Amy Tomasso, Moretown, joined the Mad River Valley Planning District as the new community planner as of November 15. She moved to The Valley over the summer when her family inherited property in Moretown and called this her dream job. Her goals include revitalizing public spaces, helping tackle The Valley-wide housing crisis, increasing public transportation and spurring economic growth. Over the past few weeks, she’s been busy working on a grant application for the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative, developing a community indicators project and aggregating the planning district’s annual report.
Tomasso studied urban sustainability as an undergraduate at Stanford University and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University. She said her background as a writer helped her understand what makes people tick and how to communicate. “When you get to the heart of it it’s what makes people thrive and what matters to them,” she said. “I’m so fascinated by people and place and the intersection of the two,” she said, “Especially public spaces that can thrive and bring a whole community alive.”
VIBRANT COMMUNITY SPACES
Seeing piazzas in Italy, where she’s visited family, inspired her to understand the importance of vibrant community spaces. Growing up in Farmington, Connecticut, she realized there weren’t many gathering spaces, which led her to study urban sustainability. She most recently worked at a placemaking nonprofit in Brooklyn. Placemaking is about bringing public spaces to life, she said. She noted that sustainability is an important part of community planning. Observing public spaces and how people are using them is critical, she said. “It’s going through all these metrics of what makes a place great … it’s seeing what makes public spaces come to life.”
The Mad River Valley Planning District includes Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston. The MRVPD is governed by a steering committee made up a select board member and planning commissioner from each member town as well as a representative of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce. There is a nonvoting Sugarbush representative on the steering committee. The district is equally funded by the three towns and Sugarbush Resort. Sugarbush provides the planning district with data to compile their annual report each year. “It’s become an opportunity to create this whole narrative about The Valley and check in and tell the story.”
She said the planning district brings all aspects of the community together, from agriculture to recreation. “Holding that all together and amplifying what’s already here and making those things better” are goals of hers, she said. She said the housing crisis in The Valley is something the planning district is focusing on. The planning district’s areas of focus include transportation, housing, placemaking, climate and more. “It all comes down to creating the quality of life here,” she said. “I’m so passionate about bringing life to public spaces. I love this work because it’s a whole-systems approach. It’s complex and multi-disciplinary and that’s exciting to me.”
Tomasso cited the example of the Waitsfield Farmers Market, which is active from May to October, and the opportunity to utilize that space year-round as one potential project. She will also write a white paper on short-term rentals in The Valley. She hopes to expand the planning district’s communications strategy and provide office hours for community members to voice their opinions and concerns.
“We work for the whole Valley and are here to reinforce this dialogue about who The Valley is and what can make it better … The thing I’m most excited about is meeting people and getting to know the community.”