Newport to Host State Planners Conference

NEWPORT CITY – For the first time ever, the Vermont Planners Association will hold its state conference in Newport. The conference will be at the Gateway Center on Friday, Oct. 20. The conference will include a workshop that is primarily for municipal and other land use planners, but community leaders are also invited to attend. The topic of discussion is Complete Streets, which is a new requirement enacted by the state legislature that ensures roads are safe for all users. “This is an important topic for community health and livability,” said Faith Ingulsrud, planning coordinator for the Community, Planning and Revitalizing Division of the Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development. Guest speaker is Dan Burden, an internationally recognized authority on livable and sustainable communities, healthy streets, traffic calming, and bicycle and pedestrian programs. He is co-founder and executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute based in Port Townsend, WA.The meeting will also look at how Newport can improve the downtown area, specifically Main Street. The primary focus is how to make it safer and more interesting as far as streetscape is concerned.The Vermont Planners Association may bring in a representative from Project for Public Spaces (PPS). PPS, based in New York, works with individuals and communities to create a vision around the places that they view as important to community life and their daily experience.Trish Sears, Executive Director for the Newport Renaissance Corporation, said the conference is a big deal and Newport is being recognized as a state leader.“We decided to go to Newport because Newport has been doing some interesting things with their form based zoning and they’ve been working on streetscape planning for their town down,” said Ingulsrud. “People have been hearing about Newport.”Form based code zoning is an economic driver and promotes mixed use of properties, Sears said. It makes it easier for developers to obtain permits. Meeting participants will talk about new innovative ideas, Newport Zoning Administrator Paul Dreher said. He also said Newport is doing things other communities want to do.“Newport is on the showcase,” he said, "...and we’ve been building momentum. We have a good track record at this point.The Vermont Planner’s Association annual meeting will follow the conference, Ingulsrud said.Having the conference in Newport is a recognition of the work that Sears, Dreher and others have been doing over the past several years.