MONTPELIER, VT – September 26, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — The Town of Bennington has become the second community in Vermont to have a Growth Center designated, a move that will provide incentives to concentrate development in and around its downtown area.
On Monday the Vermont Downtown Development Board voted to approve Bennington’s Growth Center Designation for an area stretching from Northside Drive east to the Shields Industrial Park, south to the edge of proposed Bennington Bypass, and westward to the to the Southwestern Regional Medical Center.
“Bennington did a great job with this application,” said Kevin Dorn, Chairman of the Downtown Board and Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. “The Town is adding jobs and housing, and the growth center will be able to host a majority of that growth within the area that is already settled.”
Growth Centers were created by the Legislature in 2006 and subsequently signed into law by Governor Jim Douglas to encourage communities to plan for denser and mixed use development in appropriate areas.
Designated communities receive benefits under Act 250, with development in the growth center given greater options to comply with requirements to mitigate the impact on agricultural soils.
Towns with a designated Growth Center may also more easily meet the requirements for a Tax Increment Financing District, which would allow the town to use some state funding to support investment in water, wastewater and transportation infrastructure in the district.
To gain this designation Bennington had to demonstrate to the Downtown Board that it had undertaken a rigorous planning process that ensured state standards would be met.
o That it meets the statutory definition of a Growth Center, which is included in the Town Plan and is implemented in the Town’s bylaws;
o That the Town has or has planned for the roads, water and wastewater systems, and other infrastructure necessary to support the planned growth;
o That the Growth Center be adjacent to and support an existing Designated Downtown or Village Center;
o That it protect natural and historic resources both within and outside the growth center;
o That it be designed to accommodate a majority of growth anticipated by the municipality over the next twenty years; and
o That it include a mix of uses, including affordable housing.
Williston was the first municipality to designate a growth center, around Tafts Corners, in December 2007.
“Bennington’s proposal showed a strong and longstanding commitment to both the downtown, and to the protection of important natural areas and farmlands,” Dorn said, noting it reflected a growing trend nationally.
“There is a strong demographic and cultural shift under way nationally, with people wanting to live in and around their downtowns – closer to schools, shopping, cultural activities, neighbors,” he said. “The increasing cost of energy, especially gasoline, only adds to that trend.”
The Vermont Downtown Development Board also announced Village Center Designation for South Shaftsbury, Shaftsbury Center, and Fairfax, bringing to 83 the number of designated village centers in the state.
To learn more, visit: www.dhca.state.vt.us/Planning/GrowthCenters.htm