ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) – The Essex Experience has been going through a renaissance the past few years and the owner says it’s intentional. Now, one of the most popular spots in town will face tax implications following the town’s separation from the village.
After decades of back and forth discussions, the village voted last November to officially separate. Gov. Phil Scott signed off on the charter change and it will go into effect on July 10.
“When the village leaves the city, it’s going to take 42% of the property tax base with it, ‘’ explained Essex Selectboard Chair Andrew Watts.
He estimates property taxes will rise about 20% and says there’s been little conversation about if this will influence businesses to move elsewhere. “I guess it’s a possibility,” he said. “There will be individual households who can’t afford the tax increases as well. So, I don’t know. It’s likely.”
Essex Experience owner Peter Edelmann said they’re doing everything to protect businesses during the split. “I’m structuring all of my leases in a way that they wouldn’t be impacted by that. I’ll take on that burden and if I’m right, then we all win,” Edelmann said.
He’s owned the outlets for 27 years. At one point, the property was dominated by big-box stores, but he’s recently pivoted to a local focus and wants it to stay that way. “There’s so much talent in Vermont and in all the different categories that we have here at the Essex Experience and I think when people come to Vermont, they’re looking for something authentic,” Edelmann said.
However, the focus on locality is also attracting new businesses like Bramble. Owner Shawn Hyer and his wife spent years focusing on restaurant ventures across the country before returning to their home state. They say the local aspect of Essex Experience was a major draw.
“We’re lucky to be part of this rebirth, this regeneration that is giving an opportunity to a lot of small Vermont businesses,” Hyer said. Everyone that’s here, all of our neighbors are all small independent Vermont family-owned businesses and so are our producers.”
Three more businesses are expected to open at the Essex Experience in the coming months.
The Town of Essex will be hosting a strategic planning session this Saturday at 10 a.m. to talk about taxes and other changes coming to the community as a result of the separation.
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