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It's tempting fate to use a baseball metaphor during the World Series, but it must be done. Two weeks ago consultants for the Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT) descended on The Valley and their work has been the talk of the town since then.
Warren and Waitsfield Villages were among seven downtowns and villages affected by Tropical Storm Irene that are the focus of action-oriented planning projects designed to strengthen identity and economic vitality.
Coordinated by Joshua Schwartz, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District, the weeklong visit of the V-DAT team reached deep into many levels of The Valley and yielded excellent input from residents, planners, business owners and more.
When was the last time any of us sat in a meeting where public input was sought and watched and heard a huge variety of people offering fun, funny and relevant comments about their communities? The V-DAT meetings were definitely not the "roundup of the usual suspects" who speak out at public-hearing-type meetings – although some of the usual suspects did show up.
The sheer enthusiasm alone that was generated by a PhotoShopped picture of the intersection of Bridge Street and Main Street in Waitsfield was amazing.
It was important to hear from Warren residents that it's lonely to live in Sugarbush Village without full-time neighbors and that Warren residents want a pub and a village green.
It's not surprising that people in both towns really want people to slow down when driving through their villages.
The financial data that showed where The Valley is "leaking" shopping dollars and where it is gaining dollars was relevant, particularly the information that the amount of dollars leaked is the amount of dollars some chain bargain stores are looking for when targeting new towns.
Overheard prior to the week of V-DAT visits, "Oh another plan. So what?"
Overheard afterwards – "They really listened and got it right."