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Public Post is a community reporting initiative using digital tools to report on cities and towns across Vermont.Public Post is the only resource that lets you browse and search documents across dozens of Vermont municipal websites in one place.Follow reporter Amy Kolb Noyes and #PublicPost on Twitter and read news from the Post below.

Regional Planning Commission & Economic Development Merger Recommended In Central Vt.

Is it necessary or beneficial to have both a Regional Planning Commission and a separate Economic Development  Corporation serving the same population? In Central Vermont, a committee considering that question has decided the answer is no.  A "joint committee on consolidation of the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission and the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation" is recommending merging the two organizations into a Central Vermont Regional Commission.

The joint committee made its recommendation last month, with one out of the ten committee members dissenting.  The committee was formed in January 2012, but the impetus to consider a merger goes back to 2010, according to the committee's report:

Initially, the idea came about as a result of the Vermont Legislature enacting "Challenges for Change" in 2010. "Challenges " directed regional development corporations and regional planning commissions to consider the possibility of merging in order to provide more efficient delivery of services.

Vermont has 11 regional planning commissions and 12 regional development corporations, all of which are affiliated with the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development. To date, the only entity to fall under both categories is the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, covering the 55 towns in the Northeast Kingdom.

If the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission and Economic Development Corporation were to merge, the new organization would cover the same 23 cities and towns that are currently served by the two existing organizations.

The joint committee outlined six principal benefits to the potential merger, which are summarized below:

  1. By combining the two organizations under one roof there will be more coordination between development and planning and Central Vermont will be the beneficiary of that coordination.
  2. Combining the two organizations sends a great signal to the public and to the business community that Central Vermont is interested in taking a holistic approach to planning and development.
  3. Over time combining these two organizations will reduce the cost to taxpayers supporting both organizations. 
  4. The new organization will attract highly qualified and motivated directors and employees, which in turn will improve our efforts in planning and development, all to the benefit of Central Vermont.  
  5. By merging CVEDC into CVRPC, we minimize the cost of combining the two organizations, as all that is needed is a change to CVRPC’s bylaws and a decision by CVEDC to merge. To maintain its current powers, CVRPC must remain a statutory organization; CVEDC, as a non-profit corporation, has more flexibility which is why in a merger CVRPC would be the surviving entity.  
  6. A merger will enhance a regional approach to development and planning, a doctrine upon which both organizations were founded. 

The report also acknowledges there will be challenges if a merger is to go forward. Among the obstacles is the potential for conflict between regional planning and economic development interests.

Many pros and cons were discussed and particular concern was raised that the review of Act 250 and Section 248 projects, which is a statutory function of regional planning, has the potential for conflict between planners and the development community. The historical reality is that these conflicts have rarely occurred, and the merged organization would result in more collaboration between the groups. This will lead to better project design, better review of infrastructure, better siting of larger projects and, ultimately, less demand for the extension of infrastructure and municipal services. This is what both planners and economic development community desire: lower costs to support anticipated growth, less conflict and more predictability in the permitting process, and a better quality of life.

Each Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission member municipality has a seat on the commission's  board of directors. In order for the merger to proceed, it must first be approved by the secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, as well as the membership of the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation. Then the CVRPC board of directors would need to vote to amend its bylaws to include the functions of CVEDC.