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Costello Commentary: Vergennes on the Move


Vergennes — With all its assets, Vergennes epitomizes so much that Vermont communities statewide strive for: a strong village center, surrounded by a beautiful working landscape, strong, committed community members, a dynamic and balanced downtown business sector along with manufacturing, retail, services and food businesses.

Over the last five months, the Vermont Council on Rural Development has been working with the city through a “Community Visit” process to identify and advance key priorities for action for the future of the city.

The VCRD Visiting Team of state, federal, regional and non-profit leaders has been deeply impressed by the strength and commitment of local residents and by all that has been accomplished over the last 20 years to make this such a great place to live, work and enjoy. A strong and responsive municipal government invited and encouraged the Community Visit process. Wonderful community institutions like the Bixby Library and the Vergennes Opera House are cornerstones of downtown vitality—matched with the private sector energy of entrepreneurs who have made major contributions to revitalizing the downtown and are continuing to invest in the next stage of its development. Restaurants and shops make this the north Addison County hub. Part of the excitement of the process for our team was the sense that this is a city that has great momentum and where residents, and folks from neighboring towns, are geared to working together to make it the most vital center possible. Another part, which gives great confidence, is that the community has the resources, skills and leadership to accomplish great things. Altogether, Vergennes is an enviable community, one that represents so much of the best of Vermont.

While Community Visits are designed to help towns come together, review major issues, develop priorities and line up for action, VCRD has a couple of other goals behind these efforts. We look to build new volunteerism and encourage more local folks to get involved in moving the community forward. We want to help build the connections of the community to human, technical and funding resources from lead agencies and organizations in the state. And we want to help our Visiting Team learn more about local needs and the dynamics of the diverse towns of rural Vermont so they can better serve these communities.

It is always hard to set community priorities. Vergennes chose things that can get done, that are in the power of the community to achieve, and that will leverage momentum for the city’s future.

We look forward to working with the Vergennes Task Forces as they advance the priority projects identified in the process to:

  • Improve Transportation, Especially for Walking and Biking, & Parking
  • Advance the Vergennes Economy & Expand the Community & Economic Development Capacity of the City
  • Redevelop the Vergennes Falls Basin & Open a Riverwalk.

The Task Forces working to advance these issues are organizing today, please support their efforts, or join them; contact Mayor Bill Benton or City Manager Mel Hawley to sign up.

With over 170 local people participating in the process and over 70 volunteers now engaged in active Task Forces to advance priorities, we know that there is great energy for real progress in Vergennes today. We also see strong, practical work plans, great leadership, and direct connections for help from the Addison County Regional Development Corporation, the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, the Agency of Commerce (especially Tourism and Marketing and Economic Development) and the Agency of Transportation. Vergennes has a map, and is on the map, to move its projects forward.

At VCRD we see people working hard to make the best future for their communities and for the next generation of Vermonters; we deeply appreciate everyone who put themselves on the line for Vergennes in this process – you make us proud of Vermont.

Paul Costello, Executive Director, Vermont Council on Rural Development

Read the new Vergennes Community Visit Report here.

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