Community Discussion Lists: A Way Out of Partisanship?

In these contentious times, when civility, useful information, and real communication seems to be frequently missing from the big social media platforms, it is pretty wonderful to have a local resource where we can learn what is happening in our local towns.

The Community Discussion Lists are just that. Hosted by Vital Communities, they allow members of a community to post and respond to email messages about town events, notices about town government, questions for the school board, recycling announcements, items for sale, questions about lost or found pets, etc. They are a great way to keep up with what’s happening, and to see everyone in the community interacting in this local, non-partisan way that exemplifies small-town New England.

During the pandemic, the lists have also been a lifeline – a resource on how to find assistance and support for those in need as a result of health concerns or economic disruption.

In the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2020, there were over 43,000 subscribers to 42 lists in the Upper Valley. Subscribers posted over 115,000 messages over that period.

The intent is to keep the discussions about each town. A post that concerns more than one town should be posted on the Upper Valley Discussion List. The full guidelines are on the Vital Communities website and at the end of every morning’s “Digest,” but the big ones are: keep it local, keep it civil, and don’t post anonymously. 

The key here is that individual subscribers are responsible for their content. Vital Communities doesn’t control the content distributed through the list. Nor do town governments. The lists are moderated after the fact by community volunteers supported by VC. With the exception of one list, posts are not screened before they go to the digest. Accomplishing this across all lists would be an impossible task, given the number of lists, users and postings daily. We can only moderate after the fact, usually by restricting the offenders’ posting privileges or outright banning a particular party.

Of course, that gets messy sometimes. One person recently anonymously posted some inflammatory political views. The moderators took care of it pretty quickly, as they do. When you see posts like that, it’s best to forward it to the moderator, rather than post about it on the list – especially as one objective of “trolls” is to hijack list discussions.

The Community Discussion Lists are our own, volunteer driven, locally managed, nonprofit social media. They can be a terrific antidote to the impersonal partisan bickering that happens elsewhere on the internet. But they need care and tending by all of us to be the community resource we all want them to be.

Vital Communities is grateful for the many people who help defray the expense of administering the Lists by making an annual or monthly gift (you can restrict the gift to Communities Discussion Lists if you wish). People can support the Lists by contributing here [https://vitalcommunities.org/donate/waystogive/].

Rob Schultz, Coordinator, Community Discussion Lists, Vital Communities

 

Upper Valley Housing, 2010-2019: The Numbers Are In

How many and what kind of homes are we creating in our region? Vital Communities and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Commission partnered with 29 towns to measure the numbers, types, and values of homes created since 2010, with a look ahead at the next few years.

Click these links for the summary of results, and the details by town.

The study will help planners and municipalities size up the kinds of partnerships needed to meet our region’s housing demands, and include more communities and residents in the effort – which encompasses everything from big-dollar multi-unit new development to individual homeowners adding accessory dwelling units.

Some of the chief findings are:

  • The number of new places to live created in 2019 was about the average rate for the last 10 years: 221 units in 2019 compared to an average rate of 248.
  • New places to live over the past 10 years are about evenly split between single-family and multi-family homes.
  • The majority of units added over the past 10 years were assessed at under $300,000.
  • Based on an analysis of building permits issued in some towns, about 6 percent of permits were for replacing or adding an additional dwelling unit to an existing structure.
  • Partnerships of employers, developers, finance, municipalities are making large projects possible.

Contact Mike Kiess Mike@VitalCommunities.org with questions, and learn more at https://vitalcommunities.org/workforce-housing/

The 29 towns that were studied (about three-fourths of Vital Communities’ service area) are:
In New Hampshire:
Charlestown
Claremont
Enfield
Grantham
Hanover
Haverhill
Lebanon
Lempster
Newbury
New London
Newport
Plainfield
Springfield
Sunapee
In Vermont:
Bethel
Bradford
Fairlee
Hartford
Hartland
Newbury
Norwich
Randolph
Rockingham
Royalton
Springfield
Thetford
Weathersfield
West Windsor

Windsor

Hartford Dollars Sell Out in Two Days!

Buyers gobbled up $18,000 worth of Hartford Dollars within just days of the new “currency” going on sale! And organizers hope it’s only the start of more and stronger trends and programs toward keeping dollars local.

Hartford Dollars give the bearer a 50 percent discount at more than 40 participating businesses throughout Hartford. Offered in $30 and $50 values sold for $15 and $25, respectively, they are a  COVID recovery project jointly coordinated by the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, the Town of Hartford, and Hartford Development Corporation and partially funded with federal funds through the State of Vermont. 

A total value of $18,000 Hartford dollars went on sale on Friday, October 16, and by end of Sunday had been purchased by approximately 200 people. Those buyers have until November 30 to use the dollars at any of the participating businesses. The dollars may not be used to purchase tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, tax, or tips. No change will be given for Hartford Dollars. 

The program’s organizers hope to find funding to extend the program and perhaps help other communities launch similar programs, said Lori Hirschfield, director of planning and development for the Town of Hartford. “I know there are lots of people in the Upper Valley that want to support local businesses so keep doing that even if you don’t have local currency,” said Hirschfield.

We are thrilled at the response and already hearing lots of great stories about people using their Hartford Dollars,” she said. “We started this as novices, thinking it might take a week or so to get the word out.  The sell-out in less than 48 hours shows us how much this is needed and desired by consumers and businesses.”

At Vital Communities, the project is part of a network of initiatives aimed at encouraging Upper Valley residents to buy from locally owned businesses – a practice that contributes money to the local economy at a rate up to 4 times that of chains and online vendors, according to a recent study commissioned by Vital Communities.

“In addition to shining a light on Hartford businesses, we want to underscore the need for people to keep their dollars – Hartford Dollars and regular currency – in the Upper Valley, to support the businesses that we love and help them make it through the pandemic,” said Nancy LaRowe, manager of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy initiative. “They contribute to our unique downtowns, create stable jobs, give expert service, and give back to the community in many ways,  including generous donations of time, money, and products. And they have adapted in so many ways to help the community during the pandemic. This is a chance to help them hang in there.”

Many Upper Valley small businesses have been devastated by the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Vital Communities, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Hartford partners created the program to increase foot traffic and sales for struggling businesses, using a Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

Hartford Dollars can be spent at any of these participating businesses: BE Fit Physical Therapy, Cloverleaf Jewelers, Deirdre Donnelly Jewelry Art, Dynamic Natural Athletes, Elixir Restaurant, Fat Hat Clothing Co, Flourish, Beauty Lab, Jake’s Market & Deli, JUEL Modern Apothecary, Little Istanbul. Living the Dream Alpaca Farm, Long River Gallery, Massage Eminence, Northern Stage, Open Door Integrative Wellness, Piecemeal Pies (shown above), Pizza Chef, POST., Public House at Quechee Gorge., Public House Diner Quechee, Raq-On Dance, LLC, Revolution, Scavenger gallery, Scout Hair Design, Small Batch Design Company, LLC, Stern’s Quality Produce, Steven Thomas, Inc., Strafford Saddlery, Sugarbush Farm, Sunrise Farm, The Collection, The Skinny Pancake – Quechee, The Uncommon Home LLC, Thyme, Trail Break taps + tacos, Tuckerbox, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Upper Valley Yoga, Valley Flower Company, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Wicked Awesome BBQ, and Wolf Tree.

 

Community Conversations: Resilience Through Local Food Security

A community conversation about increasing resilience through local food production and working lands

Join Vital Communities, Land for Good, and other partners to talk about the working lands that feed and sustain our community in a series of three virtual forums in New Hampshire titled “Community Resilience through Local Food Security.” Each forum focuses on a different region within New Hampshire and involves specific to that region.

The pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of local farms and working lands. Hear from neighbor farmers about their land challenges and successes and learn about land access tools from Land for Good.

Connect with your neighbors and farmers as we break in smaller groups to talk about the nut and bolts of increasing productive farmland in the region, how to increase resilience through local food security, and how farms are adapting to climate change.

October 20, 6:30-8 pm: Lebanon/Mascoma Valley

Join the Hanover Co-op Food Stores and local farmers.

Register here

 

October 27, 6:30-8 pm: Kearsarge Region

Join the Kearsarge Food Hub, Spring Ledge Farm, and others.

Register here

 

November 2, 6:30-8 pm: Claremont/Newport area

Join Beaver Pond Farm, the Upper Valley Land Trust, and others.

Register here.

Downtown vs. Out-of-Town: Community Conversations

Which uses of our land provide the best economic returns to our towns? The answers might surprise you.

Developing big parcels of land on the fringes of town as malls, big-box stores, or suburban tracts? No.

Building up existing downtowns with mixed uses – residential, commercial, social services, and more? Yes. Acre for acre, this type of development raises more property tax revenue and requires less new infrastructure for taxpayers to pay for. In addition, mixed-use downtown development can have positive implications for climate change, public health, historic preservation and community architectural “character,” and social equity.

This broad issue is explored in a series of engaging, accessible, virtual presentations featuring renowned planner Joe Minicozzi of the North Carolina-based firm Urban3, The series began with the session From the Outskirts to DowntownTaxes, Land Use & Land Value Analysis of 15 New Hampshire Communities, on Thursday, October 15, 10 am. Watch the video here. The first 20 minutes are a great introduction to why this information should affect our choices.

Minicozzi is following the statewide session with presentations focused on the communities that were studied, including a session focusing on Lebanon, Claremont, and Hanover, on Thursday, October 29, 11 am.  Register for this free LOCAL event.

Urban3 derived its findings by analyzing the property tax revenues of Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Exeter, Hanover, Hudson, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Nashua, Pelham, Peterborough, Portsmouth, and Rochester. Minicozzi, the principal of Urban3, is an urban planner who utilizes new ways to think about and visualize land use, urban design, and economics.

By using these data to create 3D visualizations, Urban3’s analysis reveals the potential for improving the fiscal health of each of these 15 communities. The visuals show what types of development create the greatest tax return for communities, and create a clear and data-driven understanding of the economics of place. Communities can use these findings as a tool to make public policy adjustments, with the goal of creating long-term financial resiliency.

The Lebanon-Claremont-Hanover conversation will drill down from the statewide picture presented on October 15. Analysis, charts, and observations of data for each of the three towns will be presented. A panel with planning officials from each of the towns and the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission will provide local context and answer questions in a facilitated discussion.

The series aims to give participants another way to look at how we use our land, and the implications for local health, prosperity, climate, and social equity. They should be able to use the information to make choices that enable and protect what they value in their local communities. Although the data was derived from studying particular New Hampshire communities, residents and officials of towns of all sizes can gain valuable insight from this discussion.
Questions to be explored include:
  • What are the financial implications of different land uses, and how can this knowledge help us make and implement good decisions for our homes, businesses, schools, and other needs?
  • Who really pays for infrastructure and its continued maintenance?
  • How can we preserve and replicate the homes and buildings we appreciate most, that give our communities character, and offer the greatest benefits to the public as a whole?

 

 

50% Off When You Shop in Hartford

Support the Hartford businesses you love and boost our local economy with “Hartford Dollars”—a special “currency” that gives you a 50 percent discount at more than 40 participating businesses throughout Hartford.

Hartford Dollars can be purchased in $30 and $50 values for $15 and $25, respectively. They can be obtained online at the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce website and at select days and times at the Quechee Gorge Visitors Center. If you purchase them online, you simply print out your Hartford Dollars (each with a unique QR code), and pay with your printed out Dollars at participating Hartford businesses.

Many Upper Valley small businesses have been devastated by the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Vital Communities, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Hartford partners created the program to increase foot traffic and sales for struggling businesses, using a Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

Hartford Dollars can be spent at any of these participating businesses: BE Fit Physical Therapy, Cloverleaf Jewelers, Deirdre Donnelly Jewelry Art, Dynamic Natural Athletes, Elixir Restaurant, Fat Hat Clothing Co, Flourish, Beauty Lab, Jake’s Market & Deli, JUEL Modern Apothecary, Little Istanbul. Living the Dream Alpaca Farm, Long River Gallery, Massage Eminence, Northern Stage, Open Door Integrative Wellness, Piecemeal Pies, Pizza Chef, POST., Public House at Quechee Gorge., Public House Diner Quechee, Raq-On Dance, LLC, Revolution, Scavenger gallery, Scout Hair Design, Small Batch Design Company, LLC, Stern’s Quality Produce, Steven Thomas, Inc., Strafford Saddlery, Sugarbush Farm, Sunrise Farm, The Collection, The Skinny Pancake – Quechee, The Uncommon Home LLC, Thyme, Trail Break taps + tacos, Tuckerbox, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Upper Valley Yoga, Valley Flower Company, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Wicked Awesome BBQ, and Wolf Tree.

Hartford Dollars need to be spent by November 30 and may not be used to purchase tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, tax, or tips. No change will be given for Hartford Dollars. 

Keep your dollars where your heart is and support the more than 40 participating businesses in the many commerce areas of Hartford: Downtown White River Junction, Route 5 and Sykes Mountain Avenue, Quechee, West Hartford, Wilder, White River Junction, and Hartford. Look for the Hartford Dollars decal and posters!

Hartford Dollars is a  COVID recovery project jointly coordinated by the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, the Town of Hartford, and Hartford Development Corporation and partially funded with federal funds through the State of Vermont.