Recent news that the Mad River Valley Planning District, after four decades of service to The Valley, will undertake a review of its mission and organizational goals and protocols is welcome.
Formed in 1983, then formalized into its current structure in 1985, the planning district brings the towns of Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston together to work on shared issues. It is managed by a steering committee made up of a planning commissioner and select board member from Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston, a Sugarbush rep, a chamber rep and a regional planning commission rep.
At its inception the focus was on planning for, participating in and being partner to ski area-related development. That focus led to the creation of vibrant planning tools and processes that have served The Valley well, resulting in a community that reflects our shared values.
That being said, the focus of the planning district has expanded and shifted over the years. The organization is engaged in ski area-related development, but much more work is now focused outside of the ski areas.
Yet, what remains constant is the concept that three towns sharing two ridgelines, one river and one valley need to be working together on common problems and common goals.
We’ve seen this unique multi-town approach to planning and governing ourselves reflected back through other parts of our community. We have a multi-town recreation district, a multi-town EMS service, a multi-town Ridge to River program to mitigate stormwater and the impacts of flooding. Our road crews work collaboratively as do our fire departments. We do not exist in our towns as silos.
It’s exciting that an organization with the historic track record and the success of the planning district is willing to do a deep dive into what it’s doing and why. It’s admirable that the members of the steering committee are willing to ask why they’re doing what they’re doing, whether it could and should be done differently and how the organization might adapt to better meet the needs of our community in 2023 and for the next 40 years.
Taking such a dedicated internal/external look at our preeminent government body is a sign of that organization’s strength. This is exciting.