Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative: Housing Endorsement Program

Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative: Housing Endorsement Program

The Housing Endorsement Program is a Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative initiative to actively encourage smart growth development that provides housing for all Vermonters. Since December 2001, the VSGC has been working with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Housing Vermont, and other housing organizations to create a voluntary housing endorsement program, which uses criteria to evaluate new housing projects based on smart growth principles. Guidance for the criteria came from “Growing Smarter, Best Site Planning Practices for Residential, Commercial and Industrial Development”, a project of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl and an advisory group, including architects, landscape architects, preservationists, planners, homebuilders, environmentalists, community developers, realtors and government representatives. Projects which effectively demonstrate smart growth principles during their planning stages will earn a VSGC endorsement or “stamp of approval.” This endorsement could be submitted with other project materials during the planning and permitting stages.

In December, 2002, the Collaborative put out an invitation to developers to submit their housing projects for endorsement. The Collaborative has currently endorsed six projects, which were showcased at the Housing Endorsement Conference on February 20, 2003. Later in 2003, the Collaborative endorsed the South Village Project in South Burlington (Retrovest Companies) and The Converse Home in Burlington (Duncan-Wisniewski Architecture).

The Housing Endorsement Criteria

The VSGC will endorse housing and mixed-use development when it meets the specific smart growth principles and criteria of the VSGC and adds value to the community. The detailed criteria and scoring process are available in pdf format. Smart growth in Vermont is that which:

•     Maintains the historic development pattern of compact village and urban centers separated by rural countryside.

•     Develops compact, mixed-use centers at a scale appropriate for the community and the region.

•     Enables choice in modes of transportation.

•     Protects the state’s important environmental, natural and historic features, including natural areas, water quality, scenic resources, and historic sites and districts.

•     Serves to strengthen agricultural and forest industries and minimizes conflicts of development with these industries.

•     Balances growth and the availability of economic and efficient public utilities and services.

•     Supports a diversity of viable businesses in downtowns and villages, including locally-owned businesses.

•     Provides for housing that meets the needs of a diversity of social and income groups in each community.

Requesting Endorsement

This information is also available as a pdf file. A project that is endorsed by VSGC will be provided with the following:

1. A letter of support for the project from VSGC that  the developer may submit with any permit application

2. Eligibility to receive an annual Smart Growth award from VSGC.

At the request of the applicant and, if available, members of the VSGC may be involved in active advocacy for the project, which may include testimony at public hearings by a VSGC member.

Any developer of housing that includes 10 units or more that exemplifies the principals above may submit a request for endorsement. A request for endorsement should be received at least six weeks before the action for support is needed.  We encourage developers to contact VSGC at the earliest possible date, preferably at the design development stage.
Requested Materials : A request for endorsement should include the following:

1. Completed Housing Endorsement Project Information Sheet

2. Good site location map

3. Scaled engineering site plan with buildings, contours, and planned infrastructure;

4. Building elevations (if available)

5. Project schedule including local and state permit process and construction start and finish

If endorsed, applicants will receive notification of the endorsement within six weeks of submitting materials. Please be advised that submission of the above materials does not constitute an automatic endorsement by the VSGC. The endorsement is in effect a “blue ribbon” for the best examples of smart growth housing.  Failure to obtain an endorsement does not mean that the VSGC is opposed to the project: projects submitted but not endorsed may meet other important planning objectives although they do not meet these smart growth criteria. Failure to get an endorsement does not mean a project will be opposed by the VSGC although there is no guarantee that some applicants may meet opposition from individual members in the permit process. The VSGC as a group will not take positions against housing projects through this process.