BRATTLEBORO -- After three years, countless meetings and input from hundreds of Brattleboro residents, the town has released a draft version of the proposed Town Plan.
The Planning Commission has scheduled two information sessions, and then a final public hearing before the plan will be turned over to the Selectboard for final approval.
The Selectboard will then hold its own hearings before voting on the document.
Town Planner Sue Fillion said the information sessions and hearings will give residents a final chance to weigh in on the plan which will drive Selectboard decisions for the next 10 years.
"We decided to schedule the information sessions to give the public a chance to engage with the plan," Fillion said. "We want people to take the time to go through the chapters and give us feedback and ask questions."
Information sessions are planned for Aug. 13, at 6 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room, and then for Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. in the West Brattleboro Fire Department.
The final public hearing in front of the Planning Commission will be held Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room.
If the Town Plan is approved on Aug. 22, then the Selectboard will hold two additional hearings before voting to approve the plan.
"It is still a draft document," Fillion said. "There are still plenty of opportunities to comment, and for the Planning Commission to make changes."
The Brattleboro Town
The plan is also used by the Selectboard to make decisions about municipal services and facilities and to develop economic development strategies.
The current Town Plan was adopted by the Selectboard in June 2003 and amended in 2004.
The master plan for Putney Road was incorporated into the Town Plan in 2006, and then in 2008 the West Brattleboro master plan was incorporated.
The seven-member Brattleboro Planning Commission voted to pass the draft plan on to the Selectboard at its July 9 meeting.
Former Planning Commission Chairman Gary Goodemote said public input has been strong, even all the way back to the advisory group that met before the Planning Commission began tackling the Town Plan.
Goodemote's most recent four-year term on the Planning Commission expired less than two weeks before the commission approved the draft, though he was involved with rewriting the plan for the past three years.
The town is required to adopt a new town plan every 10 years.
Early in the process Goodemote said the commission made the decision to make the new town plan more accessible than previous versions.
Modern printing and graphic technologies allowed the Planning Commission to produce a document that is easier to read and access and he said he hopes the final plan will be used throughout town government, as well as by residents and regional organizations.
"We wanted to produce something that people would use," he said. "There was a lot of input from people throughout the community and we feel like many groups around Brattleboro were represented."
Goodemote also said major, historic events of the past few years had profound impacts on the final version.
The Brooks House Fire forced the commission to consider housing issues more directly and the string of pedestrian deaths made the commission take a second look at chapters on traffic and pedestrian and bicycle safety.
The recession allowed the commission to look at economic development issues with a clear and critical eye.
And Tropical Storm Irene had an affect on environmental, housing and development chapters.
"There were a lot of big issues that came up while we were working on this," Goodemote said. "We wanted to make sure we took our time with this and didn't rush it."
Goodemote echoed Fillion in saying that while it has been three years, the Town Plan is not yet done.
He hopes the public continues to come out in the coming months to support and offer input.
And even after it is adopted by the Selectboard, he said, the plan will only be as strong as the public that puts its recommendations to work.
"It was a great effort to get this far and I hope that continues," Goodemote said. "The Town Plan is never really finished. It is not a finishing point. It is part of a process. It should be a jumping off point."
The draft Town Plan is available on the town's website.
There are also copies to read in the planning office and at Brooks Memorial Public Library.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.