Manchester, VT Community Vision

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Manchester, VT, US

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Type: Program

Status: Enacted

More Information:


The Manchester Planning and Zoning Program works to create guidelines that are consistent with the Town's sustainable development vision: preserving Manchester's "village" atmosphere; protecting its scenic, historic and natural beauty; and recognizing that the Town's beauty and abundant natural resources serve as the economic base for the community.

In November 1994 the Town of Manchester produced "A Community Vision for Manchester," which outlines the community's development priorities. Produced with the input of numerous individuals, agencies and organizations, this vision outlines a strategy to avoid the urban sprawl, traffic and congestion that have come to characterize many growing U.S. communities.

"We realize that the commercial and residential growth potential of Manchester is finite," offers the Community Vision for Manchester. "We believe that we should work to shape Manchester's growth toward an optimum size and density which, while preserving and enhancing our economic vitality, does not stretch beyond the point where it destroys the very essence of the qualities of life we cherish." To achieve this optimum size, development is strictly limited. When it is allowed, it is only where both the natural and man-made infrastructure can support it, thus contributing to efficient land use from a natural and human point of view.

"From our perspective, responsible governance, growth, and development must protect and enhance the natural and built environments. Short-term gains that ignore long-term costs are not tolerated here," says Lee A. Krohn, Planning Director.

It is this long-term view that has enabled Manchester to dismiss the incorrect notion that sound development must strike a balance between the environment and the economy. Rather, by recognizing that a healthy environment provides the job base, it becomes clear that it is in everyone's best interest for development to occur only when such development will not threaten the environment -- and hence, the job base -- over the long term.

In writing the planning and zoning regulations, Manchester has developed diverse partnerships within the community to maximize effectiveness, minimize conflict and avoid duplication of services. In addition, this diversity encourages constant review of the Town's planning and zoning approach, creating a flexible, responsive planning agency.

Manchester's current plan and bylaws specify a strict regulatory approach, with an emphasis on control and constraint. The Town is now are now working on changes that will balance that ledger with guidelines that provide encouragement and incentives to create desired results. The Town hopes that this change will foster an even more cooperative and positive approach to development control, while ensuring greater satisfaction of municipal goals.

"What we do know is that planning and zoning are not impediments to economic progress; rather, they are critical and integral to that progress," says Krohn.

Program Highlights:
Manchester's planning and zoning plan is based upon Manchester's Community Vision, which sets out the following priorities:


  • The members of the Manchester community will demonstrate their care for each other and their visitors through personal actions in support of: social, cultural, spiritual and recreational services; neighbors in need; group volunteer efforts; community organizations; diversity of backgrounds and ideas; economic vitality; and business ethics.
  • The community will seek to improve the level of education avaialable to its youth and work force, and will anticipate and prepare for an aging population by developing facilities, services and programs for the elderly.


  • All human development will blend carefully with the topography and vegetation, preserving greenery, rock formations, and natural and scenic views.
  • Tree lines and specified species of shade trees will be planted and continue to proliferate.
  • More green space will be created between streets and sidewalks and between sidewalks and buildings.


  • The "village" concept in which pastoral lands gradually give way to residential areas which in turn blend into commercial centers will be preserved.
  • Commercial, social and civic activities will be concentrated in the town core.
  • The historic qualities of Manchester Village will be preserved.


  • Downtown development will be pedestrian-oriented and human in scale.
  • Prevailing "suburban" development patterns in which buildings are sited to accommodate the automobile will be discouraged.
  • Historic buildings and districts will be preserved.

Transportation and Circulation

  • An efficient and safe park-and-walk environment will be maintained.
  • A network of sidewalks, walkways, and bicycle paths will connect all parts of town. These pathways will link Town with Village, residential areas with recreation, commercial, government and essential services.
  • Automobile-centered development will be discouraged.
  • Parking areas will be attractive and well-integrated into the walkway system.

Town Economy

  • Recreation, hospitality and arts will be recognize as the basis of the Manchester economy and as such will be protected and nurtured. In attracting businesses to the area, the creation and maintenance of jobs whose pay scale is at a level capable of supporting a family will be a priority.
  • Partnerships between schools and the business community will be promoted to develop hospitality and service-excellence training programs, and other job programs, for all citizens.
  • Investments in town infrastructure and private services will be made to permit the attraction of electronic technology-dependent businesses.
  • The commercial core will remain tightly contained. Additional development will occur immediately adjacent to the core, marginally "fattening" it rather than elongating it along a strip.

Vital Statistics:

Program Management/Partnerships: The Manchester Planning and Zoning Program is managed by the Town of Manchester and has chartered partnerships with numerous diverse organizations and agencies, from the Fire Department, to the Garden Club, to the Chamber of Commerce, to the Vermont Land Trust. The program relies on the support of dozens of local volunteers.

Budget: The budget for fiscal 1996-1997 is $126,000.

Community Served: The residents of the Town of Manchester, visitors to the community, and similar communities who wish to adopt appropriate sustainability provisions from Manchester's development plan.

Measures of Success:

  • Publication of "A Community Vision for Manchester" in November 1994, outlining Manchester's planning, zoning, and community priorities.
  • The "undevelopment" of an auto dealership in the heart of the downtown into a Town Green.
  • Creation of a bike path linking community facilities with a broader greenways network.