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Planning commission survey results are in

This past September, the Moretown Planning Commission distributed a community opinion survey to inform its revisions to the town plan and now the results are in.

The purpose of the survey was to assess how residents felt about the current condition of the town, how residents want the town to change or not change over time and what residents think are the major issues facing the town. The survey also asked about two major issues—Moretown Landfill and renewable energy projects—that are either currently facing the town or likely to come up during the next five years, while the revised town plan is in effect.

The planning commission mailed out 820 surveys—at least one to each mailing address on the voter checklist. The survey was also available online and they sent out two notices via Front Porch Forum with a link and information about the survey.

The survey turned out 155 responses in total (83 online and 72 on paper) which constitutes about 12 percent of adult residents. If one survey was returned from each household, 22 percent of households responded, although it is possible more than one person responded to the survey in some households, so the household response rate could likely be lower.

The results:

The question "What are the top three reasons to live in Moretown?" received 368 different responses. In those responses, the most frequent word or phrase was "location," while the second two most frequent words or phrases were "small town/rural character" and "neighborliness/community."

The question "What three things would you like to see change about Moretown?" received 339 different responses. In those responses, the three most frequent words or phrases were "taxes and spending," "economic development" and "roads and traffic."

The question "What three things do you hope never change in Moretown?" received 265 different responses. In those responses, the three most frequent words or phrases were "rural character," "community" and "school."

The question "What are your top three concerns for the future of Moretown?" received 339 different responses. Overwhelmingly, the most frequent word or phrase in those responses was "taxes and spending." The second most frequent words or phrases were "landfill" and "school."

The next section of the survey asked residents to rate how well they think Moretown is doing on a variety of factors. Respondents reported a high level of satisfaction with factors related to the town's natural environment, scenic beauty and rural character. The results also indicate that respondents are satisfied with Moretown's emergency response and responders. Respondents indicated that they are not satisfied with Moretown on factors related to the economy, jobs, housing affordability, local businesses and taxes.

The next section of the survey focused on renewable energy, and showed that a majority of respondents supported generating more electricity from renewables in Moretown and in Vermont. A majority of respondents said they support small- and medium-scale renewable energy projects, but there was not majority support for large- or commercial-scale projects. Instead, a large number of respondents said they were "undecided" about large- or commercial-scale projects.

Respondents were then asked to review a list of potential future goals for the town, which were largely taken from Moretown's current Town Plan. Overall, residents supported all but three of the current Town Plan's goals, and those three were developing water or wastewater infrastructure in the village and developing wind turbines on ridgelines. Instead, the future goals with the most support related to supporting farming and forestry and retaining rural character.

Specifically, residents were asked if they thought the town should support Moretown Landfill if they seek a permit to open a fourth trash cell. The majority of respondents thought that the town should support the landfill. However, of those respondents who live in the vicinity of the landfill (the North Moretown/Route 2 neighborhood) 52 percent did not support the continued operation of the landfill, and they accounted for half of all respondents who answered no to the question.

The survey ended with a series of demographic questions. The primary purpose of these questions was to assess whether the survey respondents were a representative cross section of town residents.

The results indicate that residents under age 30 were under-represented among survey respondents, as they make up approximately 10 percent of the town population but only 2 percent of survey respondents. Similarly, renters were under-represented, as they make up nearly 20 percent of households in Moretown but only 3 percent of survey respondents. More than 25 percent of households in Moretown consist of a single person, but only 12 percent of survey respondents lived alone.

Residents ages 50 to 69 were over-represented among survey respondents, as they make up approximately 30 percent of the town population but 46 percent of survey takers.

The results of the survey—including detailed individual response to open-ended questions—are available online via a link from the town's website, moretownvt.org.

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