**All Committee Meetings take place in the WRC Conference Room unless otherwise noted.
**All meetings are subject to change, please check the website for updates.
UPCOMING GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
National Endowment for the Arts
New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund
DEADLINE: Rolling (Seed Grant)
USDA Rural Development - Community Facility Loans
DEADLINE: Ongoing (contact USDA office)
Vermont Community Development Program
Vermont Community Foundation
Clean Water Infrastructure Asset Management Grants
VT Municipal Park and Ride Grant
Upcoming Grants will
be a regular column in the
WRC Newsletter, for
for your projects
please contact Susan at
Grafton Elementary Students Dig Deep to Help the Saxtons River
This heartwarming video, shows a day of buffer planting with the Grafton Elementary School and the Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative.
The planting was a result of a project funded by the High Meadows Fund, which works with communities, schools, and organizations along the Saxtons River in cultivating a healthy watershed and knowledge of flood resiliency. To learn more about the project visit WRC's Natural Resources page.
Windham County Clean Energy Development Program to Get Underway
The Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) has awarded $400,000 to WRC to develop a funding program to support renewable energy projects in Windham County. The program will focus on small-scale projects. Award amounts are expected to begin in the $10,000 range.
The funds for the program are among those that were earmarked for Windham County through the CEDF in the settlement agreement negotiated between the state and Entergy Vermont Yankee in December, 2013. The program will directly benefit Windham County while furthering the goals of the CEDF and the State of Vermont by investing in clean, renewable energy.
Public input from the region will be essential to the development of the program. The WRC will host meetings in the fall to solicit input. It will also create a portal on the WRC website to collect comments. The program will be open to applicants by November, 2016 and the program will conclude May 31, 2017. For questions concerning the program contact
Marion Major at (802) 257-4547 x109.
Windham Wood Heat Initiative: A Program Update
Windham Wood Heat Initiative (WWH) has been working with schools and municipalities throughout the region to offers incentives to help them convert to Modern Wood Heating systems. There are many benefits associated with Modern Wood Heat: it's clean, convenient, and reliable heat, it's generated by local and renewable energy, the conversion to MWH results in a net reduction in carbon dioxide overtime, and the price is stable and easy to budget for.
The WWH offers two incentives to buildings who commit to the conversion. The first is 25% coverage of the cost of the wood pellet boiler installation and the second is an added 10% to that cost covered if energy conservation measures outlined in the audit report are pursued. This adds up to a potential 35% cost coverage.
The WWH is happy to announce that the project timeline has been extended to conclude on September 30
th, 2017 leaving time to warn a special town meeting (potentially to coincide with the November election) or add it as an article to the Town Meeting warrant in March.
A number of audits have been preformed and towns are moving forward with the project to convert to Modern Wood Heating. For more information on WWH or how to get your town involved, contact Marion Major at (802)257-4547 x109.
WRC Welcomes Summer GIS Employee
If you see someone wearing a safety vest stretching rubber tubes across a road, attaching a small box to a post, standing next to a road sign with a tablet in hand, or measuring a bridge, say "hello!" There's a good chance it's Tim Peterson, WRC's GIS summer employee.
Tim will be setting out pedestrian counters and traffic counters, conducting road sign and bridge inventories, and doing many other tasks this summer. He is a Geography student at Keene State College and hails from Brookfield, Connecticut, where he previously spent two summers with Connecticut's State Parks Division. Tim was active in Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle, and spent time exploring the wilds of New England. Working for WRC is a good match for his love of exploration; within his first ten days of employment, he had already visited over 20 of the region's 27 towns.
WRC Welcomes Marion Major to its Staff
Marion Major started in June as a planner at the WRC
and will have the lead on energy and
ral resources. Marion grew up in Westminster West and graduated
from the Natural Resources School at UVM in 2014 where she focused on climate change resiliency and worked with a variety of organizations throughout the state. She has also been a sheep cheese maker and farmer on the Vermont Shepherd Farm, worked with the Vermont Land Trust, and worked with a solar energy development company. She is happy to be working with the towns, people, and environment of the region she is so familiar with and attached to!
WRC to Receive $750,000 in Funding for Brownfields
This spring and summer has been busy for WRC's Brownfields program. In May we learned that Windham Regional Commission will receive $400,000 in funding from EPA to continue its successful Brownfields Assessment program. EPA announced in July that WRC will also receive $350,000 in supplemental funding for Brownfields clean up to recapitalize the Windham Region Brownfields Reuse Initiative (WRBRI) Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).
All together this funding has brought a total of $4.4 million dollars in federal Brownfields funds to the region for assessment and cleanup of Brownfields sites.
To date the WRBRI has assisted with 47 sites throughout the Region, 91% of which have been redeveloped or are in the planning or implementation phase of redevelopment. WRBRI-RLF has provided $387,100 in loans and $414,000 in grants to seven brownfield clean up and redevelopment projects in the Region.
Recent highlights of our program include assessment through remediation for 55 units of affordable housing, a new bus facility, and parking for a local farmer's market. In 2015, Algiers Village Housing in Guilford received a national award in recognition of outstanding achievement in the redevelopment of a brownfield site in New England. In 2011, Commonwealth Dairy received the same award for redevelopment of their site in Brattleboro. All of these successes were possible due to the initial investment of Brownfields funds.
For more information about WRC's Brownfields program contact
Associate Director Susan McMahon at
The Vermont Better Roads Grant Program
The Vermont Better Roads Program (formerly known as the Better Backroads Program) has announced its 19th year of funding to support projects on town roads that improve water quality and result in maintenance cost savings. Program support is jointly provided by the VT Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The Vermont Better Roads Program's goal is to promote the use of erosion control and maintenance techniques that save money while protecting and enhancing Vermont's lakes and streams.
The program has expanded funding in response to the Clean Water Act (Act 64) and the upcoming Municipal Roads General Permit by having certain Categories for certain tasks: Category A, for road inventory and capital budget planning, increased to $10,000; Category B, for correcting road erosion issues, is capped at $20,000; and Categories C&D, for correcting stream bank/slope and culvert upgrades are capped at $40,000. There is a 20% local match required. The Vermont Better Roads Programs goal is to promote the use of erosion control and maintenance techniques that save money while protecting and enhancing Vermont's lakes and streams.
The Municipal Roads General Permit will focus on the right-of-way of both gravel and paved roads, and on implementing best management practices on identified priority areas to mitigate portions of the transportation infrastructure (ditches, culvert, slopes) to improve water quality. The draft permit will be ready by the end of 2016, the final permit will be ready by the end of 2017, and Permit coverage will be phased in between 2018 and 2021. VTrans and ANR staff will be working with WRC staff to continue to get the word out and educate all stakeholders (Selectboards, Town Managers, Road Foremen, Regional TACs etc...) on ACT64 and the Municipal General Roads Permit. Below are links for additional information on the Permit:
The 2017 Better Roads Applications awards are in. The Towns listed received funding in the following categories:
Category A: Grafton, Stratton, Townshend, Westminster and Windham.
Category B: Brookline and Guilford.
Category D: Guilford, Wilmington, and Winhall.
Throughout the 2016 and 2017 field season WRC staff will be conducting inventories for towns that received Category A funding by examining culverts, ditches, and road surfaces. These inventories will help towns develop a plan to bring their roads into compliance with new road standards being developed as part of Act 64.
If Towns are interested in applying for next year's funding and/or would like additional information on the upcoming Municipal Roads Permit, please click here.
If you have any questions/comments regarding ACT 64, the Municipal General Roads Permit, or road inventories, please contact Matt Mann (x120) or Jeff Nugent (x111).
Village Maps of Readsboro, Jacksonville, and Wilmington Now Available
Detailed base maps which show all buildings, streets, driveways, sidewalks, and other features are now available for the villages of Readsboro, Jacksonville, and Wilmington. WRC GIS staff created these maps from air photos, GPS data, and field mapping.
Each village has a series of maps in a number of different formats. One map shows the entire village, while another focuses just on the village core/downtown area. Most maps are in color, but at least one is in simple grayscale so that it can be used as a background for marking up and highlighting specific features.
While originally created for transportation and village revitalization planning, the maps will be useful to many people, including town planners, administrators, and emergency responders. These and other village maps can be viewed, downloaded, and printed can be found here.
2016 Legislative Summary
Four major bills were passed by the legislature and signed into law this year that affect regional planning commissions, town planning, and intermunicipal services. Here's a summary of the new acts. Thank you to the Southern Windsor Regional Planning Commission for letting us share these summaries!
8-Year Town Plan Update Cycle
Legislation was passed this year that extends the local planning cycle. In the past, municipal plans expired five years after adoption. Under
(H.367), that time period was extended to eight years. Plans adopted on July 1, 2015 or later will expire eight years after the adoption date. Plans adopted before that date will expire after five years.
Additional statutory changes include a new criterion added as part of the regional planning commission's decision making process to confirm the local planning process. The new criterion relates to whether a municipality is implementing its municipal plan. Confirmation by the RPC is a requirement of certain state programs, such as maintaining state designation of downtowns and village centers. The bill also includes additional steps for the process to re-adopt municipal plans.
Intermunicipal Service Agreements
(H.249) enables municipalities to enter into intermunicipal agreements for joint services such as sharing of employees, joint purchasing, animal control, equipment sharing, or other needs identified by towns. Municipalities are authorized for this already under Chapter 121, however that process is cumbersome to use. Towns will now be able to simplify the process by using regional planning commissions as a vehicle to contract with each other. Towns that wish to contract with each other can do so on a voluntary basis and only among those towns wishing to participate. Towns that contract with one another are also responsible for the costs associated with the agreement. Towns not participating will not be liable for the expenses. Many towns struggle to find good, qualified staff, such as listers, zoning administrators, and animal control officers. An intermunicipal agreement would allow for the hiring of an employee that could be shared by municipalities. If towns so choose, they could ask the regional planning commission to provide these services, if the RPC agrees to do so.
Role of Plans to Inform Energy Project Siting
Near the very end of the legislative session,
was passed by the Legislature. Governor Shumlin vetoed this bill on June 6, 2016. On June 9, 2016, the Legislature passed a replacement bill S.260 that addressed some of the Governor's concerns. To read the bill as enacted, see
Act 174 gives regional and municipal plans substantial deference in the Section 248 process for energy and energy related projects. In order to receive this higher standing in the Section 248 process, towns and Regional Planning Commissions will be required to meet enhanced data collection, goals and standards in their energy chapters. A regional plan would need to be submitted to the Department of Public Service for a determination of compliance with enhanced energy planning requirements. A town plan would be submitted to an RPC for review to determine whether it meets the enhanced energy requirements. Only plans with an affirmative determination of energy compliance would have "substantial deference" in the PSB's decision-making process with Section 248 projects; plans that don't meet the requirement would only be given "due consideration" in the process.
The Department of Public Service has until November 1, 2016 to publish recommendations and standards related to the determination process discussed above. It may be easiest for municipalities to wait until after these recommendations and standards are finalized and the regional plan updates are completed before working to update town plans.
Expanded Forestland Planning Requirements
In accordance with
, the Forestry bill (H.857), town and regional plans adopted on or after January 1, 2018 will need to include forestry language. Specifically, the plans will need to be consistent with the expanded State Planning Goal regarding maintaining and improving forest blocks and habitat connectors. The land use section of town plans will need to identify areas for aquifer protection and forest blocks, wildlife habitat and habitat connectors.
Under this bill, land use bylaws cannot regulate forestry operations as defined in 10 V.S.A. §2602. (It is unclear at this point what the difference is between "silvicultural practices" and "forestry operations".)
From the Director: Planning in the world of Act 174 - An Act Relating to Improving the Siting of Energy Projects
It wasn't long after the Governor signed into law Act 174 that I began to get inquiries from towns about what they should be doing. While the act supports more robust comprehensive energy planning at both the regional and town level (which will, incidentally, better inform future state comprehensive energy plans), what most town planners are interested in is better standing before the Public Service Board (PSB) in Section 248 proceedings. That's the process through which electric generation facilities apply for a certificate of public good. Under the act, regional and town energy plans which receive "an affirmative determination of energy compliance" will be given "substantial deference" by the PSB. The Department of Public Service is tasked with developing the standards by which these energy plans will be reviewed by November 1, 2016. As far as developing a comprehensive energy plan is concerned, I suggest towns wait until those standards have been developed. If towns want to do something in the immediate term, however, they may want to review the land conservation measures contained within the town plan. Here's why.
Both Act 174 and Section 248 state that the PSB is to give either substantial deference (in the case of the former) or due deference (in the case of the latter) to land conservation measures.
Act 174 states:
(C) With respect to an in-state electric generation facility, the Board shall give substantial deference to the land conservation measures and specific policies contained in a duly adopted regional and municipal plan that has received an affirmative determination of energy compliance under 24 V.S.A. § 4352. In this subdivision (C), "substantial deference" means that a land conservation measure or specific policy shall be applied in accordance with its terms unless there is a clear and convincing demonstration that other factors affecting the general good of the State outweigh the application of the measure or policy. The term shall not include consideration of whether the determination of energy compliance should or should not have been affirmative under 24 V.S.A. § 4352.
Section 248 states:
With respect to an in-state facility, will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due consideration having been given to the recommendations of the municipal and regional planning commissions, the recommendations of the municipal legislative bodies, and the land conservation measures contained in the plan of any affected municipality.
Land conservation measures are the constant between the new act and the existing language of Section 248. I don't pretend to know how the PSB will respond to any application under Section 248. And it is impossible to know how they will apply "substantial deference" under Act 174 until they do so. But I think it is fair to say that when the PSB considers a town's land conservation measures, it considers the extent to which those measures are consistent with achieving explicit and well-defined land conservation goals of the town, and are not simply an attempt to preclude the development of energy projects. The PSB could make the case that town policy that excludes energy development in specific areas but allows uses such as residential subdivisions, commercial development, or resort development in those same areas does not have the intent or effect of conserving land. When statute says that land conservation measures are to be given due consideration or substantial deference, it is important that town plan policy is consistent and unambiguous in its intent, logic, consistency and application for it to have the strongest possible standing.
This is not to say that a town should adopt land conservation measures to simply preclude energy project development. It shouldn't. A town should adopt land conservation measures to ensure that specific lands are to be conserved and remain conserved for this generation and future generations because the town has determined, as a matter of policy, that they possess such defined qualities that conservation is the highest and best use, period.