Inadequate Consideration of Growth’s True Cost within Communities Evident in John Bossange’s Futures Project

    The Impact of Growth on Vermont: A Closer Look at “Carrying Capacity”

    We often hear about the need for more workers, economic growth, and increased housing in Vermont. These issues are crucial for the future of our state. However, what is often missing from these discussions is the consideration of the impact of growth on our towns and cities. Without proper planning and understanding of “carrying capacity,” the desired growth can overwhelm our communities.

    “Carrying capacity” refers to the ability of a region to support a growing population while maintaining essential services and infrastructure. It includes factors such as the impact on schools, police, fire departments, public works, parks, intersections, and traffic control. It also entails ensuring adequate wastewater treatment and stormwater systems, access to clean drinking water, and expanding the fossil fuel gas and electrical grids.

    Unfortunately, a recent article from the Vermont Futures Project failed to address the concept of “carrying capacity” in its analysis of the necessary conditions for successful long-term growth. The article focused on increasing Vermont’s population from 649,150 to 802,000 by 2035, without accounting for the strain this growth would put on our communities.

    The assumptions made in the article are questionable at best. It proposes the need for 13,500 workers each year for the next 12 years, based on projected retirements and an expanded economy. However, the lack of clarity and specific details makes these numbers confusing and unconvincing.

    While there is a need for more housing, particularly affordable options, it is essential to consider the preferences of younger families. They are looking for homes in areas that offer natural beauty and access to undeveloped and conserved land. Young people are also passionate about environmental conservation and want to ensure a livable environment for future generations. Any successful recruitment or job growth must align with these priorities.

    The article suggests that building more housing is the key to attracting newcomers. However, it fails to emphasize responsible development within existing village, town, and city core areas. Young families seek communities with good schools, affordable homes, and easy access to amenities like bike and walking paths. If they cannot find these features, they are unlikely to choose Vermont, even if the job opportunities are enticing.

    Moreover, the proposal to increase the number of housing units from 269,527 to 350,000 raises concerns about the true “carrying capacity.” According to Vermont’s calculations, each new occupied home would add 2.35 people to the population. With 80,473 new homes being proposed, this would result in 189,111 more residents. Additionally, using the state’s formula for school enrollment projections, this would mean an additional 32,148 school-age children. Furthermore, the increased population would bring approximately 185,087 more cars to our small state. These figures have significant implications for our villages, towns, cities, and counties in terms of infrastructure strain and quality of life.

    It is important to question who stands to benefit the most from such growth. Readers should carefully consider the board of directors and major donors supporting the Vermont Futures Project. Transparency is needed to understand who shapes our vision and funds research that impacts our state.

    We must recognize that “carrying capacity” comes with a financial burden. Impact fees and increases in the tax base often fail to cover the true costs of development. As a result, taxpayers end up shouldering the burden through drastic increases in municipal and school tax rates. The historically documented consequences of growing populations and increased housing should prompt us to evaluate the “carrying capacity” of every new building permit request thoroughly.

    The Vermont Futures Project’s failure to address the concept of “carrying capacity” raises questions. The authors owe all Vermont residents an explanation for this omission. Town managers, selectboards, and city councils should reject the proposal, as they are the ones who understand the true impact and costs of growth in their communities.

    In conclusion, as we strive for economic growth, it is crucial to consider the impacts and costs associated with that growth. Planning for “carrying capacity” is essential to ensure the long-term sustainability and well-being of our towns and cities. As Vermont continues to evolve, we must prioritize responsible development and consider the preferences of younger generations who seek a balance between economic opportunity and a high quality of life.

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