In January, 2012, Essex was awarded a two year planning grant from the Orton Family Foundation. Shortly after the grant was awarded, a non-profit organization called the Heart & Soul of Essex was formed to carry out the work. During the grant, we engaged over 1,000 people in a conversation about the future of Essex.
We learned that despite a wide variety of opinions and ideas, there are few key things that matter most. We value our connections with each other. Our neighborly traditions keep us safe, sustain us during challenging times and bring us together for celebration and fun. We see ourselves as a community that values education and learning. We want to be a welcoming place and aspire to become more culturally aware as our community becomes more diverse. We take pride in many community assets, including our highly regarded schools, libraries and recreation departments. We want to see these institutions continue to improve. We value the urban and rural mix that makes up Essex. We want to see balanced future growth, which includes a diverse mix of housing options, economic development and conservation of open space. We hope for improved infrastructure that will ease traffic, increase our safety and connect all parts of the community together. We are especially passionate about the prospect of a well-connected system of sidewalks and bike paths throughout all of Essex.
Coordinated planning efforts that reflect the community vision and values in land use planning and municipal work
A culture that encourages and supports residents who want to participate in the civic life of our community
A landscape that reflects local values
The Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction are overlapping municipalities grappling with how their futures fit together. For more than 50 years, residents of the two municipalities have debated the merits of merging or separating. Governing boards, committees and municipal services coordinate to varying degrees, though much of these entities still function separately, including planning. Spearheaded by a network of local partners, residents of the Town (from inside and outside the Village) are undertaking a joint visioning process to find common ground. The question is not whether to merge or separate, but how they can work together to lay the groundwork for an enduring future.