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Community visit comes to Manchester today


MANCHESTER — Residents of Manchester are encouraged to come out today and take part in the Community Visit process by helping to set priorities for the town and bringing their views to discussions about what steps Manchester should take in the future.

Hosted by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, the Community Visit process includes hosting several local public meetings during which community members discuss the issues they believe are most pressing. The first public meeting in Manchester is today and the discussions will take place in four locations, the public safety building, which is home to the town’s police and fire departments, the Town Hall, the Israel Congregation Synagogue, and the Rowland Center at Burr and Burton Academy.

Today’s schedule calls for three separate meetings during three blocks of time. Residents who want to participate can join the meeting in which they have the greatest interest. The schedule for the meetings is:

  • From 2:15 to 3:45 p.m., tourism and transportation, at the fire department; housing, at the Town Hall; and the downtown, at the synagogue.
  • From 4 to 5:30 p.m., expanding economic opportunity, at the fire department; poverty, at the Town Hall; and working landscape, food and sustainability, at the synagogue.
  • From 7 to 8:30 p.m., all meetings will be at the Rowland Center on the topics of defining authentic Manchester, opportunities in education, and arts, recreation and nightlife.

A free community dinner will be served at the Rowland Center from 5:45 to 7 p.m.

Locally, Lee Krohn, Manchester’s planning director and zoning administrator, is taking a leadership role in the visit. On Friday, Krohn noted that a variety of people throughout the community had been talking about doing an update of the “vision process” which was undertaken in the 1990s and led to a new town plan.

Krohn said the time might have been right to look at Manchester’s future because of changes like the completion of the roundabout and the construction of the poolhouse, and other improvements in the municipal park.

During the various meetings today, residents will be encouraged to have discussions and brainstorm ideas related to each individual topic. Notes will be taken on the discussions which will be taken by staff with the Vermont Council on Rural Development, or VCRD, back to Montpelier so they can be sorted and compiled.

On April 16, a follow-up meeting will take place in Manchester. Staff from the VCRD will report on what they learned from the meeting today so that priorities can be further refined and action plans can begin to be developed.

Krohn said it was important that people understand the goal of the community visit process is to develop plans that can be implemented.

“Nobody wants to do the proverbial study that sits on the shelf,” he said.

Paul Costello, executive director of the VCRD, said the Manchester residents who take part in the process today will have some expert assistance as they discuss what might be possible in the town. There will be 35 people coming with the VCRD who lead various state agencies, education experts, and representatives of Vermont’s Congressional delegation.

“It’s a star-studded cast of state leaders that have expertise in the issues (which are the nine topics to be discussed today) that the steering committee in Manchester came up with. We go out and we try to find the absolute top leader in Vermont with expertise around the issue that the local community identifies,” he said.

Costello said the VCRD had already met with student leaders at Burr and Burton Academy and hoped more young people would come to the meetings today to consider the future of their community.