VHCB Presents Awards to Housing and Conservation Heroes at 25th Anniversary Celebration


WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 14, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — In celebrating 25 years of investment in affordable housing, land conservation and historic preservation at an event at Shelburne Farms on Tuesday, June 11, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board presented awards to exemplary practitioners and partners. Gus Seelig, VHCB Executive Director, said, “The honorees have dedicated their careers—more than 20 years each—to improving Vermont communities with investments in housing, agriculture and historic preservation. We are proud to work with such talented and inspirational partners. We recognize that our work is only as good as the ability of our partners to produce excellent results. They do that by engaging their communities in solving our most difficult housing and community development challenges and acting on important land conservation opportunities as they arise—often on very short notice! Our partners consistently take on projects that help transform neighbor-hoods and communities while maintaining our working landscape.”

Brenda Torpy, who has served as the executive director of the Champlain Housing Trust since 1991, was presented with the highest honor, given in memory of Mollie Beattie, one of VHCB’s original board members. Mollie served as Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildife and later as the first woman to head the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Torpy was recognized for her leadership of the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, the nation’s largest community land trust, with $250 million in assets under its stewardship. CHT has more than 4,000 members and has developed 2,400 homes in northwest Vermont. Under Brenda’s leadership CHT and partners have engaged in thoughtful smart growth in South Burlington, downtown Burlington, the Old North End and the New North End; later this month a project breaks ground in Shelburne.

In 1988, Brenda coordinated the $21-million tenant-led buyout of 336 homes at Northgate Apartments in Burlington. She was a Ford Foundation Leader for a Changing World 2002, is Vice President of the National Community Land Trust Network, and serves on the Governor’s Housing Council of Vermont. In 2008 CHT won the UN World Habitat Award for the Global North for its leadership in the developing the community land trust model of permanently affordable and community-controlled housing. In addition to housing, CHT has developed non-profit facilities, commercial and retail space. The organization completes $75 million in community development work annually, generating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Paul Bohne accepted a Community Stewardship Award for the Town of Shelburne. Shelburne has supported both housing development and land conservation projects over the years, exemplifying VHCB’s dual goal mission. Beginning in 1989, with the restoration of the farm barn and the conservation of Southern Acres at Shelburne Farms, and then in 1994 with the protection of Shelburne Pond by The Nature Conservancy and the town’s conservation of the LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area, Shelburne had conserved 700 acres and protected landmark historic structures with public use. Twenty homes were developed at Ockert Apartments by the Champlain Housing Trust in 2003. The Lake Champlain Land Trust conserved an additional 66 acres in the Upper LaPlatte Marsh and created a small park in the village between 2004 and 2008. Today, in a dual goal project close to the village center, 73 apartments are being created for families and seniors at Harrington Village, a new development under construction by the Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont and Cathedral Square. Complementing the housing development, 13 acres will be added to the LaPlatte River greenway, opening up additional opportunities for trails and public access to the river.

The Bolton Valley Nordic and Back Country Land Conservation Project won the VHCB Outstanding Partnership Award, presented to the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Back Country, the Town of Bolton, the Catamount Trail Association and the Green Mountain Club. The partnership raised $1.85 million to conserve 1,100 acres of land for addition to the Mt. Mansfield State Forest, preserving public recreational use and important wildlife habitat. The project began when a local group, the Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic and Back Country, came together to prevent the loss of public access to forested uplands with miles of ski trails. Since that time, more than 2 years ago, these groups have worked tirelessly to piece together funding to conserve the land. The trails will remain open to the public for generations to come.

Paul Bruhn, Executive Director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, was presented with a Community Stewardship Award in recognition of PTV’s work building collaborative partnerships to preserve and restore Vermont’s historic places and working with organizations, businesses, municipalities, and state and federal government to revitalize and maintain the integrity of our downtowns and village centers. Paul helped to start the Preservation Trust of Vermont and in 1980 he was hired as executive director to guide the organization in its mission, helping local organizations and communities save and use their historic places. Since that time, PTV has provided assistance with nearly 2,000 historic preservation projects around the state, supporting local groups in their efforts, organizing professional education and administering grant funds. In 2010, PTV received an award for organizational excellence from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Two practitioners were awarded the Community Catalyst Award, named for John Nutting, another original VHCB Board member who was appointed in 1987 to represent the interests of low-income Vermonters. John served as a United Church of Christ minister who demonstrates through his life work the effectiveness of steadily serving his community—both immediate and statewide—by taking on tasks large and small with passion and integrity.

Alex Wylie, retiring Agricultural Director for the Vermont Land Trust, was presented with a John Nutting Community Catalyst Award. Over her 20-year career at VLT, Alex helped VLT conserve approximately 750 farms and 190,000 acres of farmland. Her responsibilities have included overseeing VLT’s farm project development, managing landowner relations, assisting with stewardship decisions, and helping to lead VLT’s Farmland Access Program. Beginning her career with a one-year stint at VHCB and continuing through the early years of the farmland conservation program, Alex assisted in developing state policy around farmland conservation. Before working for the Vermont Land Trust, Alex owned and operated a 120-cow dairy farm in Leicester.

Elisabeth Kulas, Executive Director of the Housing Trust of Rutland County, earned a John Nutting Community Catalyst Award. She has led that organization for more than 20 years during which time she has taken on extraordinarily tough community development challenges with optimism, perseverance and ultimately, success. The results of that work, undertaken with a committed board, talented staff, and partners, are visible throughout Rutland County, and include buildings like the Tuttle Block in Rutland, the Erastus Thayer House in Brandon, the Adams House in Fair Haven and the Stanislaus School and convent in West Rutland.

Gus Seelig 828-3251


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