Williston honored for growth strategy (4/29/10)

April 29, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

The Williston Planning Department will have a new plaque to hang on the wall next week.

On Monday, Planning Director Ken Belliveau will head to Montpelier to receive a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention. Williston has won an award for Land Use & Land Planning.

“It’s a nice feather in our cap,” Belliveau said. “It’s always nice to be noticed for good things.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation Web site says the Land Use & Land Planning awards recognize “projects that preserve or conserve land to create ecological and environmental benefits or that advance smart growth alternatives.”

Williston was nominated for the award by Faith Ingulsrud, the planning coordinator for the Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development. Williston’s overall development plan has many facets. In short, the town has policies and practices that foster development in the growth center area generally located around Taft Corners.

That goal stood out for Ingulsrud, who in her nomination application wrote, “Williston’s current planning program exemplifies Vermont’s statewide planning goal to implement a strategy that will effectively focus compact development within the designated growth center and protect the majority of land in the town as rural.”

Ingulsrud went on to praise Williston for its “active community participation, strong leadership and … committed volunteer planners and professional staff members.”

“Williston now has one of the most sophisticated smart growth planning programs of any town in Vermont,” she wrote.

Belliveau said Williston is recognized around the state as a leader for town planning practices, a claim backed up by Gary Gulka, the assistance and prevention program chief for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Williston has served as a model for others in terms of actually taking smart growth planning to the next step, which is the implementation of policies and regulations,” Gulka said.

Gulka serves on the Planning Commission in Cabot, and said the town plans to look at the steps Williston has taken to implement smart growth strategies.

Williston was the only municipality to win a Governor’s Award in 2010, Gulka said.

Vermont Coverts, a company that works with private landowners to maintain and enhance forest habitats, will also receive a Governor’s Award for Land Use & Land Planning. Nearly 20 other organizations and businesses will take home awards in areas that include Resource Conservation, Earth Stewardship & Resource Protection and Education & Outreach.

Belliveau noted that decisions made by Williston’s Development Review Board and Selectboard help guide the town’s planning goals.

“Whether we won this award or not, as a planner, it’s nice to be able to work in a community that really values what happens with planning,” Belliveau said.