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What local control?

The pejorative description is used only when the modern construction is private-sector in nature and therefore deserving of opprobrium. (As, for example, the present debate about proposed new commercial development along the old six-rod-right-of-way highway Route 7 in Ferrisburgh.)

If you read the accounts in the local news media, you'd think the argument is either about the modern "we don't care whether the proposal meets the zoning requirements or not, we don't want it" or the equally modern "we don't want any construction or pavement to replace grass and trees" - both reasons widely employed except when a governmental agency wants to build or pave.

There's the example of the new commuter parking lot at the supposedly "keep-it-green-forever" gateway to Vergennes - all of which had to be protected against any private-sector parking spaces. Montpelier-based asphalt is, of course, superior to the commercial variety.

There was a time in Vermont when towns welcomed commercial-strip development because its taxes helped pay the bills. This explains why modest little Miracle Miles sprang up in Berlin on the road between Montpelier and Barre; on Route 5 north of Brattleboro or on Route 7 south of Middlebury (which providentially installed the utilities to service the new development even while pretending to deplore its arrival).

Enter Act 60 and all was changed: why welcome another motel or fast-food outlet when the tax take goes to Waterbury and then to some other town's schools or when the jobs are - as the class-conscious Rutland Herald huffily described a Manchester economy-motel proposal - "not the sort the town needs?"

If you accept my contention that the major development issues in Vermont (not counting the various "we don't want it, even if we're already zoned for it" tropes heard when a typical entrepreneur applies for a typical permit) are based on private-sector construction and public-sector urban bypass questions, you'd be interested to note that experts - remote in space or time or both and mostly endowed with common sense if not doctorates - once provided solutions which work.

Thus, it's worth looking at Route 22A, the modern descendant of a military highway first laid out in the early 1800s to miss the village centers of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham, and Bridport. And what about campus versus strip development for commercial? We'll look into more of this next week.

Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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