Elizabeth Humstone: planning for Vermont’s future

D-1-T-CP-Beth-Humstone-C-copyBy Phyl Newbeck

Beth Humstone has a Master’s degree in City Planning from Harvard University. She has worked as a land use planner for the state under what is now the Agency of Commerce. She has worked under Governor Tom Salmon in the State Planning Office, and now she has her own consulting firm. Her clearly distinguished career, however, began when she moved to Charlotte right after achieving her Master’s when she began working with Lyman Wood to create a new community in Chittenden County. While the project did not move forward, it created her introduction to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, which helped leap start her career. “It was a wonderful introduction for me,” she said. This was where she began her work as a “circuit rider planner,” helping regional planning commissions get started, which eventually led to the opening of her own consulting firm.

In 1998, Humstone joined John Ewing to create the Vermont Forum on Sprawl where she served as Executive Director. “We wanted to draw attention to the fact that in spite of Vermont having decades of really significant environmental laws including Act 250 and Act 200, we still weren’t stopping sprawl development,” she said. “We wanted to draw attention to ways to address that issue.” After eight years, the organization was renamed Smart Growth Vermont and has since merged with the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

In 2002, Humstone decided to put some of her planning thoughts on paper, collaborating with Julie Campoli and Alex MacLean on a book called “Above and Beyond” which demonstrates planning techniques through aerial photography. In 2005, she became the Director of U.S. Initiatives for the Institute for Sustainable Communities in Montpelier. Humstone is particularly proud of her work there on a grant for the New England Futures project, as well as some post-Katrina work in Mississippi.

These days, Humstone considers herself semi-retired. She spent a year teaching at the University of Southern Maine and working with the Portland Downtown District, which she likens to the Church Street Marketplace. She is currently teaching an online course at Boston Architectural College on sustainable neighborhoods, and continues to serve on a variety of Vermont boards and commissions. She is the former chair of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund Board and is an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Going full circle, she has been elected to her second three-year term on the board of the Vermont Natural Resources Council where she serves as chair.

When Humstone first moved to Charlotte she lived, sequentially, in a chicken coop, a schoolhouse, and a barn. She left Charlotte for Burlington in 1990 when her status as a single mother made it important to live near her office, but in 2005 she returned to Charlotte where she lives in a camp on Thompson’s Point six months of the year. “That’s my toehold in Vermont,” she said. Humstone continues to love Charlotte’s natural resources and strong volunteer spirit. “I admire things like the Charlotte Land Trust, the Trails Committee, and the Senior Center.”

Despite her part-time status in the Green Mountain State, Humstone considers it home. “It’s where I’ve lived most of my life and where I’ll always be connected,” she said. “It’s already a fabulous place but I want to do my part to make it even better.”