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What local control?

Some trends take so long to play out that it takes the better part of a lifetime to observe their ups and downs. Thus, many long years ago, the movers and shakers in Vermont were criticized in some quarters for ignoring local talent and going out-of-state for various sorts of consulting expertise.

I recall the in-state architectural and engineering fraternities taking umbrage at UVM for using distant consultants (rather than local ones) for its never-ending projects. Even local school districts succumbed to the lure of the remote which explains why both Middlebury and Swanton (Missisquoi Valley to be precise) were assured by distant experts that round buildings were, trust us, as inexpensive as rectangular ones. Swanton bought into the idea, Middlebury did not.

More recently, as self-esteem blossomed in a newly gentrifying Vermont, distant expert opinion - even statutory - drew less obedience and respect. From handicap access requirements to asbestos mitigation, from paper mill air pollution to nuclear power concerns, suddenly the federal rules were no longer adequate; the state had no choice but to impose its own more brilliantly designed, and of course, more stringent, requirements instead.

Most recently, a new flexibility of outlook has emerged. Suddenly it has become okay for state government to build a courthouse-in-a-swamp - pardon me, I mean wetland - (Addison County), while lesser mortals are required to avoid barely damp wetlands that aren't even on a 100-year flood-zone map.

Conversion of cornfields into housing is verboten, except when a hospital wants to do it. Building multi-family housing on land zoned for multi-family housing isn't ok for a private developer: Vermont Assistant Attorney Gen. Julie Brill explains that in such matters the actual zoning "really isn't relevant."

Faithful replication of destroyed historic buildings is a no-no from the Division of Historic Preservation, except when town government does it (which makes it ok). This explains why the Town of Ferrisburgh now has an extremely handsome replica of a former Grange Hall along Route 7, the main drag. When the town was laid out in the late 1700s, it was in the form of roadside strip development - a "lineal village" in respected-planner-speak.

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