Small Grants for Smart Growth


Do you want to survey your community about future development in town? Do you want to engage your neighbors on improving local housing options? Do you need to run an ad to demonstrate community support for a project?

Small Grants for Smart Growth, launched in 2018, provide seed money for community-based initiatives related to smart growth.

What is smart growth?

Smart growth is all about making our communities more livable, by investing in our unique villages and downtowns and fighting sprawl (which makes Vermont feel less like Vermont). Smart growth allows for a variety of housing for people of all ages, transportation choices, unique places for everybody to enjoy, and healthy farms, forests, and natural areas.

What kinds of projects do Small Grants for Smart Growth support?

Projects might involve advocacy for better land use, by getting involved in the “nuts and bolts” work of municipal planning, regulations, or a permitting process. A project could also be a town or local group effort to promote downtown or village center revitalization and historic preservation; to develop a plan for better sidewalks or paths; to identify ways to support more housing choices; or to plan on conserving land for agriculture or forestry.

These grants acknowledge that community leadership and small steps are essential for catalyzing change. Think creatively about how you can advance smart growth in your town!

How big are the grants?

Grants are typically $500 to $1,500 per project, and a second year of funding may be an option.

How do I know if my project is eligible?

Please view the dropdown menus below for further detail on eligibility and how to apply. With any remaining questions, please contact Stephanie Gomory at sgomory@vnrc.org or 802-223-2328, x121.

  • Who’s eligible?

    Eligible applicants

    Local or multi-town entities, such as a municipality, municipal commission or committee; non-profit organization; or citizens group that is either working with a non-profit or seeking 501(c)(3) status. Applicants must be within the State of Vermont.

    Eligible activities

    Smart growth projects that address the following:
    • Advocacy for better land use through municipal planning, regulations, or advocacy in the permit process
    • Initiatives in the following areas provided they relate to smart growth:
      • Transportation
      • Housing
      • Conservation, including agriculture, forestry, and historic preservation
      • Downtown and/or village center development or revitalization


    Projects that integrate several smart growth objectives, such as housing, transportation, and land use, are especially encouraged.

    Projects might involve advocacy for better land use by getting involved in the “nuts and bolts” work of municipal planning, regulations, or a permitting process. A project could also be a town or local group effort to promote downtown or village center revitalization and historic preservation; to develop a plan for better sidewalks or paths; to identify ways to support more housing choices; or to plan on conserving land for agriculture or forestry.

    Public participation is also a key element of smart growth, and something this grant can support, so be creative! Funding could support activities like publicity, food, or child care at a community forum; a meeting facilitator; a field trip to help people understand smart growth or conservation; technical or consulting assistance (for example, someone to conduct a study or draft sketches for redevelopment possibilities); or even a facilitated meeting that fosters dialogue between opposing groups.

    Demonstration projects – such as downtown or village pop up projects that test out new road designs, parklets, or ways to fill storefronts – are also eligible activities, since placemaking is an important part of smart growth.

    The following activities are ineligible for grant funding:

    Lobbying or partisan activities, land or building acquisition, capital improvements (signs, way-finding, construction projects, bike racks), and equipment (e.g. computers, printers, vehicles). 

    Eligibility hints

    Promoting smart growth

    Media buys and public forums to support a smart growth neighborhood plan would be eligible, but similar actions to stop smart growth development within an existing neighborhood would not.

    Transportation

    Public engagement on a public trails system for the community or design and integration of a commuter lot into a town center would be eligible, but advocating for the Circ Highway or equivalent bypass/new highway construction would not.

    Housing

    Developing a strategy to incorporate additional housing, such as accessory units, into existing neighborhoods would be eligible as would the development of options for inclusionary zoning, but developing a plan for a suburban subdivision not compliant with Smart Growth policies would not.

    Events

    Bringing in an expert for analysis or a charrette (a hands-on planning exercise) as part of a community event or conference would be eligible, but general funding support for conferences would not.

  • Evaluation criteria
    The project or activities being proposed must:
    • Meet multiple smart growth principles
    • Be inclusive in the engagement of the community
    • Promote a healthy, just, safe, and sustainable community
    • Work towards a lasting solution to an identified problem or opportunity
    • Be able to be completed within a one-year time frame, and
    • Have a clear focus and concrete outcomes
  • How to apply
    Deadline

    Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants will typically receive a response from VNRC within 30 days of the day we receive the application.

    Please submit a two page (maximum) statement that includes all of the following:
    • Name and contact information for the applicant
    • Amount requested
    • Overall project timeline.
    • If this funding will be used for a portion of a larger project, clearly identify the portion of the project it will fund.
    • Project description. The project description should include the following:
      • The problem or opportunity that the project is attempting to address
      • The outcomes that will result from your project
      • A brief description of how this funding will catalyze your project
      • How the project complies with the “eligible activities” listed above
      • How the project addresses the six evaluation criteria, including how the project advances smart growth principles

    VNRC determines when the application is complete. As a condition of any grant, all activities are to be completed within the timeline given.  In addition, grant recipients agree to give VNRC permission to feature the project in its printed and electronic materials.  Where appropriate, grantees agree to note that the project is “Paid for with the assistance of the Small Grants for Smart Growth Fund of the Vermont Natural Resources Council.” Upon completion, a paragraph on the accomplishments, with illustrations if available, is to be submitted to VNRC who then forwards this on to the funder.

    Please send materials to:

    Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, at sgomory@vnrc.org.

The Small Grants for Smart Growth Program is made possible with assistance from Beth Humstone, co-founder of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl and former VNRC board chair, and her son, Chris Gignoux.

Small Grant Winners