The Windham Regional Plan is Approved!
We are pleased to announce that the Windham Regional Plan was approved by a unanimous vote of Commissioners representing 21 of the Region's towns on September 30, 2014 during the meeting of the Windham Regional Commission. This concludes our regional plan update process that began in October 2012. We wish to extend our gratitude to everyone who participated in this effort.
Per statute, 24 V.S.A. § 4348(f), the plan shall be considered duly adopted and shall take effect 35 days after the date of adoption, unless, within 35 days of the date of adoption, the regional planning commission receives certification from the legislative bodies of a majority of the municipalities in the region vetoing the proposed plan. In case of such a veto, the plan or amendment shall be deemed rejected. If a majority of municipalities in the region do not veto the plan, the Windham Regional Plan shall take effect on November 4, 2014. As we go to press, we have not received any indication of any such vetoes.
The complete adopted plan is available online at http://windhamregionalplan.wordpress.com. Each town will receive a complete copy of the plan on a CD-ROM. A paper copy will be provided to the town upon request.
Should you have any questions or would like to request a printed copy for your town, please contact Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (802) 257-4547 ext. 108.
Upcoming Grant Opportunities
Upcoming Grant Opportunities will be a regular column in WRC Newbriefs. For additional information about grant possibilities for your projects please contact Susan at email@example.com. And remember, many of these grants are offered on a regular cycle. If you miss a deadline this year, now is the time to begin planning your project for the next round.
Land Water Conservation Fund
DEADLINE: Pre-Application - October 31, 2015 and Application - February 16, 2015
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Program (LWCF) became effective in January 1965 to create parks and open spaces, protect wilderness and forests, and provide outdoor recreation opportunities. In Vermont, LWCF is administered by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. LWCF grants provide up to 50% matching assistance to the state and local governments. Eligible Applicants: Funds are for municipalities only (i.e., towns, cities, regional park districts, school districts and state agencies). Eligible Projects: Acquisition of land for parks and public outdoor recreation, or development of new facilities and/or renovation of existing facilities for outdoor recreation.
For more information: http://www.vtfpr.org/reclwcf/index.cfm
National Endowment for the Arts - Our Town
DEADLINE: December 15, 2014
The National Endowment for the Arts will provide a limited number of grants for creative placemaking projects that contribute towards the livability of communities and help transform them into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. Our Town prioritizes partnerships between arts organizations and government, private, and nonprofit organizations to achieve livability goals for communities. Our Town offers support for projects in two areas:
- Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning, and Design Projects that represent the distinct character and quality of their communities
- Projects that Build Knowledge About Creative Placemaking
For more information: http://arts.gov/grants-organizations/our-town/introduction
Vermont Recreational Trails Program
DEADLINE: February 2, 2015
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federally funded program of the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), providing grants administered at the State level to help develop and maintain recreational trails, trail-related facilities and trailheads. Both motorized and non-motorized trail projects may qualify for RTP funds. The Agency of Natural Resources Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) administers RTP in Vermont. FPR anticipates approximately $500,000 from the State's RTP apportionment will be made available to municipalities and non-profit organizations through competitive trail grants, for projects to be completed between July 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016.
For more information: http://www.vtfpr.org/recgrant/trgrant.cfm
Wells Fargo and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Accepting Applications for Community Grants
DEADLINE: December 10, 2014
Grants of up to $100,000 will be awarded in support of highly visible projects that link economic development and community well-being to the stewardship and health of the environment. Funding priorities for this program include:
- Supporting sustainable agricultural practices and private lands stewardship
- Conserving critical land and water resources and improving local water quality
- Restoring and managing natural habitat, species and ecosystems that are important to community livelihoods
- Facilitating investments in green infrastructure, renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Encouraging broad-based citizen participation in project implementation.
For more information: http://www.nfwf.org/environmentalsolutions/Pages/home.aspx#.VEFn2PkVhVU
Liquid Solutions as Road Salt Alternatives
From last year to this year the price of salt per ton has increased, on average, by 35%, and if we have another winter like last years', salt supplies will be challenged. This and the practicality of salt use have some towns in the region treating their roads with other products. Aside from salt, there are a number of liquid solutions that are more effective than salt or sand, require less maintenance, and have less of an impact to the environment and to the fleet vehicles. Frank Beliveau, Innovative Surface Solutions, was the guest speaker at the October 25th Road Foremen meeting and spoke about these liquid solutions.
A major goal of winter maintenance is keeping the roads free from ice/snow after a weather event. The factors that Road Foremen take into consideration when trying to achieve this goal include available staff, application rates, temperature, and impact on fleet vehicles. Generally salt has been used because it's easy to handle, store and apply. However, it's not perfect. Effectiveness decreases dramatically at 15 degrees and less, it is highly corrosive, it does not remain on the road, and it can be costly - especially this year.
The alternatives to using normal road salt include a number of liquid solutions and/or treated salt. Some liquid solutions and their qualities include:
- Calcium Chloride (CaCl) - highly corrosive, freezes at -15 degrees
- Magnesium Chloride (MgCl) - less corrosive (safe around plants/animals), freezes at -20 degrees
- "Ice Be Gone"/Magic Minus Zero - non-corrosive, freezes at -40 degrees and is EPA approved
- Caliper M-1000 & 2000 - non-corrosive, freezes at -85 degrees, good for pre-wet
Most of the liquids mentioned above can also be used on gravel roads with the added benefits of reducing dust and stabilizing materials to reduce loss of gravel over the years. MgCl is on the lower end of the cost spectrum with "Ice Be Gone" being on the high end. In the middle is Caliper M-100 and M-2000.
Another alternative is to treat regular road salt. Some options for Vermont include Magic Salt, Fire Rock and Clear Lane. When salt is treated, up to 90% stays on the road for a longer period of time, and it becomes less-corrosive.
For more information contact Matt Mann (firstname.lastname@example.org).
An Electric Conversation - ISO-NE and VELCO Speak to the WRC Commissioners
Energy production in the New England region has been undergoing rapid changes in recent years. A number of aging power plants either have been or are scheduled for closure in the near-term, there has been a rapid expansion of intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, and nationally, there has been a dramatic expansion of power fueled by natural gas. Meanwhile the State of Vermont has adopted aggressive goals for integrating renewable energy generation for much of the State's energy needs. What are the implications of these current shifts in energy sources and anticipated demand? Who makes long-term energy management decisions and what are the driving forces that affect those decisions? What threats to grid stability are of real concern and what is being done to respond to those threats?
These questions spurred the Windham Regional Commission's Energy Committee to invite two speakers to speak to the Full Commission on September 30, 2014. Frank Ettori, ISO-NE Relations and Power Accounting with the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), spoke first on grid stability during which he identified VELCO's top 5 threats to grid reliability, including the changing resource mix, cost increases, physical and cyber security concerns, human performance, and aging infrastructure. Eric Wilkinson, Senior External Affairs Representative with ISO-New England, spoke about energy management and the implications of shifts in energy sources, highlighting the challenges associated with shifting from base-load power sources generated from power plants to intermittent renewables and "just in time" natural gas, which lacks fuel storage capacity. During the Q&A, audience members asked a number of challenging questions on a range of issues such as catastrophic grid interruption preparedness and the potential for community-based energy production to improve localized power reliability. The presentations revealed both how highly complex and interconnected the national, international, and regional power grid is as well as how vulnerable the system is to disruption from a number of potential causes, some of which result from natural forces and which are beyond prediction or control. While efforts are underway to address pressing issues of grid reliability, this is an important time to evaluate and discuss management of the energy mix and how we are protecting ourselves against risks threats in order to ensure that our lights - and much more - stay on in an increasingly interconnected world. If you have questions or would like to request PDF's of the PowerPoint presentation, please contact Kim Smith at email@example.com.
Do I Really Need a Permit?
If a project seems inherently good or even benign, does it really need a permit? I first asked myself this question when I was about 10 years old and wanted to build a playhouse in our backyard on Main Street in Abingdon, Virginia. My folks informed me that I'd have to take it before the town's board of historical review. So I drew up a plan. It showed where the playhouse would be located in our yard, the dimensions of the structure, and what it would look like. I got an excused absence from school and went before the board. I waited my turn on the agenda and presented my drawings, which were subsequently approved. I'd heard about permits before. My father was a contractor and my mother was a real estate broker and they both served on various town boards and committees. But that was my first direct experience with town government other than getting a bike license. While I may have been younger than most, beyond paying taxes or getting a license the need for a permit is probably the first experience many people have with their government that requires them to appear before staff or a board for permission to do something with their own property.
Later in life, when I was organizing farmers markets, I discovered I had to have lots of permits or permissions for lots of things. Why would I need a permit for something that was, from my perspective and that of most people in the community, inherently good? What at first seemed bothersome came to be understood as a vehicle for fairness and protection. It turned out that not everyone was as supportive of the market as I was and the farmers were. What I saw as a means of bringing farmers and consumers together for the benefit of both was viewed by others, supermarkets in this case, as competition and lost customers. The permitting process protected the right to develop the farmers markets as allowed by city ordinance and provided protection from political influence.
I think it's normal for the developer of a project and the supporters of a project to feel that permits shouldn't be necessary for something perceived as doing nothing but good. I certainly felt that way. But there is no permit fairy who can make those requirements go away; neither a selectboard, nor a governor, nor even the President can waive permitting requirements if statute doesn't provide for such authority. In fact, such authorities are not provided specifically to ensure permitting decisions are apolitical in order to preserve the rights of the applicant, abutters, and other stakeholders, and to respect the plans and regulations established by the community as a whole.
As I wrote in the last newsletter, when it comes to land use, the decision as to what is and is not allowed in an area, and the conditions imposed upon development, should have been made during the planning process and the regulatory bylaw process that can follow. It is then up to the permitting authority to make decisions based upon what the duly adopted plan and regulations allow.
When permitting authorities deviate from the regulations, problems almost invariably follow, sometimes not to be realized for years or even decades to come. The impact may be to some shared natural resource, such as a river or stream or natural habitat, or to shared infrastructure such as roads or water and sewer or schools or emergency services. Most commonly, poor permitting compromises the use and enjoyment of a property because a neighboring property was allowed to build within a setback, was given an inappropriate use variance, or similar issue. Similarly, when a property owner takes it upon him or herself to ignore the permitting process and build something without necessary approvals, much conflict can ensue. When I served as a county zoning officer I witnessed intense quarrels arise between neighbors, including back and forth retaliation, when the permitting process was ignored. In the end though, the law required properties to be brought into compliance with regulations. Had the permitting process been followed, conflict could have been avoided as well as the unnecessary expense of fines, legal fees, and even moving or demolishing what was built or replanting what was cleared. While avoiding permits may seem to the property owner like a fast-track for getting done what they want to do, it almost always results in problems. Seeking permits and conforming with regulations is the fast-track.
Permit applications should be evaluated based upon the conformance of what is being developed rather than who is doing the developing. Race, religion, ethnicity, sex, political affiliation, personality and popularity should be irrelevant. Permit requirements and permitting processes should apply equally to everyone. This is fundamental to the protection of rights.
What a town, region, state and even a nation should strive for are planning processes that are fair, plans that reflect the values and protect the public health, safety and welfare of the community, and the fair and effective implementation of those plans and regulations including permitting. Plans and the rules that implement those plans should be revisited on a regular basis, as should the effectiveness and fairness of implementation. If done well, permits can and should a means by which society assures fair treatment for all.