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 didn't.
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 ok 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.
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?
Longtime Vermont resident Martin Harris now lives in Tennesee.