Strong Communities is a quarterly newsletter published by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to highlight news, trends and best practices to strengthen your community. Each issue spotlights planning and revitalization successes throughout Vermont, outline upcoming grant and training opportunities, and provide tools you can use in your community. We invite your thoughts and suggestions for topics to address or articles for future issues. Please send your comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Municipal Planning Grants Awarded
DHCD recently announced the recipients
of approximately $475,000 in Municipal Planning Grants
to help build local economies and strengthen communities. The 44 grants
ranged from $3,800 to $35,000 and are helping small towns like Bethel update their zoning regulations, Wolcott respond to the loss of a prominent business and Plainfield map important natural resources. Grants are also helping cities and towns develop strategies to reduce damage from flooding and make the places where people gather – their downtowns and villages – stronger and more resilient. For more information about the program, contact Annina Seiler.
Strong Communities, Better Connections Grants Awarded
The Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development are pleased to announce that the Strong Communities, Better Connections (SCBC) Pilot Grant Program
provided $200,000 in funding to assure transportation investments support community planning and revitalization efforts. Grant winners include: Waitsfield and Warren for a project to increase walking and biking options in the Mad River Valley; Rutland Town and West Rutland to increase transportation options connecting two economic centers; and the City of Vergennes to develop a master plan that links downtown with the Basin Harbor. For more information about the program, contact Richard Amore
or Jackie Cassino
Vermont Planning Manual Overhaul
DHCD is currently updating the Municipal Plan section of the Community Planning Manual. The new framework aims to help communities write shorter plans by focusing on the local issues that matter most. The updated manual will be released this November. Visit our website
for additional information or contact John Adams
to get involved.
Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative
With help from the US Economic Development Administration, the Vermont Economic Resilience Initiative (VERI) team is finalizing draft recommendations that minimize flood damages to business, homes, roads, bridges, and power and phone lines in five communities. The project is modeled after work done in Bennington, which reduced flood impacts of Tropical Strom Irene and helped the community quickly return to business as usual. DHCD developed websites for each of the VERI communities -- Barre City and Town, Brandon, Brattleboro, Enosburgh Village and Town and Woodstock to help raise awareness about VERI’s work in their communities. Local forums are planned in the spring to give citizens the opportunity to review the draft recommendations, prioritize the project list and lay out the next steps to reduce the impacts of floods in their town. The final recommendations will be available in June. For more information, contact Wendy Rice.
Vermont Downtown Action Team Wraps Up
The downtown and village action plans for Barre, Brandon, Brattleboro, Northfield, Waitsfield, Warren, Waterbury,
are complete. Funded by a CDBG Disaster Recovery grant, the award-winning
Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT) developed local road maps to speed the recovery and revitalization of these communities affected by the 2011 floods. Click here
to view the action plans and graphical summaries. For more information about the V-DAT, contact Richard Amore.
Designated Village Center Recap and Outreach
Village Center designation recognizes and supports local efforts to revitalize Vermont’s traditional village centers. Congratulations to the 2014 designees: Adamant Village in Calais
, Hancock, Guilford Center
, South Hero
and Keeler Bay
and South Londonderry
, Marlboro, Middletown Springs
There are now 118 designated villages across Vermont eligible for state benefits
. Contact Richard Amore
if you would like to learn how the state designation programs can support your local planning and revitalization efforts.
Historic Preservation Grants Announced
The Division for Historic Preservation
and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation
are pleased to announce the 2015 State Historic Preservation grant awardees.
Funds will go to support 18 projects in 16 communities across the state, totaling $253,220 in matching grant funds that will leverage $877,957 in rehabilitation efforts. Grantees were selected from 41 proposals requesting more than $1,853,457. Many significant historic buildings will benefit, including the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury and the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington. Projects range from modest efforts like repair of the slate roof of the Old White Meeting House in South Hero and restoration of historic windows of the Peacham Congregational Church to expansive projects like those to restore the historic Taylor Park Fountain in St. Albans and the Longfellow Building in Rutland. View a full list of this year’s award winners online.
Gary Holloway in National Spotlight
The National Main Street Center’s Fall Newsletter recently featured Vermont’s Downtown Program Coordinator Gary Holloway in their monthly coordinator profile. Learn more about Gary here.
Downtown Transportation Fund - Applications Due Soon
The application deadline for the next round of Downtown Transportation Fund (DTF) Grants is March 9, 2015. This year $388,000 is available to Designated Downtowns with a maximum annual award of $100,000 per community for transportation related capital improvements. Projects may include, but are not limited to, streetscape improvements, electric vehicle charging stations, parking facilities, rail or bus facilities, utility relocation, way-finding signage, street lighting and ADA access improvements. For more information, review the Downtown Transportation Fund Grant Application Guidelines or contact Gary Holloway.
Spring Networking Meeting - Middlebury, April 10th
Middlebury hosts the spring downtown network meeting on April 10, 2015 at the Middlebury Inn. Planned activities include a discussion of new programs to help make downtowns more energy efficient, updates on the upcoming downtown conference, a walking tour highlighting recent downtown improvements and local business success stories. To RSVP, contact Gary Holloway
The Vermont Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference - Burlington, June 5th
Burlington will host the 2015 Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference on Friday, June 5th
at Main Street Landing.
The conference offers walking tours and education sessions packed with practical ideas and information you can use to help your community thrive. Registration coming soon. For more information, contact Gary Holloway.
Tools You Can Use
Urban and Community Forestry Resources
The Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program recently launched a new website to help communities, professionals and property owners learn more about planning and caring for trees.
Vermont Farm to Plate Releases Updated Guide for Municipalities
Sustaining Agriculture was recently updated to help communities integrate farming and food systems into town planning. Learn more here.
Flood Resilience Checklist
The checklist provides local government officials, community organizations, and nonprofits with a new tool to assess a community’s readiness to prepare and recover from future floods. To learn more, read the report on Planning for Flood Recovery and Long Term Resilience in Vermont.
Community Planning Toolbox - New Module on Transportation
The Vermont Natural Resources Council recently updated its Community Planning Toolbox with new information to help communities reduce the amount of energy used for transportation. Check out the new Transportation and Energy module, and the related Hinseburg Rides case study.
Vermont Historic Resources Online
The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation is digitizing over 40 years of paper records documenting Vermont’s historic buildings and places. Explore the Online Research Center and contact Devin Colman for more information.
News and Resources
Fund Dedicates $240,000 to Building Resilience in Vermont Watersheds
Since 2000, Vermont has had at least one federally declared disaster per year. To promote planning and action within Vermont’s watersheds, the High Meadows Fund
at the Vermont Community Foundation is requesting Proposals
to fund and encourage multi-town approaches to reduce the impacts of future floods. Applications are due April 15, 2015 with more information available online.
Put Tax Credits to Work in Your Community
Vermont’s Downtown and Village Center tax credit program has a proven track record of results – incentivizing investment, expanding businesses and creating jobs. Learn more about the program basics, eligibility, how to apply and how to put together a winning application from Caitlin Corkins
, Tax Credits & Grants Coordinator for DHCD. A training session will be held Wednesday, March 18th
from 6:00 – 7:30pm at the Community College of Vermont (CCV) Conference Room at 60 West Street in Rutland
and is designed for property owners as well as economic development and municipal professionals. RSVP to the Downtown Rutland Partnership.
Preservation Trust of Vermont's Village Revitalization Initiative Receives National Recognition
Senator Patrick Leahy and the Preservation Trust of Vermont recently received national recognition as the recipient of a National Trust for Historic Preservation Richard H. Driehaus Award. This award recognizes the Village Revitalization Initiative
, which supports preservation and restoration of Vermont’s historic buildings and communities. For more information, visit the Preservation Trust of Vermont’s website.
Town History and Student 3D Vermont Competition
The Preservation Trust of Vermont, Google, Hartford High School and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation have partnered to put on the first Vermont High School Town History in 3D competition.
The competition challenges teams of middle and high school students to create 3D models of their towns' notable buildings using the software SketchUp. In the process, students will research and document the history of these local landmarks, develop a multimedia presentation, and showcase it during the contest's culminating event on March 25th
Contribute to and Enjoy Vermont Life
Vermont Life magazine shares compelling stories and beautiful photographs of Vermont’s communities. Focusing on the vibrancy of Vermont, including entrepreneurship, the arts, outdoor recreation and food, each issue of Vermont Life highlights the best Vermont has to offer. It’s a great tool to tell the story of Vermont to visitors, future employees, and any other potential partners. Vermont Life loves hearing interesting stories from around the state. If your community has a cool story to tell, let Vermont Life know
to read Vermont stories for just $9.97, or contact Vermont Life
to learn about bulk subscription discounts.
Municipal Day Presentations Available
Workshop presentations are now available online for Municipal Day, an annual all-day event packed with information to support the work of cities and towns.
Vermont Planners Association Call for 2015 Award Nominations
Each year the Vermont Planners Association recognizes citizen planners, outstanding projects and professional planners. Award nominations
are due by March 20th