A single house can involve over 35 local small business and all of their staff. Many of our neighbors earn their livelihood in the trades, building. While some may find all development objectionable, the fact remains that it is a necessary part of a community and economy. I hope we can keep this in mind as we continue to discuss our Town Plan.
The Town is engaged in a discussion about the future: whether we should endeavor to grow or continue policies that have kept our population almost unchanged since the year 2000. I think that most residents of this Town want Shelburne to be a community that is welcoming of new residents because the Town has innumerable benefits to offer: great schools, public utilities, a stellar police force, a great community, beautiful conserved land, and public spaces, in close proximity to our state’s economic center. I support such language in our Town Plan.
Since 2000, Shelburne’s population has increased by only 200, and Shelburne is older by far than the general population of Chittenden County. Did you know that the last decade was the first since at least 1950 where more residents passed away than were born (we had 676 deaths and 594 births)? Furthermore, we have not come close to meeting the new housing construction goals set by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. The broader community has asked us to participate more, and we have declined the request.
Our housing is so expensive that the young, dynamic, and energetic families that will keep our community growing are going elsewhere: Milton, Colchester, Georgia. Should people need to live 40 minutes from their work to be able to afford a home? Is this the stewardship of our natural resources I hear so much about? By holding over 50 percent of the Town’s land as open space, we are not benefiting the environment. We are pushing growth further from employment. We are forcing development to occur in towns 30-40 miles from Burlington, where it is still taking valuable open land, just further from where people work.
So how is it that we best care for and develop our community? We all want to see the land we look at preserved and open (and 30 percent, or 4,680 acres, are already permanently conserved), but I want to make a suggestion: start the conversation by discussing how the Town Plan will affect others. Community is a balance; we can want to keep Shelburne for ourselves, but being responsible members of our community and our environment requires that we share it.
Let’s create policies that create growth and new homes that attract younger buyers and keep our aging population from having to move out of Town. Let’s welcome new, young residents and build them a home that they dream of–much like the homes many of you have. Those proposing change should never be vilified, as if all those involved are bad people, producing a bad end. Rather, we should hear all proposals, evaluate the benefits to the Town, and make informed and factual decisions.
I think the Town will benefit not by the rigid adherence to any specific plan but by the reasoned debate of specific proposals, no matter what land they involve. Let’s take the time to listen to what is offered and then decide if it is good for the community and what restrictions the community wants to place on the proposal. Let’s create a plan that is receptive to proposals that grow our community. Remember that if we have specific concerns, we can fix them with regulation.
Andrew Gill, Shelburne