Land Use Planning/Smart Growth

Whether we are grappling with issues of energy costs, water quality, wildlife habitat, sprawl, or community vitality, land use – how we use, develop, and steward our land – is a common thread. For example, the locations of our homes determine whether we have choices other than driving, which affects things like our carbon footprints and our health.

The state’s distinctive sense of place is largely the result of its cultural and economic heritage. This heritage created, and maintained, the state’s historic landscape of compact cities and villages surrounded by working farms and forests. Unfortunately, this landscape is being incrementally lost to a pattern of unplanned, inefficient development. The result is that our farms, forests, and open spaces are being replaced by strip malls and residential subdivisions scattered far outside of our traditional community centers.

We use smart growth as our guiding framework for this work. Smart growth describes a pattern of land development that uses land efficiently, reinforces community vitality, protects natural resources and helps mitigate the adverse impacts of population growth. Smart growth is about promoting development that is good for the economy, community and the environment. Key benefits of smart growth include the creation of diverse housing options; protection of farm and forestland; diverse transportation options and less dependence on the automobile; greater social interaction with neighbors; lower cost for public services resulting in reduced taxes; and a higher quality of life.

By focusing on land use planning and smart growth, VNRC aims to support Vermont communities working to create vibrant downtowns and villages surrounding by open lands, and to promote state policies that reinforce this development pattern. By promoting good planning and advocating for investments in our villages and downtowns, Vermonters will have more transportation options, access to housing they can afford, opportunities to access local food and products, and a smaller carbon footprint.

In Vermont, land use planning takes place at the local level, so community decisions about land use and development determine Vermont’s economic, social, and environmental well-being. VNRC produces educational materials to support local and regional planning efforts, and works in the state house on legislation, state policy, and ensuring investments in downtown and village centers/growth centers, Act 250, promotion of state policy and investment (water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure)