The town of Essex and its village, Essex Junction, have separate governing bodies and are run as independent municipalities. But in many other ways the two entities form one community. Now, a diverse working group has been appointed to improve coordinated planning efforts for both Essex and Essex Junction.
This week the Essex Select Board and the Essex Junction Board of Trustees announced all 27 interested applicants have been appointed to a new working group called Thoughtful Growth in Action. According to a press announcement, the group includes residents of Essex from inside and outside the village, elected and appointed officials, planning and zoning staff as well as developers.
The present governance structure has separate planning commissions and zoning boards of adjustment for the town and village. The working group is tasked with exploring different planning governance models and making recommendations to the town and village.
“As the town of Essex and village of Essex Junction municipalities continue to identify better and more cost effective ways to deliver services to our community, it made sense for us to bring in a variety of community voices to evaluate our planning processes and identify ways to move toward a shared vision,” said Select Board Chairman Max Levy. “Our community members represent a mix of men and women, a range of ages, and bring a variety of backgrounds to the table. With so many different and diverse minds coming together in this group I am confident that better solutions will arise. I am very pleased that we have such a great group of willing community volunteers for this project.”
The new working group grew out of a two-year effort called Heart & Soul of Essex. The press announcement stated, "Thoughtful Growth emerged from Heart & Soul as one of the community’s top six values, and TGIA is based on the Heart & Soul belief that the community wants to move toward a shared Essex vision that simultaneously honors and builds on the unique characteristics of the village and the town outside the village."
"We're hoping to find common ground for town and village planning strategies that have evolved separately for many years," commented Village Trustees President George Tyler. "Integrating our community planning efforts will be a challenging but potentially hugely rewarding next step in the shared services initiative."
An orientation meeting of the working group is scheduled for Sept. 9 at Essex High School. The meeting will be followed by a community workshop "to confirm Essex residents’ desire to move toward a shared vision, educate about current planning governance, and engage in a conversation about how people would like to see planning governance improved."
The public is also invited to attend any of the working group's future meetings, which are scheduled for Sept. 30, Oct. 28, Nov. 18 and Dec. 9. The group is expected to finish its work by the end of the year.