Recent Awards


The Vermont Planners Association is pleased to announce the VPA Award recipients for 2016.

Montpelier, VT:  The Vermont Planners Association is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2016 planning awards.  For over 20 years, these awards continue to recognize outstanding achievement in community planning in Vermont. Nominees come from all corners of Vermont and represent the best in local, regional, and state planning by citizen and professional planners over the last year. The awards were presented on April 28, 2016, at 4:00 p.m. in the Vermont Statehouse’s Cedar Creek Room.
Described as an “accidental planner,” Robert Vasseur, of Fayston, Vermont, is recognized as the 2016 Citizen Planner of the Year, for his commitment to the Mad River Valley. Bob has spent a lifetime serving Fayston and the Mad River Valley. He is a founding member of the Mad River Valley Planning District and served on its Steering Committee for 20 years. For the last 57 years, Bob has also served on the Fayston Selectboard. “He really does represent so much good history of the Mad River Valley and Fayston in particular. He’s a wonderfully perceptive man,” said fellow Selectman Jared Cadwell. Selectboard members are often responsible for implementing local planning efforts and Bob has done just that. His “simple, direct, and honest” approach has been recognized as a way for him to change over time. During Fayston’s growth spurt in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Bob was there to oversee new growth and to ensure concerns about Fayston’s environment and rural character were heard. These values are leading Bob into a new kind of planning effort today as he works with other maple producers in the area on a sustainability and commercial sugaring endeavor. Fayston Planning Commission Chair Polly McMurtry says of her neighbor: “Bob feels strongly about his community and improving its quality of life, which is really the point of planning.” That’s no accident.

David E. White, AICP, City of Burlington Director of Planning and Zoning, is receiving the 2016 Mark Blucher Planner of the Year Award for professional planners.  David has been working as a professional planner in Vermont since 1989. His professional practice has provided service to Vermont communities diverse in area, wealth, character, and population. In his more than 20 years with the Burlington Planning and Zoning Department, David has quietly but significantly contributed in helping to maintain Burlington’s place as one of the country’s most livable and dynamic small cities. Says Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, “Under David’s leadership, the Planning & Zoning Office has helped cultivate community conversations with a dual purpose: to protect and preserve what is most loved in our City, and to prepare for the continued growth and change communities undergo.” His coworkers and other City Hall staff recognize him for his technical expertise, personal warmth, and genuine interest in assuring dissemination of factual information and broad public outreach. David has “a deep seated commitment to listening” and interest in promoting long-range planning, which makes his work on such projects as planBTV Downtown and Waterfront, planBTV South End, and the Downtown Parking Transportation and Management Plan so important. Across Northern New England and the East Coast, David’s planning colleagues recognize his expertise and personality. Fellow Burlington Planner Mary O’Neil adds, “By his example, demeanor, and quiet accomplishment, David inspires those with whom he works. He exemplifies the professional practice of planning.”

It’s not often a town plan is something the average resident picks up for light reading. The award for 2016 Plan of the Year goes to the overhauled 2016 Essex Town Plan. The award recognizes plans that exemplify a visionary approach and expand the envelope of planning principles. The originality of the Essex Town Plan lies in the simplicity of its layout, the quality of the narrative, the vividness of the visual experience, and the yearlong process of community engagement before writing began. The process included extensive outreach to residents of Essex not typically included in the community process, engaging over 1,000 members of Essex and Essex Junction. The plan integrates six core values developed from the 2012 – 2014 community planning Heart and Soul process. The six values, ranging from economy to education and safety, are integrated throughout the plan. The Essex Town Plan is also shorter and more concise than previous plans and includes an Action Plan in the first chapter. The Action Plan identifies a series of implementation activities outlining who will be involved, when the action will happen, and how it will be funded. The new format lends the plan to be reader-friendly, usable, and actionable!

The theme of public engagement continues with the 2016 Project of the Year Award for the Mad River Valley Economic Study and Vitality Series, commissioned by the Mad River Valley Planning District. The Mad River Valley (MRV) comprises three towns (Waitsfield, Warren, and Fayston), each with different goals and roles to play in the regional economy. Heavily influenced by mountain resort tourism and a legacy of agriculture, economic planning tended to look to the past rather than the future. Using three different consulting firms to guide the process, the Economic Study included quantitative information – data, statistics, and trends – but also gathered qualitative data through community conversations, online surveys, and an Economic Summit and Community Picnic where participants voted on community priorities for economic vitality. The resulting efforts included a Vision and Vitality Series held last fall that has resulted in an Economic Action Plan, launching the Mad River Valley communities forward through a continuing process of implementation and action. The community conversations have involved hundreds of residents, business owners, environmental organizations, and state agencies. Goals of the overall project are to increase greater economic vitality and resilience in the MRV through policy development and implementation.

Special thanks go to the New Hampshire Planners Association for its help in judging the Vermont Planners Association Awards this year.