Economic Development Plan – Waitsfield

Case Studies

Economic Development Plan – Waitsfield

Community overview

The nearly 1,700 residents of the Town of Waitsfield are proud of the Town’s scenic beauty and cultural heritage.  The broad floodplains that flank the meandering Mad River, and the level plateau that lies between the Mad River and the Northfield Mountain Range, have been actively farmed for over 200 years.  A principle goal of the community – which is embodied in the Waitsfield Town Plan – is maintaining the Town’s historic settlement pattern, defined by historic Waitsfield Village and the adjacent modern growth center of Irasville, surrounding agricultural land and the undeveloped Northfield Range.

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Waitsfield Economic Development Plan

Waitsfield has been actively planning for its future since at least the 1960s, when activity at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen ski areas in neighboring Warren and Fayston, helped fuel intense development pressure throughout the Mad River Valley.  With the passage of Act 200 in the late 1980’s, the Town broadened the scope and focus of the Town Plan, adopting a model for thoughtful growth management and the preservation of rural resources.

Despite the requirement that a range of topics be addressed in a municipal plan, Vermont statutes do not require that communities include an economic development plan.  Local planners in Waitsfield have long been concerned with balancing the protection of environmental resources and community character with the Town’s economic vitality. As a result, a focused effort was made to develop a long term vision for economic development as part of the Town Plan.

The economic development chapter – prepared with the assistance of planning and economic development professionals, as well as input from the community – included an assessment of recent economic trends, an analysis of the community’s strengths and weaknesses, and employment projections by job category. The resulting economic development policies and strategies were well integrated with land use, infrastructure, natural resource and housing policies.  Those include an emphasis on agriculture, recreation and cultural resources, as well as policies that focus on employment opportunities that pay a livable wage and development activities that meet a local definition of sustainability.

Lessons Learned

  • Despite not being one of the ten plan elements required by statute, communities can benefit by taking a focused look at the local economic climate and ways to ensure their economic vitality.
  • It is important that economic development not be viewed in isolation of other municipal policies, but that it be integrated into a broader smart growth vision

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