State Gets it Right in Designating Hartford Growth Center

State Gets it Right in Designating Hartford Growth Center

March 2010

The Expanded Downtown Board – the entity responsible for administering Vermont’s Growth Centers Program – has struggled with how to apply the standards that communities must meet to achieve growth center designation. 

A common problem has been the tendency of communities to seek designation for areas that were either too large and/or would result in sprawling, low density development patterns.  VNRC has been participating in the designation processes and at times have been critical of the way in which the growth centers statute has been implemented. 

Most recently, the Town of Hartford applied for a growth center that included White River Junction (a designated downtown development district) and Wilder Village.  Despite having recently completed a noteworthy update of the Town’s land use regulations that incorporated many smart growth principles, the proposed growth center still included areas that would have provided state designation to automobile oriented commercial development south of WRJ along Route 5, and would have facilitated piecemeal development of an extensive area of primary agricultural soils. 

At the urging of VNRC, in conjunction with the Preservation Trust of Vermont and Smart Growth Vermont, the Board questioned the proposed boundaries and the fact that the proposed growth center was capable of accommodation several times the amount of development projected over the next twenty years.  After seeking adjustments from the Town, the Board ultimately approved a scaled down growth center that excluded the two problem areas.

VNRC has been critical of the Board in past decisions, but we’re pleased to commend the Board in this case for its thoughtful consideration of the proposal and good judgment in requiring changes to that proposal to bring Hartford’s growth center into compliance with the law.