Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed a bill into law that improves the state's Downtown, Village Center, and Neighborhood Designation programs, as well as reducing the cost to develop new housing in and around designated villages and downtowns. In addition, the new law improves blighted properties.
The public bill signing took place as part of the first-ever statewide economic development summit held at the Paramount Theater in Rutland.
"To improve Vermont's quality of life and strengthen the economy we need to keep our downtowns and village centers strong and vital," said the Governor. "This law makes good programs better, and I'm enthusiastic about the increased potential to help attract new businesses, promote more housing choices, and ensure sustainable growth."
"This legislation is the result of a lot of hard work from a diverse group of stakeholders who want to give cities, towns, and developers more tools to revitalize commercial districts and help create beautiful, safe, and affordable neighborhoods around them," said Noelle MacKay, Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The new law:
· Expands the areas around downtowns and villages for new housing development.
· Provides resources to help communities make it easier to build housing in areas outside of floodplains and river corridors.
· Gives benefits to communities that demonstrate that they are development ready, including:
o Act 250 exceptions for mixed-income housing projects;
o Reduced wastewater fees, and Act 250 fees if applicable'
o Dedicated technical assistance and priority consideration for state grants; and
o Help to municipalities to encourage the rehabilitation and reinvestment of blighted properties by allowing communities to forgo local taxes on the value of new building improvements.
· Updates of the existing Downtown and Village Center Designation Programs. Clarifies goals and definitions, provides additional technical assistance, and links revitalization to local planning.
· Requires the review of the growth center and new town center designation programs. Related issues like industrial parks, rural development and the protection of natural resources will also be considered. Over the summer, the Department of Housing and Community Development will consult a wide variety of stakeholders and bring these recommendations to improve the programs to the General Assembly by Dec. 15th
The law goes into effect July 1, 2013.
The Vermont Downtown program celebrates its 15th year supporting local revitalization and economic development. More than 125 communities have been recognized for their work. Once designated, communities receive priority for consideration for state funding, increased Act 250 thresholds, reduced permit fees, and tax credits to promote vital communities. Map of designated communities.