The Discuss Neighborhood Development Program targets housing crisis

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – In an effort to help alleviate the current housing crisis in Springfield, the Town Manager, Jeff Mobus, recently introduced a presentation to the select board by the Mount Ascutney Regional Commission (MARC) called Discuss Neighborhood Development.

The presentation was organized to help investigate ways for Springfield to possibly help with the growing problem of a lack of affordable housing in the area. Additionally, Martha Harrison and Jason Rassmussen from MARC, also presented a packet of information to the selectboard as the parties look toward the common goal of creating more housing.

Rassmussen has been working with the Springfield Planning Commission as they look over the town plan, and he is also looking into the possibility of a Neighborhood Development Area (NDA) designation, which would create benefits and better opportunities for possible projects moving forward.

The NDA program helps provide special permit and tax incentives for communities and developers that strive to build mixed-income housing within designated downtowns, or village areas that have been NDA designated. The designation encourages municipalities and developers to plan for new and infill housing in the area of its designated downtown or village.

“The goal of discussing Neighborhood Development Area designation was to ensure that the select board was aware of the requirements and the benefits of an NDA designation,” Town Manager Jeff Morbus said in a recent interview. “In particular, the Town would likely need to make some changes to the zoning bylaws and make a decision about our river corridors. The benefits would include Act 250 exemptions to certain housing projects, as well as discounted application fees.”

For an area to be eligible for designation it must be within a neighborhood planning area that is suitable for new and infill housing and that has been approved by the State Board for designation.

“The first step, which the selectboard has taken, is to allow the planning commission to work with the MARC to determine if an NDA would benefit Springfield,” Morbus said. “And, if so, what bylaw changes would need to be made. The town’s strategic plan encourages the development of our neighborhoods for the overall benefit of Springfield. An NDA could potentially assist the town in accomplishing this goal.”

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