PUTNEY — A plan to make the town "an inclusive, safe and resilient rural community where residents, businesses and organizations thrive, and live life in harmony with nature and each other" will be presented for public comment at hearings scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24 and Wednesday, Nov. 8. Both meetings start at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall.
The Planning Commission's draft of the 2023 Putney Town Plan addresses this vision via several "strategic directions/priorities." They include:
• Create a sustainable village and local economy that effectively meet the needs of residents and visitors.
• Increase the availability, accessibility, and quality of housing to meet the needs of all residents.
• Increase community-wide connectedness, health, and well-being.
• Preserve natural landscapes and ecosystem biodiversity in partnership with adjacent communities.
• Reduce and mitigate community-wide contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and prepare all for the intensifying impacts of rapid climate change.
Key differences between the proposed plan and the current one from 2015, which expires at the end of the year, says Planning Commission Chair Susan Coakley, are that the new one has an updated "look and feel that features a graphically rich format optimized for online viewing, particularly of the maps and other graphics" and it uses "more concise text with call-out boxes and references and links to other relevant documents."
The draft plan is written to address state municipal planning goals, established two years after the current town plan was adopted. It is written to address the "vision and strategic priorities" of community members.
The proposed town plan was developed with extensive community outreach during the past year, including building on the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) community visit.
That community visioning project, which took place in 2022 and 2023, resulted in a report and action plan, "Our Future Putney."
That initiative identified community priorities to improve the quality of life here. More than 250 people attended three VCRD meetings and task forces for housing solutions, revitalizing the downtown, and developing community centers.
The Planning Commission built on that work and last winter and spring held community meetings to present draft town plan content and invite questions and comments.
Planners also partnered with the Putney Conservation Commission to draft the section about natural resources.
Finally, commissioners conducted a town-wide survey and reached out to community members who were not able to attend the Future Putney meetings.
All comments received in writing are available to the public on the town website.
Implementing the plan
Also new in the proposed 2023 plan is the integrated implementation plan that addresses the objectives and policies in the first part of the plan.
"The Planning Commission is committed to continuing to engage the community and access resources to implement and track progress to realize the 2023 Putney Town Plan vision and plan," says Coakley. "Even as the Selectboard prepares for the final two public hearings, we are already working with town staff and the Selectboard to leverage state and federal funds using [funding from the American Rescue Plan Act] to implement recommendations."
In this way, Coakley continues, the plan is intended "to guide a renewal of Putney to address a long-term decline in the local economy, a severe lack of access to affordable housing, and the challenges of climate change."
"We are hopeful that Putney, a center for human development, arts, and community-scale agriculture, has a bright future that balances the needs of a diverse, welcoming community with long-term sustainability and conservation of our natural resources," she says. "We have challenges, but we are working together in new, inspiring ways."
The eight-year plan includes eight chapters, each with recommended objectives, policies, and actions, summarized in an integrated implementation plan of proposed actions.
The chapters include: Vision and Strategic Priorities, Natural Resources and Land Use, Housing, Energy, Economic Development, Community Facilities and Services, Transportation, Resilience, and Implementation Plan.
Implementation actions listed include:
• Ensuring through the development review process and maintenance agreements that any private roads meet town standards (ongoing; led by zoning administrator).
• Reviewing and revising the land use regulations as necessary to ensure that private roads and driveways incorporate stormwater management that will be more resilient to climate change (years 1–4; led by Planning Commission).
• Considering the condition and capability of roads when establishing allowed densities of development under the land use regulations (years 1–4; led by Planning Commission).
• Continuing to participate in the Traffic Advisory Committee hosted by the Windham Regional Commission (ongoing; led by town manager).
• Maintaining a current, adopted Hazard Mitigation Plan, by undertaking an annual review process that evaluates the effectiveness of the implementation program and addresses additional identified hazards and response resources (ongoing; led by town manager).
• Conducting a yearly review and adoption of the Local Emergency Management Plan to maintain state Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund membership (ongoing; led by town manager).
• Exploring the creation of a standing Putney emergency response network that brings together municipal services and local social service agencies to prepare for and coordinate volunteer responses to community crises (ongoing; led by town manager).
• Continuing to participate in the Regional Emergency Management Committee (ongoing; led by fire chief).
• Appointing leadership for and seek funding and partnerships to identify, and recommend solutions to mitigate and respond to additional threats to public health, safety, and well-being (years 1–4; led by Selectboard).
• Providing suitable local facilities where residents can safely shelter and access food, medicine, and needed services during a disaster or emergency (ongoing; led by town manager).
• Requiring all new development to adequately manage stormwater to prevent damage to public infrastructure (years 1-4; led by Planning Commission).
• Adopting road and driveway standards that ensure all new development meets minimum requirements for emergency access (ongoing; led by Selectboard).
• Require that utilities installed to serve new development be placed underground where feasible (years 1–4; led by Planning Commission).
• Continuing to monitor the health of and remove diseased hazard trees within public rights of way (ongoing; led by tree warden and Highway Department).
How to participate
The Selectboard will hold a public hearing as a hybrid meeting, both in-person and via videoconferencing.
The town cautions that "while the board will strive to provide means for those attending remotely to participate in the public hearing, technical difficulties or reasons that otherwise prevent or interrupt remote public participation are possible."
To access and participate in the hearing remotely via Zoom, visit bit.ly/735-putney, or call toll-free 646-558-8656. The meeting ID is 814 9457 3455, and the passcode is 4385438. A link to a recording of the hearing will be available at putneyvt.org.
Visitors are welcome at the hearing. Those wishing to address the Selectboard regarding the draft 2023 Town Plan will be given the opportunity to present comments in person or virtually.
The draft Town Plan is available to download at putneyvt.org, and printed copies are available for review at Town Hall, the Putney Public Library, the Putney General Store, the Putney Diner, Putney Cares, and Next Stage Arts Project.
The Selectboard also welcomes written comments on the plan no later than midnight Wednesday, Nov. 15, to [email protected] or to P.O. Box 233, Putney, VT 05346 - Attn. Town Manager. Comments may also be delivered in person directly to Town Hall.
This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.