After a year and a half of community input and involvement, the process of writing the 2024 Town Plan is in the home stretch. Residents first came together in January 2023 in listening sessions throughout Essex to offer their thoughts on what the Town of Essex can be, and ways in which to continue building a community that is connected, diverse, inclusive, sustainable, and a joy to live in. Overall community developed themes were expressed across a variety of categories and topics in different ways:
- For example, in the realm of Development, residents named affordable housing as a top priority. It is important to note, however, that residents wanted the development review process to consider the broader impacts of development on the community as a whole, as well as to pay attention to the aesthetics of development.
- In the realm of Economic Development specifically, the community emphasis was on creating and sustaining a variety of local businesses.
- With respect to Conservation and Climate and Agriculture, residents sought to preserve a sustainable working landscape that could provide both food security for all and economic diversity, as well as to preserve and promote biodiversity in those truly undeveloped parts of town. Both were seen as bulwarks against climate change, and residents expressed a preference for both regulations and so-called green incentives to bring this about. In addition, conservation was also seen as meaning the preservation of open space and scenic views.
- When it comes to Infrastructure, the generalized desire for connectivity was strongly expressed as a desire for infrastructure that supports bicycle and pedestrian connectivity. There were also concerns about lack of car connectivity and attendant travel times.
- Regarding Recreation, the common theme was “opportunities,” which can be taken to mean either an increase in the number of opportunities for recreation - such as more connections between trails in the town - or simply highlighting the current opportunities, such as Sand Hill Park or Saxon Hill. Whether that means more programs or more recreation space, townspeople want more opportunities to recreate in Essex.
These community developed themes are incorporated into the plan, shaping the content, goals, and action items.
The Planning Commission held their required public hearing in November and the Selectboard will hold two public hearings, the first on December 18 and the second on January 8. Both will be held at the municipal offices at 6:35 pm, and virtually at https://zoom.us/j/98785691140?pwd=WENqeFhITGVDS0Q5blROdkhuS3RkZz09. Essex voters will then have a chance to vote on the Town Plan on Town Meeting Day in March.
To view the 2024 Town Plan and find more out about the upcoming public hearings, visit the Town Plan webpage.