New integrated Regional Plan seeks feedback by Dec. 31

Everyone who lives, works or plays in Chittenden County is invited to provide input and feedback on the Draft Regional Plan, through Dec. 31, at www.ecosproject.com. The ECOS Plan is the new 5-year integrated Regional Plan for the county and for the first time includes many sectors including housing, economic development, transportation, education, health, and natural resources. This approach recognizes that our challenges are complex and interrelated and aims to address those challenges more holistically.

The ECOS Project, which stands for Environment, Community, Opportunity, and Sustainability, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to engage citizens, organizations, and municipalities in a conversation about the future of our communities and the region as a whole. The Steering Committee for the ECOS Project is made up of all 19 municipalities and 45 partner organizations in Chittenden County.

Funded with a grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Project (with co-sponsorship from the EPA and U.S. DOT), the 2-year project is designed to support efforts to plan and implement regional sustainable community development initiatives. It will also provide the basis for updating the Chittenden County Regional Plan, The Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Plan, the Burlington Legacy Project Plan, and the County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.  One integrated plan instead of many.

In the past year, topic-specific working groups have conducted needs assessments and analysis resulting in eight cross-cutting strategies and multiple actions aimed at addressing concerns across sectors. The goal of the comment period is to hear from citizens about whether there are other actions that should be undertaken as well as their ideas for specific projects that will advance our shared vision for a sustainable future.

The eight key strategies in the Plan are:

1. Improve and strengthen economic systems

2. Concentrate growth in town/village centers

3. Improve water safety and quality

4. Invest in working lands

5. Focus on optimal health and personal safety

6. Equip residents with the education and skills they need to thrive

7. Develop financing and governance systems

8. Ensure equity across all activities

 “What is extraordinary about this process and plan,” explains Penrose Jackson, Director of Community Health Improvement at Fletcher Allen Health Care, and Co-Chair of the ECOS Project Steering Committee, “is that the ECOS Plan recognizes the social determinants of health; that our personal behaviors and our environment are keys to our health. We need to make it easier for people to access fresh foods and to lead active lifestyles. We need to build and manage our communities to support our children to grow up to become contributing members of our communities.” This interdisciplinary thinking is core to the ECOS Project.

The project is now looking for feedback from members of the community:

Are these the right strategies to help us achieve our goals?

Are there other actions or specific projects that we should focus on?

How will your town/organization/family/friends be a part of making a project a reality?

 From now until Dec. 31 share your ideas and feedback at www.ecosproject.com where you can also find more information, copies of the current draft, and details about the planning process.

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