Village Haven project gets green light

ESSEX JUNCTION - A new neighborhood in Essex Junction has become the first project approved to reap the benefits of a housing bill proposed by Gov. Jim Douglas and approved by lawmakers this year.

Village Haven became the first Vermont Neighborhood authorized by the downtown board, which gave the approval for the 24-unit project on 5 acres off West Street at a recent meeting.

"This is exactly the kind of project the governor envisioned when he proposed easing the permit process to encourage the construction of homes that working Vermonters can afford," said Commerce and Community Development Secretary Kevin Dorn, who chairs the Downtown Board.

"Village Haven is consistent with the smart growth principles outlined in statute," Dorn said. "It's directly across the street from Hiawatha Elementary School, and is a short walk to Summit Street and Fleming Schools, as well as the village center."

The proposal by Brad Dousevicz of Dousevicz, Inc. was well integrated within the existing residential neighborhoods, and includes access to commercial and civic services, as well as transportation networks - including sidewalks for pedestrians, officials noted.

"We're very pleased to be hosting the first Vermont Neighborhood," said Village Manager David Crawford. "It's an infill of an existing neighborhood and a project that seems very suited to the spirit of the new legislation, and it was approved by our planning commission."

Under the New Neighborhood application Dousevicz is proposing that a number of the housing units meet Vermont Housing Finance Agency affordability requirements, in exchange for which the proposal would be exempt from Act 250, the state's development control law.

"This is very gratifying," Dousevicz said of the approval. "We are looking forward to obtaining all of the other required permits and beginning construction of these needed homes as soon as we can."

The Vermont Neighborhoods bill was passed in spring 2008 to support and encourage new housing development within or contiguous to Designated Downtowns and Villages, supporting the vitality of these historic centers.

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