By Kara Herlihy
Warren has chosen Smart Growth Vermont to assist the town with developing a strategy and revising its bylaws to promote construction of affordable housing.
"[Warren] is looking to see if there is anything in their land use regulations that is hindering affordable housing, and if there is anything they can do to ease the process," she continued.
Smart Growth Vermont originally put out an RFP, which the town of Warren responded to. The organization will meet with the planning commission July 9 to discuss ways to garner public involvement that may include surveys, public forums and focus groups.
"During the interview [the PC] gave us some background about the hurdles they've encountered and the work they've done, as well as what they are interested in," Mackay added.
"We're delighted to have been chosen for this important project. There is a critical shortage of moderately priced homes in Vermont, and local policies and codes are sometimes part of the problem. Warren's community leaders have made a commitment to changing that, and they deserve a lot of credit," she said.
"The planning commission partnered with the expertise of Smart Growth Vermont to examine and suggest enhancements that will create an expedited permit process for projects in the full range of housing affordability," stated Miron Malboeuf, Warren's zoning administrator.
Ensuring that housing is available for everyone in their community has been a goal in the Warren Town Plan for some time and revisions have been made to their bylaws to achieve this goal, Malboeuf said.
Smart Growth Vermont's commitment to housing for all is in keeping with its overall mission to develop creative strategies for protecting Vermont's distinctive landscape of compact cities and villages surrounded by working rural lands.
EASIER AND CHEAPER
"Lack of affordability near downtowns and village centers is a big part of what drives development out onto farmland where land and construction is often easier and cheaper," MacKay explained.
"If we want to prevent sprawl and protect the Vermont landscape, we have to figure out how to build reasonably priced housing in and around our traditional community centers," she continued.
Funding for the project comes in part from Vermont's municipal planning grant program, which provides funds to help towns develop progressive, smart growth-oriented plans and policies.
Created 20 years ago as part of Act 200, the program funds competitive grants from towns of up to $15,000 to defray the costs of plan development, bylaw revision, public involvement and related activities.