MONTPELIER Williston has become the first community in Vermont to designate a Growth Center under a new program that will provide incentives to concentrate development and combat sprawl, Governor Jim Douglas announced recently. The Vermont Downtown Development Board voted to approve Willistons Growth Center Designation in the area surrounding Tafts Corners. This is an example of how Vermont can support commercial and residential development in areas that everyone can agree are appropriate, said Governor Jim Douglas. At the same time Growth Centers like this will be reducing development pressures on important natural resources outside the designated area they are also supporting continued economic growth. The designation comes after extensive discussions between Williston, the Downtown Board and its advisory group. Williston is to be congratulated for bringing forward a very thoughtful and well-designed proposal, said Kevin Dorn, Chairman of the Downtown Board and Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Their staff and those at my agency worked very closely and it showed in the resulting plan. Growth Centers were created by the Legislature in 2005 and subsequently signed into law by Governor Douglas to encourage communities to plan for denser and mixed use development in appropriate areas. Designated communities receive benefits under Act 250, with development in the growth center given greater options to comply with requirements to mitigate the impact on agricultural soils. Towns with a designated Growth Center may also more easily meet the requirements for a Tax Increment Financing District, which would allow the town to use some state funding to support investment in water, wastewater and transportation infrastructure in the district. To gain this designation Williston had to demonstrate to the Downtown Board that it had undertaken a rigorous planning process that ensured state standards would be met. Standards include: That it meets the statutory definition of a Growth Center, which is included in the Town Plan and is implemented in the Towns bylaws; That the Town has or has planned for the roads, water and wastewater systems, and other infrastructure necessary to support the planned growth; That the Growth Center be adjacent to and support an existing Designated Downtown or Village Center; That it protect natural and historic resources both within and outside the growth center; That it be designed to accommodate a majority of growth anticipated by the municipality over the next twenty years; and That it include a mix of uses, including affordable housing. Williston has done a great job focusingdevelopment in this growth center, which at roughly 700 acres represents just 4% of the Willistons land area, Governor Douglas said. And this is an area where most interests can agree that development makes sense. Several other communities are working towards Growth Center Designation includingColchester and Bennington. The Vermont Downtown Development Board also announced awardsthis week to a number of downtown transportation projects across the state. The grants are made through the Downtown Transportation Fund, which was created by the legislature in 1998 to support the revitalization of the states downtowns. Awards were made to: Barre - $70,000 for City Hall Park Poultney - $41,000 for downtown sidewalk, parking, crosswalk and drainage Randolph - $45,766 new street lights and sidewalks on Merchants Row Waterbury - $75,000 for Streetscape improvements on Railroad Street and Stowe Street White River Junction - $75,000 for the Railroad Row municipal parking lot project These are terrific projects, helping continue the revitalization in each of these downtowns, Dorn said. The Board is pleased to be able to support them, and to recognize the energy and commitment in each community that makes our downtowns so special.