Vision for 7

Creating a better pattern for development for Route 7 in Shelburne

by Kate Lalley

Voters on Nov. 6 will be asked to vote on a ballot item to bring re-investment and renewal to commercial Route 7. How will you decide?

What is  Vision for 7?

Vision for 7 is a project for commercial renewal and revitalization of the Route 7 north corridor through the application of an alternative zoning process called Form-Based Code (FBC). FBC is a means of guiding development to achieve better and more predictable development outcomes.   A shared community vision will be the basis for new zoning rules that will produce the desired form and provide the foundation for a stable investment environment. A fundamental goal of the new Form-Based zoning rules is to make Shelburne Road “open for business.”

Town staff recently applied for grant funding for Vision for 7 through the Environmental Protection Agency’s ECOS planning project.  Ideally, most of the cost of hiring the consultant team who will create the FBC for Route 7 will be covered by funding from this grant.

Why is this on the ballot this November?  

There is general agreement that the town of Shelburne should not delay addressing the conditions negatively impacting Route 7 in Shelburne: distressed and vacant properties, an eroded commercial tax base, and an inconsistent and generally poor visual impression. Factors that have contributed to these problems include multi-layered zoning regulations and construction changes to the highway that impacted access to businesses over a long period of time. A downturn in the economy further magnified these impacts and the trend toward disinvestment.

A recent public information forum presented information about using FBC in communities like ours to the Selectboard, property owners from the Route 7 corridor, and over 50 residents. FBC was compared to other zoning approaches, examples where it has used were shown, the chair of the St. Albans Planning Commission shared his city’s experience with FBC, and the executive director of the Newport, Vermont Renaissance Corporation explained how Newport, which adopted FBC in their downtown in 2010, used it as a catalyst for community and economic development.

After the presentation and the Q&A that followed, members of the Selectboard and the audience spoke in favor of pursuing a Form-Based approach to address the problems we face in Route 7 and to enhance the position of Route 7 as a locus of redevelopment when the economy recovers.

How will the town of Shelburne Fund a FBC?

While the majority of the funding for a FBC is expected to come through a grant, the town will not learn whether its application for funding was successful for several weeks. Because it is critical that progress begin the Selectboard approved a ballot article on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot seeking voter approval to sponsor a FBC, not to exceed an appropriation of $70,000.  This is the total amount for funding the consultant team for all tasks, including a three day community planning effort to create an illustrative plan and translation of this plan into specific infill and redevelopment standards.

How will FBC benefit Route 7 in Shelburne?

Specific outcomes that FBC could provide include:

A more dynamic commercial real estate market.  Property owners would have flexibility to adapt their sites and buildings to changing circumstances that are a normal part of the business cycle.

A more stable investment environment. FBC leads to simple, predictable and consistent development approvals. A known outcome inspires investor confidence.

Better development outcomes generated in a timely and cost-efficient manner.  Everyone involved – staff, citizen, developer – knows what’s expected at the outset of the building process and can be confident about the outcome of development.

Capitalization of Shelburne’s unique location and unrealized potential. With over 100,000 annual tourists and 20,000 vehicles daily, there is opportunity to capture more local and visitor services.

Realize the goals of the Shelburne Town Plan.  We say we want a “mix of walkable and sustainable development in the Route 7 corridor.”

Affordable housing opportunities that make use of existing public transportation on Route 7.  Shelburne can attract young people who tend to prefer walkable and transit oriented communities.

Please learn more about FBC and the ballot question at A Vision for 7—Creating a better pattern of development for Route 7 and town of Shelburne Form Based Code.

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