MONTPELIER The state has awarded $880,407 in grants to communities across the state for municipal planning and special projects ranging from a study of affordable housing to another on whether to merge three towns emergency services. Governor Jim Douglas announced the Municipal Planning Grants Monday, which range from money to update town plans to funding for a revitalization plan for White River Junctions downtown. Vermonts cities and towns will be able to craft plans that promote economic and housing development in our downtowns and village centers, while protecting Vermonts working landscape from sprawl, Douglas said. This is the essence of smart growth. The Municipal and Regional Planning Fund was first established in 1988, and now offers grants of up to $15,000 to help Vermont municipalities develop their town plans, and to implement community planning projects. This year the department awarded one special planning grant for Growth Center Planning in Colchester Through a competitive process, 78 Vermont towns across the state were awarded a total of $880,407 for a diverse collection of planning projects. The vast majority of the projects this year are traditional planning activities such as updating town plans, maps and zoning bylaws.