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VNRC Releases Scorecard on Community Resilience

Scorecard CoverA new checklist is now available to help towns rate whether or not they are economically, environmentally, and socially resilient.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council recently released The Resilient Communities Scorecard, which builds on the Smart Growth Scorecard published by the Vermont Forum on Sprawl in 2001. The update makes it the first scorecard developed in Vermont that looks at resilience.

“Knowing how your community stacks up is the first step in developing goals, actions, and investment strategies to build or reinforce community resilience in a changing world,” said Kate McCarthy, VNRC’s Sustainable Communities Director.

McCarthy noted that Vermont is facing not only a changing climate, but also increasing energy costs, housing affordability challenges, and the fragmentation of the landscape. This scorecard helps communities understand how to build resilience across all of these areas in order to help sustain their quality of place and save towns money over the long-term.

Deb Markowitz, the Agency of Natural Resources Secretary, applauded VNRC’s efforts to help communities assess their resilience.

“This scorecard is a useful tool to help Vermont communities think creatively about how to make investments today that will help us survive, and even thrive, in the face of the uncertainty caused by climate change,” she said. “It prompts us to rethink how we build, or rebuild, our transportation infrastructure, how we get and deliver our energy, where and how we grow our communities and preserve or restore ecosystems, and how we create greater economic opportunities for ourselves and our neighbors.”

The term “community resilience” became very common in Vermont in 2011 as a result of the spring floods and tropical storm Irene. But it’s become clear that community resilience applies to far more than the ability to recover from floods.

The 48-page scorecard can be used by planning commissions, select boards, conservation commissions and other local and regional groups. On a variety of topics, it offers questions and multiple-choice answers. After scoring the answers in each category, towns get one of three ratings: “resilient community,” “in transition,” or “needs your attention.” These ratings then connect to resources that communities can use to improve their resilience.

Jeff Forward, Richmond’s town energy coordinator and chair of the Richmond Climate Action Committee, noted that his town has made progress on clean energy and has an active energy committee that’s helping the town and individuals to save money through efficiency and promoting renewable opportunities. He said, however, that recently, local voters failed to pass an important zoning change that would’ve promoted more compact settlement in the village.

“Where development occurs is not just a zoning issue, it is also a big energy issue and the scorecard could be a really useful tool for communities like mine to help us make the case for strategies and approaches that will set the town up for long-term resiliency.”

Montpelier Mayor John Hollar is a strong supporter of increasing bikeability of the capital city and has embarked on an effort to make the city more bike friendly.

“There are a lot of elements to a resilient community,” he said. “One of my visions for Montpelier is a more energy efficient, clean and healthy transportation system – bikes will likely be a big part of that and this scorecard can help cities and towns move that direction.”

The scorecard can be found online in the “tools” section of VNRC’s Community Planning Toolbox  at http://vnrc.org/resources/community-planning-toolbox/

A limited number of hard copies are also available at VNRC’s offices at 9 Bailey Ave, Montpelier.