Statement of Chairman James M. Jeffords
Hearing on S.975, the Community Character Act, and
S.1079, the Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act
Wednesday, March 6, 2002
Good Morning. I'd like to begin by thanking all of our witnesses for participating in today's hearing. I am really looking forward to listening to your testimonies.
Today's hearing stems from my long-term interest in helping our cities and towns become economically vibrant and culturally cohesive communities. One of the best ways to support these efforts is to provide our communities with growth planning and redevelopment tools.
I have been involved in "smart" growth efforts since the 1960s when I served as a Vermont State Senator and Attorney General of Vermont.
I am proud to have had a major role in drafting Vermont's development review plans that became Act 250, the first and most comprehensive state level growth management policy in the United States.
I have continued my activities with regard to "smart" growth during my tenure in both the House and Senate. In January 1999, I established the Senate Smart Growth Task Force, a bipartisan, multi-regional caucus. Twenty-three Senators currently participate in the Task Force. The overall goal of the Task Force is to determine how the Federal government can help states and localities address their own growth management issues.
Growth decisions should be made, ultimately, at the local level. However, the Federal government needs to continue assessing Federal policies that may interfere with local growth management.
For example, the National Interstate System has had a tremendous impact on local development patterns. Over the last ten years, we have brought substantial attention to this issue through the transportation planning process. We will address this issue in our upcoming hearing on Transportation and Smart Growth.
The Federal government also needs to provide communities with the necessary tools and resources to achieve local growth objectives. I believe that the two bills before us today help us make great strides in this direction.
With the recent enactment of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, we have made great progress in addressing local liability and financial concerns.
Through the Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act, we have an opportunity to complement these efforts. S.1079 will address that next step after assessment and cleanup; the step in which communities actually begin redeveloping the sites. The economic benefits are incredible. The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that brownfields redevelopment could generate more than 550,000 additional jobs and up to $2.4 billion in new tax revenues for cities.
The other bill we will discuss today is the Community Character Act. This bill presents another important opportunity to provide communities that wish to plan proactively with the resources to do so. This is especially important for my home state of Vermont. Rural communities frequently grapple with a lack of planning resources and expertise. I recently learned from our distinguished Vermont witness that only 39 percent of rural governments do comprehensive planning versus more than 70 percent of metropolitan governments. S. 975 provides the necessary resources to even out that ratio.
Finally, I am in the process of working on another "smart" growth legislative proposal. It will substantially improve decision-making capacity for local planners. The legislation will provide communities with the resources to access visualization, modeling, and other planning tools. I look forward to working with my EPW colleagues on this legislation.
Again, thank you all for being here today.