Opinion – A decade is a long time

Ten years is a long time. Especially when you are young, it’s just about incomprehensible.

When I was young, the passage of time meant little to me. I thought about the here and now, not down the road. Now, it means a great deal since I’m on the back side of life. Priorities change and time becomes precious.

A town is not too dissimilar. There are the day-to-day comings and goings; the things that need to get done. You can get a sense of this reviewing selectboard agendas, it’s the all-important “making the sausage” of local governance that must be done.

Typically, 80 to 90 percent is fairly straightforward, but can be very time consuming. Then there’s the long term: What may or may not be on the horizon? What should we be planning for? Who is looking out for our future? How do we remain a healthy and vibrant community? Where and how much development should occur or do we just let it happen? Major issues take time to work through and require planning ahead.

Sometimes we are confronted with the unforeseen. Junior Lewis’s garage burning down required an immediate plan of action by the selectboard. These situations, in a way, are more straightforward, though not necessarily easy, in that there is a known problem that requires a timely solution. We act on what is put before us.

This is the charge of the development review board. They review and issue decisions on what comes before them; applications for subdivisions, variances and permits in adherence with the Land Use Regulations. They deal in the here and now. The planning commission’s charge is to focus on the future.

And the planning commission has been doing just that. They have been brainstorming on how to involve a larger portion of the town to focus on the future. Inherent in this is residents’ understanding what the Town Plan is, what it says and whether or not we collectively agree with its stated goals. The planning commission provided an overview on this topic and other matters at the selectboard’s April 25 meeting.

Planning commission members Bob Bloch and Kyra Miller are of the opinion that Community Heart and Soul can guide the town in this regard. They presented a general overview of how the organization functions and its strategies for creating a strategic plan for Charlotte’s future.

Miller spoke to what she feels is the value of providing context for a larger discussion amongst townspeople to talk about the future, relative to the Town Plan. “Heart and Soul will bring the discussion to the people,” she said.

That organization would provide a coach and there would be a steering committee to drive the process. The planning commission will schedule another session with the selectboard to provide a more detailed outline of their proposal.

Assuming the town moves forward with Community Heart and Soul, it will take considerable time to formulate a plan for the future.

Across town, another important meeting took place about the future. On April 28, an in-person public meeting and fact-finding walk was sponsored by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission in preparation for its upcoming East Charlotte Village traffic study.

This requested study was submitted by the planning commission to the selectboard in 2019 when it was formulating zoning changes in the East Village. It was one of the main concerns then and remains so today.

At this meeting, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission presented an overview of various traffic-calming approaches that have been successful in other Vermont towns. This included improvements for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians alike. Attendees were encouraged to share concerns and ideas on various maps of the village. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission will issue a report to the town, itemizing traffic-calming recommendations.

The planning commission is working on a Town Plan update for 2023. Vermont state statute requires towns to update their Town Plan at least every eight years, slightly less than a decade.

What will our updated Town Plan say? What does the future hold for Charlotte?

Yes, a decade is a long time, and it’s just around the corner.

Peter Joslin is the former chair of the Charlotte Planning Commission.