first_imgThe Town of Hartford now has a state-designated Growth Center, a move that will help streamline permitting for future development and pave the way for additional benefits to support development in the town.The Vermont Downtown Development Board approved the town’s revised Growth Center plan at its meeting on Wednesday after accepting some alterations to address concerns about the boundaries of the district.“This is a very important step for Hartford,” said Kevin Dorn, Secretary of Commerce and Community Development and chairman of Vermont Downtown Development Board. “It will encourage denser and more mixed use development in appropriate areas, and give the town some valuable tools to aid future growth.”Hartford’s growth center includes the town’s Designated Downtown – White River Junction – as well as the historic villages of Wilder to the north and Hartford Village to the west, and the Sykes Mountain Avenue area, which officials describe as key to the region’s growth.“This designation is going to help the town pursue a Tax Increment Financing district,” said Lori Hirshfield, Director of Planning and Development Services for the town. “Hartford is unique in that historically, development has been concentrated in five villages while retaining much of the town’s rural character. This will help continue that trend.”Hartford is Vermont’s ninth largest municipality, with an estimated population of 10,696 as of July 2008. In October of that year, the town was awarded a $40,000 Municipal Planning Grant to help the town work toward Growth Center designation.Growth Centers were signed into law by Governor Jim Douglas in 2006 to encourage communities to plan for denser and mixed use development in appropriate areas. Designated communities receive benefits under Act 250, including development in the growth center given greater options to comply with requirements to mitigate the impact on prime agricultural soils and some projects possibly being exempted from review.Towns with a designated Growth Center may also more easily meet the requirements for a Tax Increment Financing District, which allow the town to keep some of the additional property tax revenues generated by development instead of sending them all to the state, a program designed to support investment in water, wastewater and transportation infrastructure.To gain this designation Hartford had to demonstrate to the Downtown Board that it had undertaken a rigorous planning process that ensured state standards would be met, including:That it meets the statutory definition of a Growth Center, as demonstrated in the Town Plan and is implemented in the Town’s bylaws;  That the Town has or has planned for the roads, water and wastewater systems, and other infrastructure necessary to support the planned growth;That the Growth Center be adjacent to and support an existing Designated Downtown or Village Center;That the Growth Center be compact, dense and protect natural and historic resources both within and outside the growth center;That it be designed to accommodate a majority of growth anticipated by the municipality over the next twenty years; and include a mix of uses, including affordable housing.The Vermont Downtown Development Board also announced awards this week to a number of downtown transportation projects across the state. The grants are made through the Downtown Transportation Fund, which was created by the legislature in 1998 to support the revitalization of the state’s downtowns.  Awards were made to:Brattleboro – $47,500 for sidewalk and streetscape improvements on Main Street from the Gilbert Memorial Bridge to Elliot Street. This will replace badly deteriorated sidewalks; make handicapped-accessibility improvements; and add streetscape elements that make the sidewalk more pedestrian friendly.Rutland – $25,000 for the purchase and installation of way-finding signs within and serving visitors to downtown Rutland.  Vergennes – $75,000 for pedestrian and streetscape improvements on Main Street, which will also provide handicapped accessibility to several downtown businesses.This funding is appropriated annually and is available to the state’s 23 designated downtowns for transportation-related projects.For more information about the Growth Centers Program, please visit: is external)Source: Commerce Agency. 3.25.2010 -30-last_img