HOW WE PLAN
FIND YOUR TOWN
RRPC programs lay the foundation for others to build upon. Like calcium to growing bones, the results of our planning work take longer to show up and are often layered with other essential components to form healthy, well-functioning rural and urban systems.
• Town and regional planning that enables and promotes economically stimulating land use and community design.
• Well-designed and attractive communities support the state’s largest industry: tourism.
• ERAF assistance – because saving money is economic development.
• Transportation planning that spurs private investment in commercial and residential development. Complete Streets is one common and well-documented approach.
• Energy Planning.
An example of this work in practice is the RRPC Brownfields Reuse Program. A property with questionable history often sits unused or underused and often is seen as blight in the eyes of the community. RRPC collaborates with property owners and developers to answer potential site contamination questions and understand redevelopment potential. Then, organizations such as Rutland Economic Development Corporation and the Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce can work with the property owners, developers, and entrepreneurs to bring new business into that location. It can take several years of work to culminate, but when it does, blight is removed, the tax base increases and the property’s value increases. The community wins, the municipality wins, and the property owner wins.
Infill redevelopment of town and village cores is cost-effective and stimulates local economies. This type of development removes blight; increases the desirability of a block or a community; increases tax revenue; keeps infrastructure costs down for taxpayers; attracts new business; removes development pressure on agricultural and natural resource areas; and creates development in desirable locations, which are walkable and can be accessed by all modes of transportation.
RRPC works with landowners and developers to thoroughly assess brownfields sites and create development plans to put these sites back into productive use or for re-sale.
Brownfields are properties on which there is the presence—or perceived presence—of contamination and this perception stalls or complicates redevelopment, expansion or reuse of the property. Typical brownfield sites are gas stations, car dealerships, factories, dry cleaners, scrap yards, and auto repair shops.
A property is either clean, or it is contaminated. The property owner is liable whether they are aware of the contamination or not. The RRPC Brownfields Reuse Program can confirm if a site is clean or what remediation steps are necessary. The goal of the program is to erase all questions about what may or may not be on a site and facilitate a redevelopment or transfer of ownership.
The RRPC may have funds to conduct site assessments and for redevelopment planning. We do not fund site cleanups - but know where to get the money for this work and can help property owners apply for funding.
Towns, nonprofits, private citizens, or pretty much anyone.
Any property that is in a prime location or has development potential may qualify. The focus is primarily urban core areas, but we’re in Vermont so ‘urban’ is relative.
Phase One can take from one month to six weeks; Phase Two can take from two to six months; redevelopment planning and cleanup can usually start right away depending on the application cycles for cleanup funding.
Benefits include free or reduced cost for landowners to conduct site assessments (which can cost up to $100K); understanding of future cleanup costs; reduced liability for property owners through the ability to acquire Brownfields liability insurance; and the community good associated with blight removal, new jobs, historic preservation, property value increase, economic development and local pride.
These five toolkits were developed by ATSDR National Land Reuse Health Initiative. They are great guides for each stakeholder in economic development.
Designations from the state open the door to grants, tax credits, and other incentives. There are about a dozen designated village centers and three designated downtowns in Rutland County.
Village centers and downtowns provide a place for people, commerce, and local government to come together. These areas are where community suppers are held; the route of the annual parade; where people come to get the news and see a neighbor; the location of the local polling station; and the place to buy a cup of coffee and a donut. They are the economic and cultural center of the community.
Village centers and downtowns are typically comprised of the historic center of town, including residential, civic, religious, and commercial buildings, arranged cohesively along a core of intersecting streets. By design, these centers are more compact than other sections of town. The mix and concentration of homes and businesses lend naturally to economic vibrancy.
The development pattern of a compact center surrounded by working lands supports statewide planning goals to “plan development so as to maintain the historic settlement pattern of compact villages and urban centers separated by rural countryside…” 24 VSA Chapter 117 § 4302(c)(1).
Downtown means the traditional central business district of a community that has served as the focus of socioeconomic interaction in the community, characterized by a cohesive core of commercial and mixed use buildings, some of which may contain mixed use spaces, often interspersed with civic, religious, residential, and industrial buildings and public spaces, typically arranged along a main street and intersecting side streets that are within walking distance for residents who live within and surrounding the core and that serves by public infrastructure such as sidewalks and public transit. Downtowns are typically larger in scale than village centers and are characterized by a development pattern that is consistent with smart growth principles. 24 V.S.A. chapter 76A § 2791.
Village center means the core of traditional settlement, typically comprised of a cohesive mix of residential, civic, religious, commercial, and mixed-use buildings arranged along a main street, and intersecting streets that are within walking distance for residents who live within and surrounding the core. Industrial uses may be found within or immediately adjacent to these centers. Village centers are typically smaller in scale than downtowns and are characterized by a development pattern that is consistent with smart growth principles. 24 V.S.A. chapter 76A §2791.
The designation program was created by the Vermont legislature in 2002. 24 V.S.A. chapter 76A. Designation is the state’s conduit to recognize and support local revitalization efforts with financial incentives for public and private investment.
Historic centers with existing civic and commercial buildings that meet the definition of a village or a downtown are encouraged to apply for designation. Applications are reviewed quarterly by a review board at Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Full details about the village center and downtown applications are available to download from ACCD’s website.
The most commonly used benefits are tax credits, priority to municipalities for grants from the State of Vermont, state buildings priority, Neighborhood Development Area designation eligibility, and technical assistance from the state. Click here for a list of funding opportunities compiled by the state that accompanies designation status. Here’s a Success Story from St Albans where they leveraged state funding, tax credits, and private investment.
Applications for tax credits are competitive and applications are due annually on July 1. Full information can be found here. Currently, credits range from 10-50% of investment costs, support building façade improvements or rehabilitation, technology and code upgrades, and may be combined with the federal historic rehabilitation program.