Peter Gregory, AICP, Executive Director of Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) in Woodstock, Vermont, is the recipient of the 2020 Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership. The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) presents this honor annually to a Vermont resident who has made a lasting contribution to their community, region or state in the ways they integrate smart growth and conservation.
For thirty years and counting, Gregory’s work and leadership have led to thoughtful, comprehensive approaches to local and regional planning for transportation, water quality, energy, and emergency management. He has also served as an active, effective, and respected voice in the state Legislature in support of these and other issues.
Notably, Gregory was instrumental to Vermont’s early implementation of Act 200 (which established changes to the planning process at the local, regional, and state level, and codified the planning goals that shape smart growth work today) and of numerous water quality laws. More recently, Gregory’s efforts to improve Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan contributed to the Legislature and Department of Public Service developing enhanced energy requirements for town and regional plans and providing funding to develop them.
Gregory’s work has extended far beyond his home state. Under his leadership, TRORC was the first regional planning commission in Vermont to join the National Organization of Development Organizations (NADO), within which Gregory took a leadership role, testified before Congress, and visited the White House to amplify Vermont’s voice in rural issues on a national scale.
“Peter has been a leader in Vermont’s planning community over the past three decades,” said Brian Shupe, Executive Director of VNRC. “He has created a model for effective regional planning and helped shape many of the statewide policies and programs that Vermont communities rely on. From downtown redevelopment to emergency management, the range of topics that Peter has influenced is really remarkable.”
Kevin Geiger, Senior Planner at TRORC, was among those who nominated Gregory for this award. In his nomination, he spoke of Gregory’s insight and tact working with the Legislature, the TRORC Board, and various parties to create programs and policy solutions that reach common ground. Geiger wrote out that all collaboration needs a thread to weave it together, and that “behind all of the eventual compromises that such endeavors naturally entail, it is [Gregory’s] vision that drives it all.”
Gregory’s spirit of collaboration is perhaps exemplified by his role in the Irene Floods Buyout Project, an innovative effort to meet the immediate needs of people statewide whose properties were destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, while reducing the likelihood of future flood damage. Gregory’s leadership contributed to the program’s success in buying and demolishing 140 flood-damaged properties, creating improved flood storage, revegetating stream buffers, remediating brownfield sites, and creating 17 riverside parks and public water access points.
“Gregory has also shown incredible leadership in promoting and upholding the smart growth vision of TRORC’s regional plan, especially when it has been at risk of being undermined,” said Kate McCarthy, Sustainable Communities Program Director at VNRC. She cited proposed dollar stores at Exit 3 on I-89 and a commercial and residential complex at Exit 1 as notable examples of projects that did not meet the regional plan’s policies, and which TRORC challenged. The Exit 1 Supreme Court decision ultimately served as an important precedent regarding how regional and local plans should be used in Act 250 proceedings.
In addition to the above-named accomplishments, Gregory’s nominators noted his drive to innovate; his humble demeanor; and his strong ethic of service to towns, shown by a commitment to building local planning capacity among TRORC member towns. According to Geiger, Gregory is “constantly looking for ways that regional planning commissions can work for our towns,” and regularly reminds his staff that their job is one of service to Vermont’s people and places.
Thomas J. Kennedy, Executive Director of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission (SWCRPC), wrote in his nomination of Gregory: “He has the unique qualities of compassion, humility, vision and innovation. He has used these traits to provide strong leadership on a local, regional, state and national level, a feat accomplished by only a select few.”
The late Paul Bruhn, former longtime President of the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Arthur Gibb awardee in 2008, praised Gregory’s efforts to minimize sprawl and encourage development in Vermont’s downtowns and village centers. Bruhn said that Gregory’s “work and passion really capture the spirit and substance of the award.”
The Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership was established by Smart Growth Vermont in 2006 in honor of the late Arthur “Art” Gibb, who was first elected to the Vermont Legislature in 1962. Gibb played a major role in passing key environmental and land use legislation, including banning billboards, enacting Vermont’s bottle deposit law, regulating junkyards, and modernizing statutes governing local and regional planning. He was on the commission that laid the groundwork for Act 250 and served twelve years on the Vermont Environmental Board, including one as Chair. Smart Growth Vermont merged with VNRC in 2011.
To learn more about the Arthur Gibb Award, visit vnrc.org/awards.