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About the Project
Chittenden County, Vermont is the recipient of a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program, which supports more livable and sustainable communities. This is a once-in-a generation opportunity to have a broad community conversation about the future of our region. The process will take place over the course of three years, culminating with updates to the County's most important planning documents and implementation of other local projects. This initiative will be guided by highly involved project partners, a large and diverse steering committee, state and local agencies, business leaders, non-profit agencies, and, importantly, the citizens of the region. Throughout the process, residents of Chittenden County will be invited to participate in events for developing the project. These events are the backbone of this project, providing first-hand the ideas and actions that will help shape the future of the region.
The ECOS Project
“A Sustainable Future for Chittenden County”, represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to engage citizens, organizations and municipalities in a conversation about the future of our communities and the region as a whole.
Funded with $1 million grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Project (with co-sponsorship from the EPA and U.S. DOT), the 3 year project is designed to prioritize and implement regional sustainable community development initiatives. The project is not starting from scratch, but rather is building upon all of the planning work done to date.
The project is based on a cooperative agreement among members of a project Steering Committee, representing all of the 19 municipalities in Chittenden County as well as 40 non profit, institutional and governmental agencies and organizations. The Steering Committee will guide the activities associated with the project. The Steering Committee is meeting quarterly over the next 18 months
The project is being accomplished through five phases: 1) Goals, 2) Data Analysis, 3) Indicators, 4) Plans, and 5) Grants. The results of this project will be provide the basis for updating the Chittenden County Regional Plan, the Chittenden County Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Burlington’s Legacy Action Plan, and Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy as well as being used in the updating and implementation of other state, regional and municipal planning efforts.
In the first phase of the project, the Steering Committee drafted goal statements for public review. These goal statements were drafted after reviewing 60 planning documents and about 2500 statements in those documents. But that was only the beginning. To ensure the development of shared priorities, the ECOS Project solicited input of the broad community to review and refine these goals - and that includes everyone - residents, minorities and ethnically and culturally diverse populations, youth and students as well as business people and local officials.The goal statements have been divided into five topic areas for ease of discussion. These topic areas are: 1) Built Environment; 2) Economy; 3) Energy and Telecommunications; 4) Natural Environment and 5) Social Community. These goal statements provide the basis for indicators that will increase accountability for reaching the goals and guide the prioritization of the actions that will be taken to achieve the community’s goals.
The second phase of the project is focused on data analysis to achieve common understanding in the areas of economic development, natural resources, housing, transportation, land use, and energy. Working groups meetings will be held over the next few months to guide these analyses. These meetings will be open to the public and will be advertised on the website and through the email distribution list. The draft analysis reports were presented to the Steering Committee at the end of October, with public review during November and December, 2011. The revised reports were accepted by the Steering Committee in January.
Phase 3 was the development of indicators that we will use to track our shared progress in meeting our goals related to the natural systems, built environment, economy and social community. The Draft #1 Indicator Report was presented at the January 25th ECOS Steering Committee meeting, and was open for public review between February 1st and March 16, 2012. The Steering Committee will approve the indicators at their April meeting. Over 400 comments were received; and the LRPC and sub-committees have proposed revisions. The 2012 Interim Indicator Report includes these comments and revisions. The report has also been reorganized with the addition of topic areas to make the document more digestible.
Phase 4 was to develop prioritization criteria; and subsequently prioritize implementation strategies/actions/projects through the criteria to achieve our common goals. The first draft of actions was presented at the April 25, 2012 Steering Committee meeting, and the criteria were then refined to reflect the feedback from the meeting. The refined criteria was open to the public from May 1st to May 31st (comments received can be found here). This criteria along with information from the three previous phases of the project will be consolidated into the first draft of the Plan. This first draft will be out for public comment in August.
Phase 5 is implementing the actions. The Steering Committee will decide upon the prioritized actions to fund near the end of 2012 with $280,000 of federal funding budgeted as well as other resources that may be applicable.
A key component of the work in each of these phases will be the integration of public comments and ideas to reflect shared implementation priorities and to develop a common vision for the region’s future The initiative includes a comprehensive outreach component to engage Chittenden County citizens of all ages and backgrounds in the development of the project goals and outcomes. As part of this effort, the project will use a wide variety of techniques (including art and artists) to reach-out to and involve different constituencies, particularly those groups and individuals who do not typically participate in public planning projects.