On June 16, 2017, VNRC and AARP VT partnered to host the Smart Growth Summit at Champlain College in Burlington, VT. More than 160 local officials, planners, policy makers, developers, advocates, and business people from across Vermont gathered to share their insights and learn together during a dynamic and interactive summit aimed at addressing a host of community development challenges and opportunities.
Opening the Summit, Governor Scott noted, “We, as a state, have made great progress in smart growth, with a renewed focus on growing our downtowns and village centers, and recognizing the value of targeting those areas for investment and growth.” Presenters and attendees then explored smart growth accomplishments, gained practical tools from colleagues, and discussed ways to harness smart growth to provide housing choices, transportation options, and a high quality of life for all Vermonters.
VNRC’s Sustainable Communities Director, Kate McCarthy, presented on Vermont’s smart growth evolution saying, “As we continue to work toward reducing greenhouse gasses, helping people live quality lives at all ages, and providing housing and transportation options, smart growth needs to be a key part of the conversation.” View her presentation slides here.
Peter Nelson, a professor of geography at Middlebury College, next presented on demographic change in Vermont and New England. Nelson’s presentation focused on the challenges and opportunities faced by Vermont municipalities as they address out-migration, developing social capital, and working with populations aging in place. View his presentation slides here.
Noelle MacKay, Director of Burlington’s Community & Economic Development Office, presented on Vermont’s land use future and the importance of maintaining Vermont’s historic settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers surrounded by rural countryside and working landscapes. View her presentation slides here.
The Summit’s keynote was delivered by John Anderson from the Incremental Development Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping individuals, municipalities, and small developers build small buildings in the places they love.
VNRC’s Executive Director, Brian Shupe, gave closing remarks and noted several of the ideas, recommendations, and learnings that came from the Summit’s interactive discussions, including:
- Codes (zoning) that more readily enable mixed uses in one building and create development that reflects community values will simplify permitting process and make it easier for communities to get the types of growth and change they want to see.
- Complete Streets policies, or creating roadways for all users, should be implemented on new road projects as well as on retrofits and maintenance projects.
- Infrastructure investments are essential, particularly for wastewater/sewage which can impede smart growth development, and rural communities need creative financing solutions to will help this happen.
- Building community support – clarifying what can and should happen in communities, and to then support it when it comes forth – is something local officials should to make a priority.
Thank you to everyone who attended the Summit, and to AARP VT for co-hosting. VNRC looks forward to reinvigorating smart growth conversations across Vermont with AARP VT and our other partners. View photos from the Summit here.