Lack of changes at Harbor Place raises concerns with adjoining neighbors

Harbor Place was on the agenda for the July 28 Selectboard meeting. Michael Monte, Champlain Housing Trust Chief Financial and Operating Officer, addressed the board as an outgrowth of a meeting held in June regarding the facility.

While Monte’s presentation was to address updated policies and procedures regarding admission to Harbor Place from feeder agencies, there were those who expressed a concern about a lack of changes.

Monte talked of an ongoing dialog with adjoining neighbors of the facility, the need for Harbor Place residents to feel safe, a willingness to work with the town on any unreimbursed emergency calls, and his desire to increase security on the premises.

“We don’t see a change in the policies,” Chair Gary von Stange said after Monte spoke.

Von Stange reiterated what he has said in previous meetings that Shelburne has a commitment to helping those in need. However, that must be balanced against the safety and peace of the residents.

The general sentiment of both board members and residents present at the meeting was that Harbor Place continues to present challenges to safety and peace. Resident Sean Diehl, whose home is next to the facility, pointed to there not being a real difference between the number of emergency calls in 2015 versus those in 2014 despite all of the conversation.

Harbor Place has more police activity than any other place in town. Those police calls have Von Stange concerned. While there is a $2.3 million budget for full-time police coverage for the town, the rest of Shelburne is being left without that police protection when the officers are called away to the facility.

“What is Shelburne really getting out of this other than a bump in altruism?” Diehl asked.

“The ‘charitable work’ Shelburne is involved in is being driven by the State and Champlain Housing Trust,” Dan Burks said, adding that he felt the Town should not be going too far afield from its obligations to taxpayers.

The issues surrounding Harbor Place go deeper than merely one facility. “People are desperate, and there’s nowhere else to go. Literally nowhere else to go,” Monte said, pointing to the lack of affordable housing stock.

The need for solutions for the problems surrounding Harbor Place continue. Town Manager Joe Colangelo called for more concrete actions to address the issues raised about the facility and clear signs as to when “these deliverables are going to happen.”


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