The regular meeting of the BCRC has been moved up one week for November: we’ll be meeting on Thursday, November 14 at the Martha Canfield Library on East Arlington Road in Arlington. The meeting will begin at 5:30 PM with a social ½ hour - sandwiches and beverages provided - with the agenda items beginning at 6:00 PM. We are encouraging local officials to join us for this meeting as two energy-related topics of special interest to municipalities will be covered. Li Ling Young, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, will be presenting information on Vermont’s Residential and Commercial Building Energy Codes and the municipal requirements related to those codes enacted last year under Act 89. An overview of the energy codes and municipal responsibilities can be reviewed at
Efforts to make the region more bicycle and pedestrian friendly received a big boost with the announcement of six grants through the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. Construction funds were awarded to North Bennington and Shaftsbury for sidewalk extensions/improvements and funds for scoping studies were granted to Bennington (“Ninja Trail” development), Arlington (connecting path or sidewalk from village center to recreation park), Manchester (sidewalk link to Manchester Elementary/Middle School), and North Bennington (sidewalk extension on Mechanic Street). The BCRC will provide local project management and assistance with scoping tasks for several of these projects.
Construction is expected to be concluded at the Route 67/67A (Bank Street) intersection in North Bennington Village by the first week of November. The need for the project was identified through a BCRC-sponsored study of village centers approximately ten years ago. The BCRC worked with Village officials through the subsequent scoping, design, permitting, right-of-way, and construction phases of the project. The area that had been an undefined expanse of asphalt with no accommodation for pedestrians has been redeveloped with landscaping, sidewalks, crosswalks, and curbs, all of which combine to slow traffic, provide safe routes for pedestrians, and complement the historic character of the village center.
A healthy population requires regular physical activity, and there is nothing more important to encouraging that activity than a physical environment that makes walking, biking, and other outdoor exercise easy and enjoyable. That is the message convincingly delivered to a diverse audience in Bennington last week by nationally-recognized healthy community design expert, Mark Fenton. In his high-energy and engaging style, Fenton used a combination of scientific data, amusing anecdotes, and local examples to drive home his points at a public meeting sponsored by BCRC,
The Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development has developed a summary of amendments made to the Municipal and Regional Planning and Development Act (Title 24—Chapter 117) made during the 2013 Legislative session.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) has just completed work on a new resource management guide for local planners and other officials entitled, Community Strategies for Vermont's Forests and Wildlife: A Guide for Local Action. The VNRC assembled the information from sources around the state, and included solutions designed to reduce fragmentation of forest land and subdivision of large forest parcels. The Guide illustrates the many different tools communities have available to help sustain forests and wildlife at the local and regional levels.
Road-stream crossings, which include culverts and bridges, are an essential element of our transportation networks. Our communities and our economies depend on functioning road networks and safe crossings.
On Friday, October 18th, Bennington was the site of a regional discussion of statewide economic development issues. Co-hosted by the Vermont Department of Economic Development, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation with support from BCRC, the meeting brought together interested parties from Windham and Bennington Counties to provide input on the new statewide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).
The BCRC was awarded a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $55,688 to complete a geospatial hazard and vulnerability assessment. This is a three year project during which BCRC will use geographic information systems, key informant interviews, and analyses of historic records and other data to assess natural hazards across Bennington County. The results of that inventory will then be used to assess vulnerabilities and to identify locations that could be affected by future natural hazard events.
Legislation enacted earlier this year added a new state planning goal dealing with flood resiliency and a requirement that town and regional plans include flood resiliency elements. Plans will need to identify and map areas at risk of flood damage and recommend ways to protect those areas and minimize flood damage. The flood resiliency element becomes a mandatory requirement for municipal and regional plans adopted after July of 2014. Any communities that are working on plan revisions or are planning to revise their plans soon should include this chapter. Staff at BCRC can provide guidance on this work.
A number of changes are underway with the National Flood Insurance Program in response to the Biggert-Waters NFIP Reform of 2012. These changes include steps to make the program
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ GIS office has created two new desktop mapping tools that simplify and consolidate geographic analyses. The Natural Resource Atlas
has been developed from data previously maintained in three separate applications: the environmental interest locator, the well locator, and the stream geomorphic assessment tool. It provides a quick and easy way for local officials and interested residents to determine the location of a wide range of natural resources.
BioFinder is an analytical mapping tool that identifies high priority ecosystems, natural communities, habitats, and species. BioFinder was developed by the Agenc
The Bennington County Regional Commission has completed a community wildfire protection plan for the towns of Arlington, Glastenbury, Sandgate, Shaftsbury and Sunderland. Community Wildfire Protection Plans or CWPPs are intended to guide communities in reducing or eliminating potential wildfire hazard. This plan is intended to address that risk for the towns of Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland, covered by the Arlington Fire Department and the towns of Shaftsbury and Glastenbury covered by the Shaftsbury Fire Department. The towns of Arlington, Glastenbury, Sandgate, and Sunderland have substantial areas within Green Mountain National Forest, where U.S. Forest Service is responsible for wildland fire suppression resources as well.
Following several meetings organized by the BCRC, 12 Bennington Region towns have agreed to work together to prepare a new comprehensive solid waste (material management) plan. Those towns include the nine currently operating in partnership under an existing plan plus Bennington, Woodford, and Stamford.
The new plan will be designed to ensure that local communities meet the new requirements and reflect the objectives of the statewide plan. The cooperative effort also is likely to lead to a more efficient organizational and decision-making structure and to result in significant operational benefits and cost savings.
The twelve towns are pursuing a municipal planning grant to fund the majority of the $55,000 cost of developing the plan. Each of the towns will be contribut
Michael (“Mickey”) McGlasson, a VISTA employee, who is an aspiring architect and recent graduate of Ball State University, will be working with the BCRC for the next year on a variety of projects initiated through our work with the Alliance for Community Transformations. Mickey will be helping advance our local food systems planning, supporting efforts to develop accessible outlets for local food in the downtown area, working to implement bicycle-pedestrian and recreation facility projects, and a variety of other projects that support area youth and healthy communities.
He will be working with Kiah Morris, who is directing our healthy community design project (funded through the Vermont Department of Health) and will be closely collaborating with another VISTA worker, Rachel Sch
A total of $52,873 has been granted to fund ecosystem restoration projects in the town of Rupert. The BCRC will be administering a project involving creation of a stormwater Master Plan for the White Creek and Mill Brook watersheds; the plan will identify, map, evaluate and prioritize stormwater problem sites in the town, and outline appropriate steps that can be taken to address those problems.
Other projects, to be overseen by the Bennington County Conservation District and the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, with support from the Town of Rupert, include removal of a berm, stabilization of a headwaters stream and protection of a town road, and addressing three mass failures on Mill Brook. For more information, contact Shelly Stiles at the
The Shires of Vermont Byway, connecting the Northshire and Southshire towns along the Route 7A/7 corridor, is sporting some new official state byway signs. The BCRC has worked with the Shires of Vermont Byway Committee to obtain designation of the route as a byway and to secure a grant that has paid for the new signs, as well as information panels and kiosks that will be developed in the near future.
The Stone Valley Byway, running along the Route 30 corridor from Manchester to Castleton, will soon have a series of interpretive panels—mounted on marble and slate—at locations along the route. In addition, a scoping study is being prepared that will identify sidewalk and bicycle improvements in each community along the byway.
A Do-It-Yourself Home Weatherization Skillshop will be conducted on Saturday, September 14 at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. The Skillshop will cover: air sealing, insulation, attics, basements, and windows and doors.
The Do-It-Yourself program enables homeowners to complete weatherization work themselves, under the guidance of a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor. By participating in the program, homeowners receive help and training needed to achieve comprehensive energy savings, while meeting important health and safety requirements. They also receive the same level of incentives available to homeowners who work with a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor from start the finish.
Find out more and register for the Skillshop at the
The Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) is seeking volunteers willing to lend a few hours of their time to help motivate their friends and neighbors to weatherize their homes. This “Button Up Vermont!” event takes place on October 5 and will be the first-ever statewide energy efficiency day of action. Why is this important? Making homes and buildings more energy efficient saves money, saves energy, increases comfort and is a powerful way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.
Volunteers can sign up today to participate in an event and local organizers will connect with them on the details of their specific action prior to October 5.
VECAN plans to connect willing volunteers to community events around the state, so please visi
A workshop on building community assets will be held on Tuesday, September 10 at 6:30 PM at the Dana Thompson Memorial Park in Manchester. The workshop will focus on strengthening and improving downtown and village center economic assets to help them reach their broadest market potential. This workshop is part of a series dealing with various revitalization and resiliency topics.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the Bennington and Windham regions funding from a Disaster Recovery Grant program to bring additional professional capacity to Southern Vermont to assist with economic recovery following Tropical Storm Irene. A major focus of the regional commissions’ work under this grant involves village and downtown revitalization efforts and assisting municipalities
Due to a conflict with a State meeting and some Green Mountain National Forest staff being pulled to help with wildfires in the west, the South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Plan meeting originally scheduled for August 28 has been rescheduled to September 24th from 12:30 to 4:00 PM at the GMNF office in Rutland.
Contact Melissa Reichert for more information.
A profile of energy use in the state’s transportation sector hasjust been released. Energy used fortransportation exceeds energy consumption in any othersector, so this study providesinformation that will prove particularly valuable as Vermonttriestomeetits energy objectives overthe coming years.
The study includesinformation on current use and trends for all modes of transportation and for various types of vehicles and fuels.
The complete report is available here.
This past year, the Vermont Legislature passed a bill that would require that the paint industry be responsible for collecting and managing leftover architectural paint in Vermont. This will mean that consumers can return unused paint to retailers rather than have to dispose of it at household hazardous waste events. This will provide greater convenience and reduce the costs of disposal now bourn by tax payers. This program should be in place sometime in 2014. PaintCare, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization is seeking candidates to establish a program for paint stewardship in Vermont and Maine for programs that will begin in 2014.
The Bennington County Regional Commission will be selling Soil Saver Composters for $51.97. These retail for $95.00 and provide an easy way to convert common yard and food waste into an effective fertilizer that you can use in your garden, flowerbeds or to fertilize trees. The Soil Saver has structural foam construction for insulation, a feature that also makes it resistant to weather and UV rays. Its large capacity (28” wide by 28” deep by 32” high) means that it can serve a household of up to five people. In addition, the locking lid helps to keep animals out of the compost. They have two sliding doors for easy removal of compost and a self-watering lid feature.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council recently released a Resilient Communities Scorecard, a set of checklists to help towns rate whether or not they are economically, environmentally, and socially resilient. This update to the Smart Growth Scorecard, published by the Vermont Forum on Sprawl in 2001, consists of twelve checklists on key topics, including land use, transportation, energy, and healthy community design. Each checklist has a series of questions that, when answered, combine to create a "score" for each topic.
The BCRC has worked closely with Alliance for Community Transformations (ACT) over the past year on several projects supporting healthy community design. These projects include a plan for Bennington’s local food system, bicycle-pedestrian improvements, and planning for mixed use development and access to recreational facilities.
The Department of Housing and Community Development is asking all municipalities to submit — whenever possible — their proposed and adopted plans and bylaws, including public hearing notices as well as plan & bylaw reports, by email. DHCD will acknowledge receipt ofthese required submittals with an official email for the municipality’s records. Eventually the documents will be posted to a searchable website, available to the public. Submittals should be directed to Wendy Tudor.
The Energy Action Network works on strategies for achieving Vermont’s renewable energy and conservation goals by focusing on: capital mobilization, public engagement, regulatory reform, and technology innovation. Their annual meeting will be held atthe Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes onOctober 1 and 2, where the keynote speaker will be Goteberg Award winner, Soren Hermansen. Go to for more information.
The Legislature increased the amount available for municipal planning grants by 10% this year, and the maximum award per municipality has been increased from $15,000 to $20,000. A high priority for funding this year will be bylaw updates - to ensure that local regulations accurately reflect and implement the town or village plan and support smart growth principles. If local officials in your municipality have been keeping a list of regulatory issues that need to be addressed, or if you suspect that your bylaws don’t align well with your plan, now is the time to consider an update!
When BCRC staff worked with the planning commission and local residents of Peru on a town plan update that included an economic study/plan forthe community, it was evident that the issue of overriding concern was the need to reestablish a general store in the historic village center. Juliette and Timothy Britton seized on that vision and have been working on a plan to construct a new store on the site of the historic, but closed and dilapidated, JJ Hapgood Store. The new JJ Hapgood Store will provide general merchandise, food, and perhaps most importantly, a community gathering place at the heart of the scenic village. The BCRC has participated in state environmental reviews in support ofthe project. The Brittons hope to begin construction this summer
Sure, it’s been hot and humid this summer, but it’s still a good time to think about making your home more comfortable and energy efficient by completing some weatherization projects. Local officials and energy coordinators and committees will want to help get the word out about several new initiatives from Efficiency Vermont(www.efficiencyvermont.com/getgoing). Special offers include:
Our local food systems are a vital part of our communities and economy and the importance of these networks of farmers, distributors, markets, stores, and support businesses will only grow in coming years. A critical component to the success of any such system is a good communication network and state and local efforts are focusing on facilitating those connections. The new state Food System Atlas is now online; visit the site for maps and directories oflocal businesses as well as a large amount of information and technical ssistance.
FEMA has just made available three new mitigation planning publications that can benefit local communities: Integrating Hazard Mitigation Into Local Planning Local Mitigation Planning Handbook Mitigation Ideas: A Resource for Reducing Risk to Natural Hazards.