Planning Commission briefed on Shoreland Protection Law

At its meeting on June 26, Trey Martin, Senior Counsel in the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at the Agency of Natural Resources, and Susan Warren, Manager of the Lakes and Ponds program at DEC, briefed Commission members on the provisions of the recently enacted Shoreland Protections Act which will take effect on July 1, 2014. Both State Representatives Kate Webb and Joan Lenes were present, along with members of the public. According to Martin, the law strikes a balance between promoting lake friendly development and redevelopment while at the same time preserving natural resources, including water quality, wildlife habitats, and wooded shorelines. Existing uses are exempt, and all lots in existence as of July 1, 2014 will be considered developable. The law covers all lakes and ponds greater than 10 acres, which includes Shelburne Pond, and regulates what can be done in the area 250’ from the mean water level, now set at 95.5’. The first 100’ is called the lakeside zone; the remaining 150’ is called the uplands zone.

Warren described the four major parts of the standards that apply within these zones:

Development may not occur on slopes greater than 20 percent unless the property owner takes steps to ensure bank stability. Impervious surfaces, including roofs, decks, and gravel or paved driveways, may not exceed 20 percent. Offsetting measures such as drip line trenches, infiltration systems, and dry wells may be used to exceed the limit.

The cleared area may not exceed 40 percent, although pruning and removal of dead or dying trees is allowed. Again, offsetting measures are allowed, and previously cleared areas are grandfathered into the law.

Certain vegetation management standards are applicable to the 100’ wide lakeside zone with a required setback of 100’ for any impervious surfaces. Woods can be thinned based on a point system with points awarded based on the diameter of each tree in the zone. The lower third of trees may be pruned to allow a lake view, and a 6’ path to the water’s edge is permitted.

Replacement or repair of existing structures is allowed merely by registering with a $100 fee. Permits are required for newly cleared or impervious surfaces, with a fee of $125 plus 50 cents per square foot of impervious surface. The DEC is developing user-friendly materials to help those intending to apply for permits to file without hiring a consultant, and they are holding workshops around the state.

The DEC will work with owners of small camps within the 100’ setback on scaled down standards, but in all cases, setbacks from the lake must be at least 25’.

The permitting and enforcement process may be delegated to towns upon request. Town zoning bylaws must be “functionally equivalent” to the law, and the town must have adequate resources for administering and enforcing the law. The State Law does not pre-empt town zoning bylaws; in case of differences, the stricter standard will apply.

The Commission next discussed a proposal for a new category of a mixed PUD applicable only in the Village Center District. This proposal was designed to allow expansion of the Rite Aid in the Shelburne Shopping Park and a possible linkage of the Aubuchon, Cucina, and Rite Aid buildings. The Commissioners decided against establishing a new category. They instructed Town Planner Dean Pierce to draft amendments to the existing redevelopment PUD regulation to achieve the same purposes.

Pierce then reported on the progress in developing a business inventory for Shelburne which will include a database of businesses located in Shelburne and a map depicting their location. He also reported that he will continue to pursue the study of ideal locations for telecommunications towers within the town with the assistance of Kurt Oughstun. Pierce is waiting for a revised schedule from the consultants working on the form based code project.

The next Planning Commission meeting will be held Thursday, July 10 at 7pm in the Municipal Center.