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Essex Junction to Become Vermont's Newest City

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Published April 21, 2022 at 11:06 a.m.


ROB DONNELLY
  • Rob Donnelly
That’s city to you, pal.

A bill signed into law Wednesday grants the Village of Essex Junction permission to leave its 129-year-old domestic partner, the Town of Essex, and set out under a new voter-approved charter. Starting July 1, the Village of Essex Junction will henceforth be the City of Essex Junction.

The move follows numerous failed merger attempts, including one just last year, and breaks up Vermont's second-largest town to make way for state's 10th city — and the first new one in half a century.



It also signals what many hope will be the end of the Hatfield-and-McCoy-like feud between the two suburban communities.

“I know this issue has been the subject of debate for decades, and I’m happy to see a resolution,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement after signing the bill. “Congratulations to the people of Essex Junction on the establishment of Vermont’s newest city.”

Village — ahem, city — officials were equally pleased. In a press release, president Andrew Brown thanked a long list of people who helped make the disentanglement possible. That included municipality staff, “who have worked through the difficulty of not knowing the future of their community for the last few years."

Essex Junction residents, who make up about half of Essex's 22,000 population, pay taxes into both municipalities, meaning they have higher property taxes than their counterparts.  A plan proposed last year would have merged the two municipalities into one while spreading the tax impact town-wide over time instead of all at once. But voters shot it down twice — due in large part to immense opposition from non-village residents, whose taxes would have increased.

Village residents responded by overwhelmingly approving a succession plan that later earned the legislature's approval.

The divorce will be gradual and will include some shared custody agreements. The city will contract with the town on some municipal services until at least next summer, for instance, and the two will share a police department for the next decade. City residents will also continue paying taxes into both municipalities for the next year, after which their taxes are expected to decrease.

Meanwhile, starting this summer, the local governing board known as the "board of trustees" will be renamed as the "city council."

Fancy.

Correction, April 22, 2022: A previous version of this story misstated the last time Vermont had a new city. It was in 1971, when South Burlington became a city.