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MRVPD continues economic vitality work

A subcommittee of the Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) working with Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce (MRVCC) representatives will present a proposal for long-term economic vitality to select boards and community groups next month.

That proposal may include a local option tax – a local tax on rooms, meals and alcohol as well as sales. Such a proposal requires voters in Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston to vote, collectively, to create a charter for the MRVPD that includes the local option tax (LOT). It would also require legislative approval.

The subcommittee was created last March to explore the findings of the past few years of community development work done on the existing and potential opportunities to sustain The Valley’s quality of life and how to fund those opportunities.

The committee adopted the name MRV Funding Local Opportunities, MRV-FLO. It has been in discussion for the past four months reviewing why there needs to be investment in the community, how those investments might be categorized, how the investments would be made and how the investments would be funded.

The group’s preliminary work involved extensive research into how other communities in Vermont have used an LOT successfully and drew the organizational and structural work of those other communities.

The group has identified several areas where long-term sustainable funding could benefit The Valley. Those areas are community projects (including housing and transportation), economic development (business acceleration), destination marketing, recreation and a reserve or rainy day fund.

In terms of structure, the working committee is still reviewing how such funds would be managed and is considering the creation of an economic commission with commissioners from each of the three member towns in the MRVPD. At this point committee members envision one member elected by each town and one member appointed by the select board of each town along with a chair appointed from the planning district’s steering committee.

In terms of timing, the MRV-FLO group will present its preliminary work to the chamber membership and select boards next month and will then work on public outreach and communication, holding forums and workshops between now and Town Meeting 2019. Depending on public input, MRV-FLO members may adapt the proposal.

“We believe that a planned investment in economic vitality is needed in the Mad River Valley in order to enrich the community and sustain the quality of life here for all residents. We are implementing the next phase of the work outlined in the MRV 2014 Economic Study and the Economic Vitality Series,” said Bob Ackland, chair of the MRVPD, member of the MRV-FLO committee and member of the Warren Select Board.

Ackland said that the objective was to provide a sustainable source of funds to advance the economic future of The Valley for the coming decades.

“We need a plan for addressing our critical needs and opportunities, as identified in the workshops and studies over the last three years. We believe it does not make sense and is not viable to continue to rely on one-shot grants or special appeals,” he said.

“It is time for The Valley to have more local control in our own future rather than relying on Montpelier or Washington for grants and assistance. The Mad River Valley community now has an extraordinary opportunity to determine our own economic destiny by reinvesting directly in our community over the next decade,” he added.

In addition to Ackland, committee members include Jared Cadwell, Fayston Select Board and secretary/treasurer MRVPD; Don Simonini, Fayston Planning Commission and MRVPD Steering Committee; Darryl Forest, Waitsfield Select Board; Peter MacLaren, secretary of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce and MRVPD steering committee; and Jasmine Bigelow, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The Valley Reporter - serving Vermont's Mad River Valley since 1971