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Essex Junction will officially become its own city on July 1

Downtown Essex Junction on a cloudy day, several brick buildings and an empty sidewalk.
Grace Benninghoff
Essex Junction on Thursday, April 21. The village will become a city on July 1.

On a mild Thursday afternoon in Essex Junction, the streets are mostly empty save a few stragglers carrying bags of takeout to their car, or sipping a cup of coffee. And while it looks like any other sleepy weekday in the village, something is different.

On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott signed a charter change — H.491 — that officially establishes Essex Junction as its own city, separate from the town of Essex, beginning July 1 of this year.

The two communities have been connected for more than a century. The village of Essex Junction and the town of Essex both have their own governments, which provide municipal services like snow removal, a recreation department and more. However, the village of Essex Junction relies on both its own government and Essex’s town government for services, so village residents have always paid higher taxes that go to both communities. Meanwhile, Essex residents pay taxes only to the town of Essex.

The reason for the separation is to lower property taxes in the village, and to avoid duplicate municipal services.

Raj Chawla, who serves as vice president of the Essex Junction Board of Trustees, said that as a result of the separation, property owners in the village will pay less in taxes, see a slower growth in their property taxes, and that any taxes they do pay will go to funding the city of Essex Junction alone, instead of being divided between the the village and the town.

He described the split as a “pocketbook issue,” and not something that will impact day-to-day life or access to municipal services for residents.

“It is difficult to explain to people how much of a relief it will be for residents of this community to not discuss this anymore. It's really chewed up and spit out many residents and board members on both sides.”
Raj Chawla, Essex Junction Board of Trustees vice president

For decades, the communities have tried to come to a resolution that would lower taxes for residents of the village. But until now, a solution has never come to fruition.

“It is difficult to explain to people how much of a relief it will be for residents of this community to not discuss this anymore,” Chawla said. “It's really chewed up and spit out many residents and board members on both sides.”

In November, Essex Junction voted to become its own city. On Wednesday, Scott simply made it official.

Stephanie Aldridge, a bartender at the Hornets Nest in downtown Essex Junction, said she thinks that splitting from Essex will provide the village community a chance to grow.

“We’ve gone from more of a town setting to apartments and sidewalks filled with shops and restaurants,” she said. “I guess it just depends what you want to see.”

Jake Tran, who owns The Nest Coffee Shop and Firebird Cafe in Essex Junction, said he’ll appreciate the tax breaks, but what's more important to him is that the split will make official what he’s known to be true for years: that Essex Junction is its own independent community.

”We’ve always had that, even before the separation,” he said.

More from VPR: Reporter debrief: After two recent failed merger attempts, Essex Junction votes to secede from Essex Town

While the split officially goes into effect on July 1, some parts of the separation will take longer.

Even though Essex Junction’s government body will become a city council this summer, and the village will officially be known as a city, Essex and Essex Junction will continue to share municipal services until July 1, 2023.

Essex Junction will also pay taxes to the town of Essex two more times, once on Oct. 15 and also on April 15, 2023, officials said.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Grace Benninghoff @gbenninghoff1.

Grace worked for the station in 2022.
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