Annual BCRC Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the Bennington County Regional Commission will be held this year on May 15 at The Inn at Willow Pond, located on Route 7A just north of Manchester. We are fortunate to have nationally acclaimed planner, author, and photographer, Julie Campoli as our featured speaker. Julie will be using her experiences and photographs from around the country to add context to much of the work that we do here in our region. The evening will begin with a social hour followed by a delicious dinner that will include several courses featuring chicken, fish, and vegetarian entrees prepared by the Inn's professional chef.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection

There will be a free household hazardous waste collection day for residents and small businesses of Arlington, Dorset, Manchester, Rupert, Sandgate, and Sunderland on Saturday, May 10 at the Arlington Memorial High School and Middle School in Arlington. Accpetable proof of residency will be required. Small businesses must pre-register and pay for the amount delivered by April 30.

March BCRC Meeting to Highlight Current Projects

The BCRC’s March meeting will be held at a new location (for us) in Bennington, the Brown Cow Café, 139 West Main Street. The focus of this month’s meeting is to bring commissioners and interested attendees up to date on programs and specific projects that our staff have been working on recently. After brief presentations by each staff member, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and provide suggestions to help advance the work. The next several newsletter articles provide a synopsis of the topics that will be covered. Feel free to contact any of the staff directly for further details in advance of the meeting.

NY Vermont Passenger Rail Study Completed

After three years of study and analysis, VTrans and project consultants, VHB Inc., have completed the Service Development Plan, Environmental Assessment, and Engineering Report evaluating possible alternatives for extending passenger rail service to Bennington County by creating a connection between the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station and Rutland. The study recommends an alternative that would establish a new service through Mechanicville and Hoosick Junction, New York, and continuing to North Bennington, Manchester, and Rutland.

Video of Complete Streets Workshop Now Available

For those who were not able to attend the “Complete Streets” workshop held this past month in Manchester, a video recording of the same training session from Burlington is now available. The information is extremely valuable for local officials, municipal and state highway departments, and anyone concerned with making our streets safe and convenient for everyone.

Universal Recycling Time Table

The time table for implementation of the Universal Recycling Law is now available.

Transportation Board Releases 2013 Annual Report

The Vermont Transportation Board held six public hearings and accepted online input during the fall of 2013 to gather information about various transportation topics. The Board was specifically looking for public input on the following topics:

Emergency Relief & Assistance Fund and Local Emergency Operation Plans

The State of Vermont modified its standard for managing the State's Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (ERAF) after the Tropical Storm Irene recovery. ERAF provides state funding to match federal Public Assistance after federally-declared disasters. Eligible public costs are reimbursed by federal taxpayers at 75%.  For disasters after October 23, 2014, the State of Vermont will contribute an additional 7.5% toward the costs. For communities that take specific steps to reduce flood damage the State will contribute 12.5% or 17.5% of the total cost.

Small Energy and Environment Grants Available

Local energy groups are eligible to receive a total of up to $300 for outreach activities to promote energy efficiency.  Eligible expenses include: copying/printing, banners, mailing, food and other direct expenses for events, and paid media ads. Interested towns are asked to get pre-approval for any proposed expenditures by completing and submitting a mini-grant application and sending it to Paul Markowitz (pmarkowitz@veic.org).

Heat Pumps Hold Promise for Vermont

The Rocky Mountain Institute has published an interesting paper on the potential and relative benefits of heat pumps as a space heating option for the oil-dependant Northeast. Heating oil is an economic drain on the state and users of that fuel are at a crossroads with oil becoming increasingly untenable for long-term use. Heat pumps are an attractive alternative, and while there are some barriers to their widespread use, states can take steps to address these barriers. Reducing the upfront cost of heat pumps will drive the industry toward self-sufficiency and resolve many of the other barriers.

Manchester 2020 Bike Project Launches New Website

Many projects in Manchester stemming from last year’s Vermont Council on Rural Development community visit are moving forward and one impressive one is the bicycle committee’s launch of a new website: www.bikemanchestervt.com

Vermont Bike/Walk Summit

Consider attending the Vermont Walk/Bike Summit in Burlington on March 29 and 30. There will be a wide variety of sessions including: supporting active transportation to work, establishing bike and trail networks, how to re-engineer roads (“road diets”) to increase walk/bike safety, and (weather permitting) “active” outdoor walk and bike sessions. At least one workshop will feature the accomplishments of VDH’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Community Grantees. The keynote speaker will be Caroline Sampanaro, Senior Director of Campaigns and Organizing at Transportation Alternatives.

Mixed Use Development in the Bennington Region

Mixed use development is a relatively new term for an old concept. It describes the type of development that blends residential areas with a diversity of other land uses in such a way that those uses are physically and functionally integrated. The relatively close proximity of the uses encourages walking as a primary means of transportation. These patterns developed naturally in the past as the most convenient and efficient way to organize villages, towns, and cities.

Sunderland Hazard Mitigation Plan

BCRC assisted the Town of Sunderland with the completion of a hazard mitigation plan, which is being submitted to FEMA for review. If you have comments, questions or would like more information on this plan, please contact Michael S. Batcher at mbatcher@bcrcvt.org or 802-442-0713 x 2.

Towns Receive Municipal Planning Grants

Arlington, Bennington, and a consortium that includes most towns in the region recently were awarded municipal planning grants totaling over $37,000 through the Department of Housing and Community Development. Arlington will complete an update to its town plan, specifically addressing flood resiliency and economic development issues. The town also will be pursuing village center designations for Arlington and East Arlington.

New Emergency Notification System Available

Vermonters have a new tool at their disposal to stay informed of pending disasters, weather conditions, public health notifications, and countless other alerts that could affect themselves or their loved ones. Vermont Alert is a free service for users. It allows the public to sign up and receive notifications through a number of delivery systems, including text, e-mail, telephone, or even a game console. Vermont Alert is hosted and maintained by the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (VT DEMHS) and is available to all emergency response agencies in the state in order to allow for localized alerts.

Complete Streets Training Offered in Manchester

Vermont has a new Complete Streets Law that is designed to ensure that the needs of all transportation system users are considered in the planning and construction of most state and municipally managed transportation projects. The policy applies when new roads are being constructed, and when paved roads are being reconstructed, rehabilitated, or otherwise maintained.

Vermont Total Energy Study Nearing Completion

The Vermont Public Service Department is continuing work on a “Total Energy Study” and will be presenting a report to the Legislature early in 2014. The study will identify the most promising policy and technology strategies Vermont could use to reach its energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals.

NeighborWorks Offers Home Improvement and Energy Efficiency Programs

Does your home – or the home of someone in your community – need help? Do you struggle with a crumbling foundation, high fuel bills, drafty rooms, an inefficient furnace, accessibility issues, water or sewer concerns, outdated wiring, shaky stairs, a leaky roof, or all of the above? NeighborWorks of Western Vermont (NWWVT), a local housing nonprofit, has several programs to help you make health and safety repairs to your home, including loans to help you pay for the work. When you take a home rehab loan* with NWWVT, they provide you with a personal project manager to evaluate your home, help you find reliable contractors, and monitor the project until it is complete.

Watershed Management Division Blog Available

The Watershed Management Division of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has launched a new blog, Flow, which provides announcements about events, available grants, training opportunities, regulations, projects, and successful community initiatives. Recent items on the blog cover new stream alteration rules, grants for aquatic nuisance control, green stormwater infrastructure, the state’s watersheds, flood hazard areas, impacts of salt on water quality, and many other topics.

Winter Farmers’ Markets, CSAs and Bennington’s Food System Plan

The cold and snow that we’ve experienced of late is no reason to stop thinking about, and enjoying, some locally produced food! Winter Farmers’ Markets and CSA (community supported agriculture) farms provide a great way to eat local and support our developing food system. The Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont (www.nofavt.org) has a wealth of information about community supported agriculture and a directory of Farmers’ Markets, including locations, dates, and times. For a comprehensive geographic directory of food-related resources, browse through the

Manchester and Dorset to Study Consolidated Public Safety Services

The Town of Dorset Selectboard and Town of Manchester Selectboard held concurrent meetings on December 5 at the Bennington County Court House in Manchester Village to consider an agreement between the two towns that would authorize a study of consolidated public safety services and possible areas of greater collaboration. The agreement includes studying police, fire, emergency medical services, and emergency management functions.

Web Resource Available to Municipal Planning Commissions

The BCRC subscribes to “Planners Web” on behalf of all of the town and village planning commissions in the region. If you are on a planning commission, make sure your commission is receiving emails from PW and that you have full access to the website

Net Metering Changes Being Considered

Net metering is a program that provides an incentive for people to generate their own clean, local power. However, because of the rising interest in net metering, some utilities are reaching a statutory cap on net-metered projects. This stumbling block is keeping many Vermont families, schools, municipalities, and businesses from installing solar panels, is slowing down larger-scale energy investments, and it's creating uncertainty in an already-stressed investor market.

Energy Efficient Manufactured Homes Debut

Vermont owners of manufactured homes spend 66% more of their income on energy than owners of stick-built homes do and when Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont in 2011, 15% of the homes damaged or destroyed were mobile or manufactured homes, adding urgency to an existing concern.

Six Bike-Ped Projects Receive Grants

Efforts to make the region more bicycle and pedestrian friendly received a big boost with the announcement of six grants through the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. Construction funds were awarded to North Bennington and Shaftsbury for sidewalk extensions/improvements and funds for scoping studies were granted to Bennington (“Ninja Trail” development), Arlington (connecting path or sidewalk from village center to recreation park), Manchester (sidewalk link to Manchester Elementary/Middle School), and North Bennington (sidewalk extension on Mechanic Street). The BCRC will provide local project management and assistance with scoping tasks for several of these projects.

Long-Awaited Improvements at North Bennington Near Completion

Construction is expected to be concluded at the Route 67/67A (Bank Street) intersection in North Bennington Village by the first week of November. The need for the project was identified through a BCRC-sponsored study of village centers approximately ten years ago. The BCRC worked with Village officials through the subsequent scoping, design, permitting, right-of-way, and construction phases of the project. The area that had been an undefined expanse of asphalt with no accommodation for pedestrians has been redeveloped with landscaping, sidewalks, crosswalks, and curbs, all of which combine to slow traffic, provide safe routes for pedestrians, and complement the historic character of the village center.

Mark Fenton Walks and Talks Healthy Community Design

A healthy population requires regular physical activity, and there is nothing more important to encouraging that activity than a physical environment that makes walking, biking, and other outdoor exercise easy and enjoyable. That is the message convincingly delivered to a diverse audience in Bennington last week by nationally-recognized healthy community design expert, Mark Fenton. In his high-energy and engaging style, Fenton used a combination of scientific data, amusing anecdotes, and local examples to drive home his points at a public meeting sponsored by BCRC,

Changes to Planning and Zoning Statute

The Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development has developed a summary of amendments made to the Municipal and Regional Planning and Development Act (Title 24—Chapter 117) made during the 2013 Legislative session.

New Publication of Forest Resources

The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) has just completed work on a new resource management guide for local planners and other officials entitled, Community Strategies for Vermont's Forests and Wildlife: A Guide for Local Action. The VNRC assembled the information from sources around the state, and included solutions designed to reduce fragmentation of forest land and subdivision of large forest parcels. The Guide illustrates the many different tools communities have available to help sustain forests and wildlife at the local and regional levels.

Information on Bridges and Culverts from The Natural Conservancy

Road-stream crossings, which include culverts and bridges, are an essential element of our transportation networks. Our communities and our economies depend on functioning road networks and safe crossings.

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Session Held in Bennington

On Friday, October 18th, Bennington was the site of a regional discussion of statewide economic development issues. Co-hosted by the Vermont Department of Economic Development, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation with support from BCRC, the meeting brought together interested parties from Windham and Bennington Counties to provide input on the new statewide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

BCRC Receives FEMA Grant to Assess Natural Hazards

The BCRC was awarded a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $55,688 to complete a geospatial hazard and vulnerability assessment. This is a three year project during which BCRC will use geographic information systems, key informant interviews, and analyses of historic records and other data to assess natural hazards across Bennington County. The results of that inventory will then be used to assess vulnerabilities and to identify locations that could be affected by future natural hazard events.

Flood Planning and Insurance Changes, Current Bylaw Status

Legislation enacted earlier this year added a new state planning goal dealing with flood resiliency and a requirement that town and regional plans include flood resiliency elements. Plans will need to identify and map areas at risk of flood damage and recommend ways to protect those areas and minimize flood damage. The flood resiliency element becomes a mandatory requirement for municipal and regional plans adopted after July of 2014. Any communities that are working on plan revisions or are planning to revise their plans soon should include this chapter. Staff at BCRC can provide guidance on this work.

A number of changes are underway with the National Flood Insurance Program in response to the Biggert-Waters NFIP Reform of 2012. These changes include steps to make the program

Natural Resource Mapping Tools Available

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ GIS office has created two new desktop mapping tools that simplify and consolidate geographic analyses. The Natural Resource Atlas has been developed from data previously maintained in three separate applications: the environmental interest locator, the well locator, and the stream geomorphic assessment tool. It provides a quick and easy way for local officials and interested residents to determine the location of a wide range of natural resources.

BioFinder is an analytical mapping tool that identifies high priority ecosystems, natural communities, habitats, and species. BioFinder was developed by the Agenc

Community Wildfire Protection Plan

The Bennington County Regional Commission has completed a community wildfire protection plan for the towns of Arlington, Glastenbury, Sandgate, Shaftsbury and Sunderland. Community Wildfire Protection Plans or CWPPs are intended to guide communities in reducing or eliminating potential wildfire hazard. This plan is intended to address that risk for the towns of Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland, covered by the Arlington Fire Department and the towns of Shaftsbury and Glastenbury covered by the Shaftsbury Fire Department. The towns of Arlington, Glastenbury, Sandgate, and Sunderland have substantial areas within Green Mountain National Forest, where U.S. Forest Service is responsible for wildland fire suppression resources as well.

Twelve Regional Towns Agree to Cooperate on Solid Waste Planning

Following several meetings organized by the BCRC, 12 Bennington Region towns have agreed to work together to prepare a new comprehensive solid waste (material management) plan. Those towns include the nine currently operating in partnership under an existing plan plus Bennington, Woodford, and Stamford.

The new plan will be designed to ensure that local communities meet the new requirements and reflect the objectives of the statewide plan. The cooperative effort also is likely to lead to a more efficient organizational and decision-making structure and to result in significant operational benefits and cost savings.

The twelve towns are pursuing a municipal planning grant to fund the majority of the $55,000 cost of developing the plan. Each of the towns will be contribut

BCRC Welcomes Mickey McGlasson

Michael (“Mickey”) McGlasson, a VISTA employee, who is an aspiring architect and recent graduate of Ball State University, will be working with the BCRC for the next year on a variety of projects initiated through our work with the Alliance for Community Transformations. Mickey will be helping advance our local food systems planning, supporting efforts to develop accessible outlets for local food in the downtown area, working to implement bicycle-pedestrian and recreation facility projects, and a variety of other projects that support area youth and healthy communities.

He will be working with Kiah Morris, who is directing our healthy community design project (funded through the Vermont Department of Health) and will be closely collaborating with another VISTA worker, Rachel Sch

Ecosystem Restoration Grants Awarded

A total of $52,873 has been granted to fund ecosystem restoration projects in the town of Rupert. The BCRC will be administering a project involving creation of a stormwater Master Plan for the White Creek and Mill Brook watersheds; the plan will identify, map, evaluate and prioritize stormwater problem sites in the town, and outline appropriate steps that can be taken to address those problems.

Other projects, to be overseen by the Bennington County Conservation District and the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, with support from the Town of Rupert, include removal of a berm, stabilization of a headwaters stream and protection of a town road, and addressing three mass failures on Mill Brook. For more information, contact Shelly Stiles at the

Byway Projects Along Routes 7A/7 and 30

The Shires of Vermont Byway, connecting the Northshire and Southshire towns along the Route 7A/7 corridor, is sporting some new official state byway signs. The BCRC has worked with the Shires of Vermont Byway Committee to obtain designation of the route as a byway and to secure a grant that has paid for the new signs, as well as information panels and kiosks that will be developed in the near future.

The Stone Valley Byway, running along the Route 30 corridor from Manchester to Castleton, will soon have a series of interpretive panels—mounted on marble and slate—at locations along the route. In addition, a scoping study is being prepared that will identify sidewalk and bicycle improvements in each community along the byway.

Do-It-Yourself Home Weatherization Skillshop

A Do-It-Yourself Home Weatherization Skillshop will be conducted on Saturday, September 14 at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. The Skillshop will cover: air sealing, insulation, attics, basements, and windows and doors.

The Do-It-Yourself program enables homeowners to complete weatherization work themselves, under the guidance of a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor. By participating in the program, homeowners receive help and training needed to achieve comprehensive energy savings, while meeting important health and safety requirements. They also receive the same level of incentives available to homeowners who work with a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor from start the finish.

Find out more and register for the Skillshop at the

Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network seeks volunteers

The Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) is seeking volunteers willing to lend a few hours of their time to help motivate their friends and neighbors to weatherize their homes. This “Button Up Vermont!” event takes place on October 5 and will be the first-ever statewide energy efficiency day of action. Why is this important?  Making homes and buildings more energy efficient saves money, saves energy, increases comfort and is a powerful way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

Volunteers can sign up today to participate in an event and local organizers will connect with them on the details of their specific action prior to October 5.

VECAN plans to connect willing volunteers to community events around the state, so please visi

Village and Town Revitalization Workshop Series

A workshop on building community assets will be held on Tuesday, September 10 at 6:30 PM at the Dana Thompson Memorial Park in Manchester. The workshop will focus on strengthening and improving downtown and village center economic assets to help them reach their broadest market potential.  This workshop is part of a series dealing with various revitalization and resiliency topics.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the Bennington and Windham regions funding from a Disaster Recovery Grant program to bring additional professional capacity to Southern Vermont to assist with economic recovery following Tropical Storm Irene. A major focus of the regional commissions’ work under this grant involves village and downtown revitalization efforts and assisting municipalities

GMNF Meeting Rescheduled

Due to a conflict with a State meeting and some Green Mountain National Forest staff being pulled to help with wildfires in the west, the South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Plan meeting originally scheduled for August 28 has been rescheduled to September 24th from 12:30 to 4:00 PM at the GMNF office in Rutland.

Contact Melissa Reichert for more information.

Transportation Energy Study Available

A profile of energy use in the state’s transportation sector hasjust been released. Energy used fortransportation exceeds energy consumption in any othersector, so this study providesinformation that will prove particularly valuable as Vermonttriestomeetits energy objectives overthe coming years.

The study includesinformation on current use and trends for all modes of transportation and for various types of vehicles and fuels.

The complete report is available here.

Paint Stewardship Program

This past year, the Vermont Legislature passed a bill that would require that the paint industry be responsible for collecting and managing leftover architectural paint in Vermont. This will mean that consumers can return unused paint to retailers rather than have to dispose of it at household hazardous waste events. This will provide greater convenience and reduce the costs of disposal now bourn by tax payers. This program should be in place sometime in 2014. PaintCare, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization is seeking candidates to establish a program for paint stewardship in Vermont and Maine for programs that will begin in 2014.

Compost Bin Sale II

The Bennington County Regional Commission will be selling Soil Saver Composters for $51.97. These retail for $95.00 and provide an easy way to convert common yard and food waste into an effective fertilizer that you can use in your garden, flowerbeds or to fertilize trees. The Soil Saver has structural foam construction for insulation, a feature that also makes it resistant to weather and UV rays. Its large capacity (28” wide by 28” deep by 32” high) means that it can serve a household of up to five people. In addition, the locking lid helps to keep animals out of the compost. They have two sliding doors for easy removal of compost and a self-watering lid feature.

How Resilient is Your Community?

The Vermont Natural Resources Council recently released a Resilient Communities Scorecard, a set of checklists to help towns rate whether or not they are economically, environmentally, and socially resilient. This update to the Smart Growth Scorecard, published by the Vermont Forum on Sprawl in 2001, consists of twelve checklists on key topics, including land use, transportation, energy, and healthy community design. Each checklist has a series of questions that, when answered, combine to create a "score" for each topic.

BCRC Strengthens Partnership with ACT and VISTA

The BCRC has worked closely with Alliance for Community Transformations (ACT) over the past year on several projects supporting healthy community design. These projects include a plan for Bennington’s local food system, bicycle-pedestrian improvements, and planning for mixed use development and access to recreational facilities.

Electronic Submission of Municipal Plans and Bylaws

The Department of Housing and Community Development is asking all municipalities to submit — whenever possible — their proposed and adopted plans and bylaws, including public hearing notices as well as plan & bylaw reports, by email. DHCD will acknowledge receipt ofthese required submittals with an official email for the municipality’s records. Eventually the documents will be posted to a searchable website, available to the public. Submittals should be directed to Wendy Tudor.

Energy Action Network Conference

The Energy Action Network works on strategies for achieving Vermont’s renewable energy and conservation goals by focusing on: capital mobilization, public engagement, regulatory reform, and technology innovation. Their annual meeting will be held atthe Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes onOctober 1 and 2, where the keynote speaker will be Goteberg Award winner, Soren Hermansen. Go to for more information.

Funding for Municipal Planning Grants Increased Applications Now Available

The Legislature increased the amount available for municipal planning grants by 10% this year, and the maximum award per municipality has been increased from $15,000 to $20,000. A high priority for funding this year will be bylaw updates - to ensure that local regulations accurately reflect and implement the town or village plan and support smart growth principles. If local officials in your municipality have been keeping a list of regulatory issues that need to be addressed, or if you suspect that your bylaws don’t align well with your plan, now is the time to consider an update!

Plans for New General Store in Peru Continue to Advance

When BCRC staff worked with the planning commission and local residents of Peru on a town plan update that included an economic study/plan forthe community, it was evident that the issue of overriding concern was the need to reestablish a general store in the historic village center. Juliette and Timothy Britton seized on that vision and have been working on a plan to construct a new store on the site of the historic, but closed and dilapidated, JJ Hapgood Store. The new JJ Hapgood Store will provide general merchandise, food, and perhaps most importantly, a community gathering place at the heart of the scenic village. The BCRC has participated in state environmental reviews in support ofthe project. The Brittons hope to begin construction this summer

Efficiency Vermont Offers Expanded Home Weatherization Incentives

Sure, it’s been hot and humid this summer, but it’s still a good time to think about making your home more comfortable and energy efficient by completing some weatherization projects. Local officials and energy coordinators and committees will want to help get the word out about several new initiatives from Efficiency Vermont(www.efficiencyvermont.com/getgoing). Special offers include:

New Initiatives Support Local Food Systems

Our local food systems are a vital part of our communities and economy and the importance of these networks of farmers, distributors, markets, stores, and support businesses will only grow in coming years. A critical component to the success of any such system is a good communication network and state and local efforts are focusing on facilitating those connections. The new state Food System Atlas is now online; visit the site for maps and directories oflocal businesses as well as a large amount of information and technical ssistance.

New Publications from FEMA

FEMA has just made available three new mitigation planning publications that can benefit local communities: Integrating Hazard Mitigation Into Local Planning Local Mitigation Planning Handbook Mitigation Ideas: A Resource for Reducing Risk to Natural Hazards.