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Washington County residents owe a great deal of gratitude to our state legislators for working hard on a state budget for 2010 that includes funds for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB). Vermont legislators wisely determined that while difficult economic times require serious belt-tightening our strategic investments in safe, decent affordable housing and our working farms and forests must continue.
With relatively small state investment (less than one-tenth of 1 percent of total state funds) VHCB leverages huge sums of additional investments into our economy that produce incredible results that are key components of Vermont's economic future.
In Washington County, since 1987, VHCB has provided $12.2 million in funding to support the development of 667 affordable homes and to conserve nearly 11,000 acres of land. Often people are aware of a new housing development, town park or conserved farm, but many are not aware that a common thread among these is likely to be funding from VHCB. Here are some examples:
- Montpelier enjoys a fine park system with trails that tie in to
regional trail systems. In 1994 VHCB supported the city's acquisition
of the North Branch Park lands connecting the City Recreation Fields
with the East Montpelier Trail system.
- In 1995, VHCB assisted with the purchase of acreage to establish the North Branch Nature Center, adjacent to North Branch Park and linking to Hubbard Park Trails.
- VHCB will be a critical partner for the city of Montpelier and the
Trust for Public Land as the community considers the mixture of
conservation and affordable housing in Sabin's Pasture.
- VHCB funding is assisting with the historic restoration of the Jacob Davis Farmstead in Montpelier, where programs run by Two Rivers and Foodworks are teaching students to garden and growing produce for food shelves, senior centers and school cafeterias.
- Many are aware of the conserved land that helps to make up East Montpelier's extensive trail system. A large block of farms in that town totaling nearly 2,000 acres has been conserved by the Vermont Land Trust with VHCB funding, helping to maintain the town's rural character.
- Recent grants to the Cross Vermont Trail Association have enabled
that organization to add easements and land in Montpelier and
Plainfield as they work to create an east-west recreational trail
across the state.
- In the last year, VHCB worked with the Vermont Land Trust to support acquisition of land and easements conserving town forests in Marshfield and Middlesex and restoration of the Martin Covered Bridge on Route 2 in Plainfield, where a new town park has just opened.
- In the Mad River Valley farmland conservation of the Bruce and Kingsbury Farms with the Vermont Land Trust, the restoration and community use of the Grey Building in Northfield and the historic Roxbury Depot, and new, family rental housing in Waitsfield and Warren are all backed with VHCB funds.
- Within the last three years the Central Vermont Community Land Trust has constructed new housing on Barre Street -- the River Station apartments and condominiums -- and rehabilitated the Bianchi Building, resulting in nearly 50 new affordable homes, all supported with VHCB funding.
- In Barre, VHCB support has been vital to projects as varied as acquisition and preservation of the Old Labor Hall, nonprofit acquisition of Highgate Apartments, conversion of the former Lincoln School to senior housing, creation of the Barre Granite Center, restoration of the Vermont History Center, and rehabilitation and expansion of the Good Samaritan Haven homeless shelter, which hosted an opening celebration last week.
- VHCB also leverages federal funds for lead paint abatement, the placement and employment of more than 40 AmeriCorps members in service around the state.
Once again, a most sincere thank you to our area legislators who supported VHCB, a nationally recognized program that has brought millions in state and federal revenue to the Washington County economy over the past 22 years.
Brian Shupe, Vermont Natural Resources Council
David Thurlow, The Vermont Foodbank
Eileen Peltier, Central Vermont Community Land Trust
Jared Cadwell, Mad River Valley Planning District
Joshua Schwartz, Mad River Valley Planning District
Kinny Perot, Friends of the Mad River and the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership
Robin McDermott, Mad River Valley Localvore Project
Rodger Krussman, The Trust for Public Land
Chip Darmstadt, North Branch Nature Center
Dave Shepard, Middlesex Conservation Commission
Elise Annes, The Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition
Kris Hammer, Montpelier Conservation Commission
Emily Boedecker The Nature Conservancy and Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition
Nona Estrin, East Montpelier Trail
John Warshow, Marshfield Select Board