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The Valley Reporter
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Community participation is key to project success

By Lisa Davis

"You are needed to help chart the course for the future of Waitsfield/Warren Village," says Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) director Joshua Schwartz. Thanks to Schwartz's tireless efforts, Waitsfield and Warren residents and business owners will have the opportunity to help shape the economic vitality, livability and walk ability of their respective villages.

The Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT) will be visiting our community October 14 through 18, 2013. The consultant team will be available to meet with property owners, community members and staff engaged in economic development, government leaders and other community stakeholders in order to develop four specific items focused on strengthening Waitsfield and Warren Villages' identity and economic vitality. October 15, 2013, a public input meeting will be held in Waitsfield and Warren. Details and schedule are available on Page ___.

Having both a professional and personal interest in the project I feel compelled to participate and to help rally public interest. Professionally, my role is marketing for the Mad River Valley for the chamber of commerce. Personally, I live (rent) on Main Street in Waitsfield Village.

While my job is to promote the Mad River Valley as a travel destination, the end goal is the economic health of the community and its ability to attract new residents that will help maintain the economy. Visitors equal successful businesses which equal more jobs which equal workforce relocating to the Mad River Valley which equals more consumers to support local businesses. Right now, there are challenges to this flow. The one that speaks loudest to me is affordable rental housing for year-round employees as well as families trying to save to purchase their own homes.

There are consistently "Help Wanted" signs throughout The Valley. Employers face staffing issues while potential employees face housing issues. This is just one of the topics that will be addressed by the V-DAT team.

As a resident and a renter I recognize that there is limited affordable rental housing. "Let's just appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in Waitsfield Village," I say to my husband. But, why should it be "once in a lifetime?" Village living strengthens a community. The access to village businesses makes it convenient for residents to buy local (just ask my husband how many cupcakes I've eaten from The Sweet Spot in the past six months). It allows for more sustainable living when people can walk and bike to school, run errands, go out to eat, catch a movie, go to the playground or just exercise on a path/sidewalk a safe distance from the road. Strong downtowns (and villages) have people living in them.

What issue or idea do you want to propose to the V-DAT team? Do you desire better access to walking trails throughout your village? Do you want to make changes to your business' landscape? Are there parking issues at your business location? Do you wish that your adolescents or teens had a constructive place to "hang out"? Use this opportunity on Tuesday, October 15, to share your ideas. The consulting team will use your input to inform their work over the next three days.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for the village of Warren and the Mad River Valley as a whole. Please share this information far and wide – broad and deep community participation is key to the project's success," says Schwartz. Together we can make Warren and Waitsfield even better places to live, work and visit.

Davis lives in Waitsfield and is the marketing coordinator for the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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