Smart Growth in Action: Fundamental Principles
Principle 8: Support a diversity of viable business enterprises in downtowns and villages, including locally-owned businesses, and a diversity of agricultural and forestry enterprises in the countryside.
An abundance of diverse and viable local businesses is an important part of any community. Local businesses create jobs, bring in tax revenue, share resources, and showcase the skills and talents of local people. Studies done in cities across the United States show that local economies are successful. For every $100 dollars spent at a local business, around $52 stays in the community.
Not only is it important to develop a diverse collection of local businesses, it is also important to locate these businesses in downtowns, villages and growth centers. When local growth occurs in a mixed-use downtown, village or growth center in which people can work and live, the whole community’s quality of life benefits. Downtowns with vibrant and diverse businesses create walkable, livable communities where people of all ages will want to live and work – where they can walk their children to school on the way to work, meet neighbors at the park, library, or coffee shop, enjoy recreational activities, and appreciate the sense of history brought by the preservation of buildings used for generations.
When such business growth and development is focused in compact centers, the surrounding landscape can be utilized for agricultural and forest industries, recreational activities, and to maintain Vermont’s beautiful and unique open space and wildlife habitat. For example, we can enjoy Vermont’s famous natural resource — maple syrup — because of the preservation of forests untouched by commercial development. The Vermont Farm to Plate Initiative aims to foster economic development and job growth in the farm and food sector. Preserved farmland makes such agricultural development possible.
There are many programs and resources available to encourage this kind of sustainable growth, including Vermont’s Current Use Program, which provides tax incentives to agricultural and forestry producers, and the Vermont Downtown Program, which works with communities to revitalize downtowns and villages. Through the Downtown Designation Program, Vermont municipalities may receive tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. The tax credits then stay with the renovated buildings, encouraging further business development.
Communities can also incorporate regulatory measures into their town bylaws and zoning codes to encourage more concentration of growth in town centers. Check out our Community Planning Toolbox for more information.