Chester Selectboard briefed on Clean Water Act, local business climate

CHESTER, Vt. – Increased regulation was the theme of a presentation from the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission to the Chester Town Selectboard recently, while the Springfield Regional Development Corporation hit on workforce needs.

Dan Potter, of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, was present to discuss the Clean Water Act that was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin last year, and its effect on municipalities.

According to Potter, regulating stormwater from roads will have the biggest impact on municipalities.

“What is happening is the state is developing what’s called the Municipal Roads General Permit,” said Potter, who expects a draft of the permit to be available next year and finalized in 2018. Towns in the southern Vermont area are not required to apply for the permit until between 2018 and 2021, after which they will have about 10 years to reach compliance.

“The goal of it (the Municipal Roads General Permit) is to bring hydrologically-connected waterways into compliance with the permit, through simple measures such as: stone-lining ditches, planting grass in ditches, (and) road crownings.” explained Potter.

Potter further added that the state is increasing its funding for implementing these measures through various grant programs like the Municipal Mitigation Grant Program, which includes the Better Back Roads Program, and the Ecosystem Restoration Program.

Also of concern to municipalities and developers, is the regulation of stormwater runoff from developed lands that contain three or more acres of impervious surfaces. A state-issued general permit will be released for existing development by 2018, said Potter.

Potter also spoke about the Clean Water Advisory Committee, to be established by the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission in response to the “Clean Water Act and the regional planning commission’s increased role in water quality planning.”

The Clean Water Advisory Committee will seek representatives from towns that will attend meetings and bring information back to share with their respective governments. Julie Hance, secretary of the Selectboard, was appointed to the Clean Water Advisory Committee; and Heather Chase, clerk of the Selectboard, was nominated as the alternate representative.

Representing the Springfield Regional Development Corporation, Bob Flint, who also assists the Chester Economic Development Corporation, shared results from a recent study of the area’s workforce, as well as a survey of 46 businesses describing the local business climate.

“In terms of the business climate survey, the good news is that most, if not all, were intending to be stable or grow,” said Flint.

However, there are serious concerns about both the state and local business climate – particularly the state, with 59 percent of respondents indicating that they did not believe there would be any legislative changes over the next few years which would benefit their company.

“The biggest concern that screams out everywhere, and, again, I hear this in this town is workforce,” Flint stated, going on to say that the workforce is lacking both skilled and un-skilled, professional and management workers. Flint added that socio-economic factors in the region have a large impact on the quality of the workforce.

Working with the Vermont Futures Project, an effort of the Vermont Chamber Foundation, Flint also noted that there is a projected gap of almost 11,000 jobs between available jobs, those retiring, and workforce supply. More detailed information can be found at vtfuturesproject.org.

The Selectboard also unanimously approved the proposal prepared by SE Group, of Burlington, Vt., to write the Village Master Plan. That project will get underway soon.

 

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