Buildout Analysis in Calais by CVRPC

Central Vermont RPC helped Calais do a GIS Buildout analysis to determine the maximum number of new building units that could hypothetically be placed in Calais given current regulations as well as under another scenario. This project helped the town look at its zoning standards and get a sense of where new development was being guided, enabling them to better understand current regulations and changes that might be made to better protect natural resources. Within the context of this hypothetical future, the GIS model limited development in deer yards, wetlands, steep slopes, and floodplains and then assessed how many units could be placed there and across all zoning districts. The resulting map is often referred to as "the measles map" which represents a full buildout of the town, with every possible existing lot divided as much as regs will allow, and new buildings "placed" within each of these new parcels.

Additional GIS scenarios were also run, using different district standards in several of the zoning districts. Comparing these scenarios with the maximum buildout scenario allows you to get a sense of what impact or how much potential development may be affected by a regulation that is being contemplated.

A total of three were created and the planning commissions used them to understand future impacts. The scenarios were all presented during a public meeting where the planning commissions preference for scenario 2 was discussed. This was decided by the feedback they got during their meetings. Overall the analysis plan increased the rural residential forested areas to a density from 3 to 5 acres per housing unit. Scenario two also added expanded village zones around each village, and though it had the lower density of all of them, the lower density made sense for Calais.

CVRPC staff explained each scenario.They were able to show them at the meetings and the community supported the actions to take. The plan of action took place with the idea of the characteristics of Calais in mind; some questions that came in mind are what could the lot size be, and how does each village compare to one another. Each village district was about 1/4 acre. To help show their idea to the public, they made a video of how much the area has grown since the process was done. Within the video it also speculated what would happen with future projections. Some topics it address is where it was going to happen, what methods they were going to use to move forward, and what exact features were they going to consider. This project has been a great tool for people to notice these environmental problems that happen and a process in which can fix the problem.

Project Contact: Daniel Currier
Project Contact Email:
Year Completed: 2008
Regional Planning Commision: Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission
Town Plan
Other Keywords: Buildout, Zoning, Crafting, Visualize Zoning, Growth Potential, Visualize Growth
Project Accomplishments:

The buildout has developed a whole new town plan and is fully updated. The process has made a huge strive in working toward the goal of being aware of the natural resources within this town. They educated the town on these factors along with their plan on zoning. Their town plan is almost fully finalized.

Project Partners:

Calais Planning Commission
Calais Conservation Commission
Central VT Regional Planning Commission
Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI),
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR)

Critical to Success:

The Town Planning Commissions has had a significant part by including the build out analysis in their planning part of the planning process. The organization could easily talk about the buildout to the community. They made it educational and others ways for them to get the message out. With how they planned things out, they were able to see the vision they were creating. By creating a good plan of action, they were able to envision the process they were creating. The most important part is being able to see what you want to do. With that, they are able to see the results they needed for the project. They could predict what might happen and they chose the best scenario with an outcome that improved the towns environment. Since they envisioned what they saw and could predict what was happening, they were able to show the community what would happen. This is a process that helped the community learn more about the project. They went through each detail clearly and also made each topic presentable at an individual level. With this, they could talk to the community and they would understand it. Lastly, the community supported all of their actions they took during the process. The community knew what the project was doing and they knew it would improve the towns health.


The hardest part of the process is all the GIS work they have to do. With the mapping they have to do, they have to be as accurate as they can get. GIS can be sensitive and accuracy is a common trouble. Land features are on a small scale and being as accurate as possible is hard, plus not all data is present and they don't know the exact features they are mapping and have to guess. Some details that are harder to measure are roads, buffers, and property developments. When they are on foot and doing work on those features, those can be hard to accomplish also. With that they note everything they can but stuff can be misread or not noted. After they get all of the data they need, they have to present it to the community. Even though they tell their results to public, being able to summarize the topics can be hard. Being able to tell what is the important things to talk about is hard, because usually everything is important. Also what parts will the public understand, there will be plenty of things that will go over their heads and creating a way for them to understand it, plus summarizing the results is a tough challenge. The organization does have regular meetings with the community, but not every member goes to the meeting. So if they miss a meeting they lack the knowledge that others gained from the last meeting. It makes it harder to get processes done, because some people know more and have to explain things over and over again. This is also affected by the community who shows up because they may miss a meeting and not know what is going on and may not fully support what is happening. The meetings are for the town to learn about the subjects, and if they don't go they won't learn. Also the town might not really focus on what the organization is doing, but support it anyway. They aren't learning, so its way for them to fully learn about things is to get involve. In order to improve on the towns learning, they must create other ways for the town to get more involved.