In looking to the future, St. George revisits the past

ST. GEORGE The town of St. George, Vermonts smallest town, is currently revisiting a vision for the future, that first emerged in the 1970s. The town, which saw rapid population growth between 1960 and 1980, has since had development slow and maintained a fairly steady population in recent years. However, as the town has watched the growing pressure for growth in nearby communities, residents saw a need to look back at a plan that designed for the development of a mixed-use growth center for St. George, while trying to protect a rural nest for the town. Although keeping with many ideas outlined in what is known as the Burley Plan, a plan that was designed in the 1970s by Robert Burley and never materialized, members of the St. George Planning Commission have built upon those ideas to come up with an entirely new, rewritten municipal plan. Now, after roughly a year of work on the new town plan, the St. George Planning Commission may have an end in sight. The seven-member board, which also doubles as the towns Development Review Board, began its work last year with a visioning session, where residents described both how they see Vermonts tiniest town today, and in the future. While the town has had to readopt their plan every five years, and revisions have been made along the way, Planning Commission members said a complete rewriting of the plan has not been done in over 20 years. Commission chair Marie Mastro, said the board was able to secure a grant from the Department of Housing and Community Affairs that allowed them to hire Brandy Saxton of Place Sense for invaluable help with the daunting project. Tom Carlson, a long-time Selectboard member of the town, said of the new town plan at a recent public hearing, I think you guys have done a terrific job. It is from scratch, and it is really thorough and good. Residents gathered at the St. George Town Hall on Wednesday, April 4, to discuss the new municipal plan, and the small meeting room was filled to capacity, with several additional members of the audience made up of University of Vermont students who are at work on a profile of the town. Once the new municipal plan is adopted by the town, the Planning Commission will shift their focus and begin a rewrite of the zoning bylaws, which also have not been rewritten in some time. Residents sat in on the meeting as the board went through the 54 page draft, and gave occasional input on the towns history as well as the vision for the future. During a discussion of the section on St. Georges history, several residents commented on a statement that said a section of land on Pond Road was transferred from the town of Shelburne to St. George. That history, is quickly becoming our present, said Marie Mastro, referencing an ongoing conversation with the town of Shelburne over a house on Pond Road where it is disputed over which town it is actually in. The board will make some amendments to the draft after the discussion on April 4, and will present the plan to the towns Selectboard on April 19. That meeting is the second warned public hearing of the town plan. Board Chair Marie Mastro said they are hoping to have the plan approved by the Selectboard at that meeting and later adopted by the town. A copy of the draft is available on the town website at: www.stgeorgevt.com.

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