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Open Letter to the Woodstock Community

(Note: the letter below appeared in the Vermont Standard on February 6, 2020)

An Open Letter to the Woodstock Community:

The Economic Development Commission, with the Select Board’s approval, has set its annual plans and budget for
2020. During the coming year we intend to implement a number of projects, large and small, that we believe will
advance Woodstock’s economy:


  • About 43 percent of our spending in 2020 (roughly $160,000) will be directed towards projects to improve the

physical amenities we enjoy, including two major projects – a complete renovation of Teagle’s Landing, and the
building of a 3-mile River Trail adjacent to the East End Park. Both have significant support from the community,
with Teagle’s Landing voted by the public as the number one priority for beautification and the Trail representing
the culmination of a decade of work to enhance outdoor recreation recommended by Woodstock’s 2006 Visioning
Project. Unlike many outdoor activities in Woodstock, the Trail will be extremely flat, hopefully allowing for a wider
audience to make use of it.

We believe that having these outdoor spaces and activities within walking distance of the center of the Village will
provide visitors and residents alike with very appealing options to exercise and relax; and this in turn will attract
new residents and help retain existing residents, thereby helping to grow our population and our economy.


In addition to these two projects, we’re planning on replacing one-third of the litter and recycling receptacles in the
Village with better-looking and longer-lasting alternatives. This was one of the highest priorities voted by the public
late last year, but the voting took place without knowledge of the actual cost of the project. Attractive steel
receptacles that are strong enough to last a long time are very expensive - $1,500 per container – and we wanted to
give the community an opportunity to opine on this option without first spending the entire budget for it. If the
community agrees, we’ll complete the project in 2021.


For all three projects to improve our physical amenities we’ll continue to hold public meetings to solicit community
input before the projects are implemented.


Finally, we will again fund the display of flowers (in the summer) and lighting (in the winter) that makes our village
so attractive.


  • About 25 percent of our spending (roughly $90,000) will go towards marketing Woodstock. We’ve had

excellent success in our marketing efforts in 2019, with a 46% growth in users of our website, a doubling of
our Instagram followers and a tripling of our Facebook followers during the year. Our funding in 2020 will
go towards website management, blogging, social media outreach, online advertising, a new “Asked Me
Why I Moved Here” tent for major events, and activities in the Welcome Center to help support the more
than 50,000 people who are expected to visit the Center in the coming year.

While it is always difficult to calculate the precise impact of marketing, anecdotally we believe our efforts
are making a difference, driving visitors to come to Woodstock and improving their experience while they
are here. In 2020 we’re going to invest time in analyzing our data in greater detail, to better focus our
marketing approaches.


  • About 15 percent of our budget ($50,000) will support the planning project for the new High School. Funding

public education is a core responsibility of local government, and we do not wish to supplant or diminish the
responsibility the Town has for funding our schools. But we were swayed by the powerful argument that having a
strong and vibrant school system was likely to be the single greatest factor that would grow the economy by
drawing new residents to Woodstock – particularly younger residents – and retaining the residents we have now.


  • We’re taking two steps to directly support the local business environment – we’ve reauthorized our Retail

Storefront Initiative (5% of our budget), which creates a financial incentive for new business owners who rent an
empty storefront, and we’re creating a Working Group to Support the Local Business Environment, which will
develop larger proposals in 2020 to introduce for funding next year – including a plan to address the impact on
Village merchants of the closure of Route 4 in 2021.


  • We’re also taking two steps to support our objective to increase housing supply and supporting services. First,

we’re establishing a Housing Working Group to examine the conclusions of the Housing Study and recommend
concrete plans we can fund and implement starting in 2021 to expand housing supply. We know lack of housing is
constraining the growth of our local businesses, and we will search diligently for ways to relax this constraint.


Second, we’ve made a grant to Woodstock Nursery to help them weather their move to a new and more expensive
location and to expand their faculty capacity. We believe that a potential resident, even if they can procure
housing, will not move here if they can’t find child care.


  • With a small portion of our budget we are supporting community events and projects – the annual Fourth of July

fireworks display, and a new program of international music concerts and educational sessions – that we think will
appeal to current residents and will enrich the diversity of our community. And we are making a small grant to the
Elementary School to enhance their playground, which has come to serve tourists and residents alike.


  • Finally, we are budgeting less than 5 percent of our funding towards administration.

In our discussions with residents, we often hear strong opinions about how to develop our economy. Often, the
opinions are diametrically opposed (“project XXX is terrible”, and “project XXX is fantastic”). This won’t surprise anyone
– the Woodstock community is passionate about a lot of things, and we have diverse points of view. We hope
Woodstock remains that way.


But these conflicts highlight a more fundamental truth – economic development in rural economies like ours is a
complex challenge. No one that we know of has figured out the winning formula, and as a Commission we’re searching
for the best approaches without being certain they will succeed. In an environment like this we very much appreciate
the effort that many members of the community have made to participate in our work – by developing proposals for
funding, by attending our meetings and by volunteering to lend your expertise to our deliberations and problem
solving. Thank you for your support.


Woodstock Economic Development Commission


Julia Cooke
Joe DiNatale
Charlie Kimbell
Courtney Lowe
Michael Malik
Larry Niles
Mica Seely
Jon Spector
Sally Miller, Coordinator


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