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Friday, October 16, 2015

The Undeniable

Today is the day that Autumn is undeniable. Though the Leaf Peepers have been here and driving through for the last couple of weeks, it's just hitting peak here. The oaks are already stripteasing, and the thinning of the canopy reveals more light, more sky. Those 40 ft tall elms along the Brandywine are still green. The last holdouts, always. This may be the last Fall in the Shire. It's expected that next year the new building next to the shopping center will be open and we'll be packed up and moved out. The fate of the Shire is unknown.

About the Shire. It was built 50 years ago as housing for the elderly. Over the years and HUD regulation changes it also opened to the disabled, and then to general low-income people. We have a mix of ages and abilities here, workers and retirees side by side, but everyone is somewhere around the poverty line or they wouldn't qualify to live here. When the Shire was built, there were no Flood Zone Maps or regulations and so it had been grandfathered in as okay for anyone to live in. All was well until Irene flooded the Shire 4 years ago. We fought to come back, and won. However, HUD regulations state that the elderly and disabled can't permanently reside in Flood Zones. So the Brattleboro Housing Authority made plans to get us resituated.

Somewhere in the middle of this several things happened. Byron Stookey, founder of the Housing Authority, finally retired. He is one of the best humans I've ever known and is sorely missed around here. Soon after his departure, the BHA became the Brattleboro Housing Partnerships and left the HUD property lists. There is little info to reference about this. HUD is divesting itself of property management and these "projects" (so long publicly owned) are being made private concerns, partially funded by HUD under Section 8 Vouchers for the residents and new construction partially funded by the Feds. The BHP is a whole new entity, a combo of the old BHA people and other housing investment types. For the new building we're slated to inhabit, the partner is Vermont Housing, a non-profit syndicate and developer. Here's more about them: http://www.hvt.org/about-us/history.php

With this new hybrid of private and public involvement, the new apartment building, called Red Clover Commons, will be mainly senior housing. Here is the info we have of what it looks like: http://www.brattleborohousing.org/properties/red-clover-commons/

3 floors in a T shape, across the street from a major shopping center, next door to a 24-hour chain pharmacy, close to the high school, the hospital and the local EMT service, and right off the highway. This is practical to the general view. It's easier and cheaper to have the elderly and sick near so much. The board of directors and everyone involved have put a great amount of work into this and they're satisfied. I understand and appreciate all this. It's necessary and there's nothing to be done about it anyway. But that doesn't mean we who've lived in and loved the Shire don't have feelings about it.

I could take this all as part of the suckage of life if the Shire was to be no more after we depart it. Were it to be knocked down, raised above flood level and turned into something new I could live with it, as that's what we all thought would happen. But recently I learned that these are historic buildings, and the VT Historic Preservation Society has something to say about it. This development is the only one of its kind in New England, of a model done in several places around the states, but one that's stood the test of time, and Nature's wrath as well. These brick buildings were built to last. And so they won't be knocked down.

Like a lost love, it would be easier to never see it again, but knowing it's still here will always tug my heart.
I'm soaking up every detail of my plants dying in my little front garden, it's their last cycle I'll see. The vine I trained around the front porch pillar will go on climbing without me, I hope, and the roses bloom each June and September.

But I will not go gently into that new building.
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