Vernon officials look to ready town for economic growth
By Max Bakke
VERNON — With commercial development grinding to a halt along with the economy, a local commission is taking steps to put the town on solid footing for when growth starts to improve.
The long-defunct Economic Development Commission wants to highlight the town’s assets and market Vernon as a great place to do business when that business comes, town officials said.
While national and statewide reports of record job losses and dismal economic conditions flood the media, these officials say Vernon has inherent traits that give it a good chance to realize strong growth when conditions improve.
The commission has compiled an 18-page report, which was presented to the Town Council last month, that outlines plans to “cut red tape” and make Vernon more “business friendly,” said Jeff Cohen, the commission’s chairman.
“It’s really important that we put things in place now that will help us in the next 20 years that really take advantage of what this town has to offer,” Cohen said.
Those advantages, officials say, are Vernon’s location off Interstate 84, its proximity to Hartford, Boston, and New York, and the fact that it’s home to Rockville General Hospital.
These qualities, town Economic Development Coordinator Marina Rodriguez said, position the town to receive the bulk of statewide job growth — when it happens — in fast-growing sectors of the state’s economy.
“We have a lot of amenities here that are good and highlight our quality of life,” Rodriguez said, trumpeting the town’s public works services, the Rockville Public Library, and other town services.
The commission also expects that in the next few months, it’ll work to begin selling those qualities to prospective businesses looking to move into the area.
It’s also looked to streamline the permit process in the planning department, and possibly rewrite town zoning codes, which may dovetail with the drafting and implementation of the town’s new Plan of Conservation and Development.
“This document may be the foundation of the development piece of that plan,” Rodriguez said.
Cohen said the commission aims to present a prioritized list of goals and strategies to the council at month’s end, and credits Mayor Jason L. McCoy for energizing the group with a handful of newly-appointed commissioners.
“These are people who have a lot of experience and knowledge base on how the town works,” Cohen said.
The appointments, however, did not come without objection from some Democratic councilors.
When McCoy, a Republican, appointed non-residents Robert Kleinhans and Solomon Kerensky, who both own Vernon businesses, councilors decried the decision, accusing the mayor of stacking the commission with his lawyer and business friends and overlooking residents who otherwise may have sought those seats.
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