by Andrew Martin
Towns wishing to learn just how resilient their communities are, now have a new tool at their disposal to do so.
On April 24 the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) released the Resilient Communities Scorecard (RCS), a device that enables communities to determine how economically, environmentally, and socially resilient they are. The scorecard is the first in Vermont that examines the resiliency of towns to possible economic downturn, natural disaster, or other changes.
“Knowing how your community stacks up is the first step in developing goals, actions, and investment strategies to build or reinforce community resilience in a changing world,” said Kate McCarthy, VNRC’s Sustainable Communities Director in a press release issued by the council on the scorecard. Most towns have not yet filled it out, so scores cannot yet be had, nor can areas of competency or absences be noted as yet.
In the release McCarthy also went on to note that towns in Vermont are not only facing a changing climate but also rising energy costs, a lack of affordable housing, and the fragmentation of the landscape. The goal of the RCS is to help “communities understand how to build resilience across all of these areas in order to help sustain their quality of place and save towns money over the long term.”
“The scorecard is another tool that could be very beneficial to communities as they work through town plan updates and bylaws and evaluate the town goals,” commented Taylar Foster, the Regional Planner at the Lamoille County Planning Commission.
The term ‘community resilience’ came into popular use in Vermont in 2011 after the spring floods and Tropical Storm Irene. However, before long it became clear that the term applied to more than just a community’s ability to recover from flooding or other disaster.
Since that time the VNRC has been developing the scorecard, which can be used by planning commissions, selectboards, conservation commissions, and other regional or town groups. The 48-page scorecard offers questions with multiple choice answers in 12 different categories or checklists. The RCS categories focus on key areas such as land use, transportation, energy, and healthy community design.
After the answers in each category are scored a town receives one of three ratings for that category. The highest rating is ‘Resilient Community’, the second is ‘In Transition’, and the third is ‘Needs Your Attention’. The basic idea behind the RCS is that if a town knows where it stands with regards to these areas community leaders can then begin to develop goals and plans that will help to build or reinforce their community’s resilience for the future. For this reason the three ratings that a town can receive then connect the community to resources available that can help to improve resilience.
“This scorecard is a useful tool to help Vermont communities think creatively about how to make investments today that will help us survive, and even thrive, in the face of the uncertainty caused by climate change,” stated Deb Markowitz, the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
“It prompts us to rethink how we build, or rebuild, our transportation infrastructure, how we get and deliver our energy, where and how we grow our communities and preserve or restore ecosystems, and how we create greater economic opportunities for ourselves and our neighbors,” Markowitz continued.
The RCS can be found online in the “tools” section of the VNRC’s Community Planning Toolbox at http://vnrc.org/resources/community-planning-toolbox/. Hard copies are available at the offices of the Lamoille County Planning Commission, and a limited number are also available at the VNRC offices at 9 Bailey Ave, Montpelier.