Milton and Georgia, are on private land, she said at a Selectboard meeting this week. LaClair thinks the town needs better public access for boats, which might encourage more people to visit.

Jeff Manley, who also lives in town, agreed. 

“Arrowhead Mountain Lake is one of the larger lakes in northern Vermont,” he said at Monday’s meeting. “Yet Milton doesn’t have practical access to it.” 

Manley leads a town committee that on Monday proposed a slate of improvements and new uses at the site of the town’s public works facility on Ice House Road, which sits along the southern shore of the roughly 720-acre lake.

On Town Meeting Day this year, voters approved by a wide margin a $6.5 million project to build a new public works facility near Park Place. The new facility will be funded by a $5.5 million bond, according to Milton Town Manager Don Turner, with the rest coming from a combination of grants, American Rescue Plan Act funds and the sale of another existing town facility. 

That led the Milton Selectboard to form a committee tasked with studying what to do with the Ice House Road site once the public works department moves out. Turner said that likely won’t happen for at least 18 months, noting the new facility approved on Town Meeting Day is still being permitted.

The town could sell the Ice House Road facility, but Manley’s committee has found that many residents want the town to keep it and leverage the waterfront location, he said.

There’s a small, publicly accessible canoe launch near the existing building, but many residents probably don’t know it’s there, Manley said. The launch is owned by Green Mountain Power, which also owns the land surrounding the public works facility.

The committee has proposed increasing lake access by expanding that canoe launch, adding storage for kayaks and paddles, and building a larger launch for small-engine boats. They also suggested building a dock or pier, which people could use to fish. 

Manley noted there is better access to the lake for boaters at a launch in Georgia at the northern end of the lake. But data shows an average of 10,000 cars a day pass by the Ice House Road facility along Route 7, he said, which may be an untapped opportunity. 

“A lot of those cars are just shooting straight through as commuters,” Manley said. “This would potentially bring visitors into town — which we really want to capitalize on.” 

Another proposal for the site is to build a waterfront community hall that could be used for both town events and private events, such as wedding receptions and concerts.

Turner said event space is already hard to come by in Milton, but it could become even more so if the town opts not to purchase the Milton Grange, a 4,500-square-foot venue on River Street it leases from the organization Vermont State Grange.

The local Grange chapter voted to sell the building in May. But Turner said if the building is acquired by an entity other than the town, there’s a good chance it would no longer be available for public events.

Milton pays about $4,000 a month to lease and operate the Grange, he said. Officials are waiting for a building appraisal to be completed before making their decision. 

“Without the Grange, we’re going to need something,” Selectboard member Brenda Steady said at the meeting Monday.

A Milton public works facility on Ice House Road, where a town committee has proposed a host of new uses including a waterfront community space and expanded access for boats. The building is along the shore of Arrowhead Mountain Lake. Video screenshot courtesy Town of Milton

The committee also has proposed leasing the current public works building on Ice House Road to private businesses, such as a restaurant or an art gallery.

Manley said the committee supports implementing changes at the Ice House Road site in several phases, starting with smaller projects, such as cleaning up the property and making it safer, winterizing the existing building and putting up new signs. 

The town could then move on to larger projects, he said, such as gutting and renovating the building, putting up additional structures and hosting outdoor events there.

Turner said he thinks it makes sense for the town to start with relatively inexpensive projects at the site before moving on to larger expenses, especially since any work would be happening just as the new public works facility will be finished.

Manley said Monday that the committee will look further into funding opportunities for their proposals. The Selectboard has asked for a final report by the end of October, he noted, so there are still months of work ahead. 

Turner also noted that since Green Mountain Power owns the land around the site as well as the nearby dam, any project would need collaboration between the town and the power company.

The town manager said he has met with representatives from Green Mountain Power and they are open to working together — especially on projects that make the area safer. Company representatives mentioned bolstering boater safety around the dam and limiting new development at the site because it’s in a floodplain, Turner said.

At Monday’s meeting, Selectboard members expressed broad support for the proposals shared by Manley’s committee. 

“It’s been a while since we’ve done something exciting,” member John FitzGerald said. “This is exciting.”

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Shaun Robinson

About Shaun

Shaun Robinson is a Report for America corps member with a special focus on issues of importance to Franklin and Grand Isle counties. He is a journalism graduate of Boston University, with a minor in political science. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Cape Cod Times.

Email: [email protected]

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