The Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) and Towns of Clarendon and Rutland are studying the portion of US 7 from the southern Rutland City border on the North to the intersection of Route 103 on the south for a Corridor Management Plan (CMP). This corridor's selection is rooted in the RRPC's goals of assisting the towns with development and the related traffic impacts and of working with developers to create better projects which serve the needs of the corridor's multiple users.
The CMP is being creatively and collaboratively prepared. An advisory group of community leaders, local officials, businesses and residents are working to develop a common vision and strategies which address the concerns of their constituents. The product of the study will be a comprehensive plan for the corridor that includes transportation facilities and services, land use and development policies and strategies that can be incorporated in local and regional plans and local zoning regulations, site specific design alternatives and an implementation and funding schedule. It is a critical time for this corridor as vacant and agricultural land is being converted and the complexity of issues is expanding.
The Corridor Management Plan will provide a benchmark for coordinated review of future Act 250 applications, supplement the on-going Western Corridor Management Plan as an in-depth analysis of a critical area and inform the development community of the transportation initiatives acceptable to the towns, the region, and the state.
A Corridor Management Plan is for US Route 7 south from the Rutland City line [approximately Cold River Road] through Rutland Town and Clarendon to the intersection with Route 103. Centrally located in the Rutland Region, this artery's character and scale of development has intensified within the past decade and continues at an unprecedented pace. Vacant and agricultural land is being converted to commercial uses and as growth continues southward, it is critical that a common vision and strategies be developed to address the transportation needs of the multiple present and future users of the corridor.
Within the past two years in Rutland Town, the Green Mountain Plaza has expanded to include three new big box stores and a supermarket. A new hotel and a fast food restaurant have also begun operations in the same general area. Two other developments, another fast food restaurant and a new drive through bank have recently received Act 250 permits. Another proposed development, including a 70,000 sq. ft. in-line shopping center and two restaurants totaling 12,500 sq. ft., is in the Act 250 process.
The Rutland Town Plan shows this area as Industrial/Commercial and considers it the growth area for the Town. The Clarendon Town Plan, similarly, identifies their portion of this corridor as Residential/Commercial. There is - and has been for some time - an automobile dealership at the intersection with Route 103; the Airport Industrial Park is a short distance from this intersection and a proposal has been floated for a large commercial complex at this same intersection.
The Rutland Regional Transportation Plan identifies this route as a principal arterial and notes that, for the future, improved management of existing facilities is needed, which includes access management practices and other transportation demand management strategies. The portion of Route 7 being considered for the corridor management plan is designated as a high density development area on the Rutland Regional Plan's Future Land Use Map.
The Towns of Rutland and Clarendon are interested in preserving US7's travel capacity and safety while maximizing economic development/land access along or to the highway. High quality development depends upon efficient traffic operations; both towns recognize the need for collaboration and for a comprehensive study to identify the means to achieve this goal and both would be involved throughout.
Meetings were held with key officials in Rutland Town and with the Clarendon and Rutland Town Selectboards to assess their interest. The support is strong; the Towns recognize that their involvement, along with others, is critical.
Rutland Town's Selectboard and Planning Commission Chairs have noted their frustration with having to have each Act 250 project along the corridor go through seemingly duplicative traffic studies. Meeting with the Regional Planning Commission, they welcomed the idea of an independent consultant study of the corridor.
The Clarendon Selectboard was presented with the concept and held a public meeting prior to a regular Selectboard meeting to assess citizen interest. They subsequently passed a resolution to participate in the study and agreed that with development spreading southward, proactive planning is important.
As noted above under "Growth Impacts" the proposed future land use for the proposed corridor in both town plans and zoning regulations includes commercial uses; the Regional Plan designates this area for a high level of development.
Rutland Town and Clarendon have representatives on bot the Regional Planning Commission and Regional Transportation Council. They are active in planning on both the local and regional levels. Both communities have Town Plans, as noted; Clarendon has a zoning regulation and Rutland Town is in the process of adopting one. As development continues both towns see the need to coordinate their land use and transportation, to create good developments with access that complements the function of the highway and takes full advantage of existing infrastructure.
Clarendon's Town Plan was adopted in May 2007 and states "the future land use pattern promoted by this plan is compatible with those of Clarendon's neighbors. However, a few areas of potential conflict do exist and should be monitored on a continuing basis." One example includes the town boundary between land designated industrial and commercial by Rutland Town and land designated residential and commercial by Clarendon. A CMP developed by both towns will ensure a coordinated approach to development and land use.
Rutland Town adopted its plan September 2007; it notes the relation between land use and transportation and that "transportation improvements provide greater accessibility to certain parcels of land and this increases the likelihood they will be developed. As land use becomes more intense, the amount of travel generated increases, which spurs demand for additional transportation improvements." The Town has recently completed public hearings on a zoning regulation. Selectboard action is likely within the near future.
As noted above under "Growth Impacts" the proposed future land use for the proposed corridor in both town plans and the regional plan is for a high level of development. Staff from the RRPC will coordinate the CMP planning process and both Towns will have representatives on the advisory group, involved in the entire process from the RFP to the final document preparation.