Planning Commission learns of Wake Robin expansion plans

Patrick McKee, new President and CEO of Wake Robin, appeared at the Planning Commission meeting on July 24 with two consultants to explain Wake Robin’s plans for expansion. They would like to redevelop their skilled nursing and residential care facility and community building and erect a new independent living apartment building below the community building. The new building would be similar in design to the two existing independent living apartment buildings, approximately 45’ in height. The zoning regulations, however, have changed since the two existing buildings were erected and now limit height to 35’except for farm structures. Wake Robin requested that the Commission reconsider this regulation so that they may proceed with the expansion. Commissioners asked Town Planner Dean Pierce to develop illustrative options for consideration at the meeting on Sept.11.
Maura Collins, Director of Policy and Administration for the Vermont Housing Financing Agency (VHFA) led off the discussion that dominated the majority of the Planning Commission meeting.  In reviewing the growth rates and housing needs of Shelburne, Collins touched on the fact that 40 percent of Shelburne homeowners use more than 30 percent of their income for housing, and that 41 percent of renters live in unaffordable housing.
At present, the demand for affordable housing outstrips the supply.  Collins urged the Commission to include strong language in the Town Plan and zoning regulations requiring a certain percentage new affordable housing units in future building. She suggested project based renovation or construction, tenant based subsidies, and private affordable apartments as methods of meeting the demand.
Bill Niquette of Infill Realty urged the Commission to think carefully about housing, especially in reviewing zoning regulations to ensure they agree with the Town Plan.  He suggested a creative approach to development with the use of infill and housing specific to current needs.  He cited specifically the demand for small single family homes suitable for one and two person households at an affordable price and suggested promoting such developments.
Cindy Reid of Cathedral Square Corporation encouraged the Commission to be specific on housing goals in the Town Plan, and include multi-generational and mixed income level housing as goals.  Because seniors and persons with disabilities are less likely to drive, she suggested reducing parking requirements for these units.  She also recommended emphasizing accessory apartments for housing.
Commission Vice Chair Ron Bouchard, who presided at the meeting, thanked the panel for their informative comments.
In other business, the Commission:
Voted to warn a public hearing for Sept. 11 on their proposed changes to the Village Center Redevelopment PUD section of the zoning bylaws to allow expansion within the Shelburne Shopping Park.
Discussed the meaning of “fixed seats” as it relates to parking requirements. This issue was referred to the Commission by the Development Review Board because “fixed seats” is not defined in the zoning bylaws. Commissioner Dick Elkins stated that the term referred to a fixed number of seats allowed, not fixed seats in the sense of seats attached to the floor. He also requested that in conjunction with this discussion, the Commission set standards for waiving the parking requirements. Pierce was directed to draft language on both of these issues for the Commission’s consideration at its Sept. 11 meeting.
Authorized Commission Chair Kate Lalley and Commissioner Jaime Heins to send comments to the Clerk of the Public Service Board (PSB) on the terms “substantial deference” and “good cause” currently undefined in the State law concerning telecommunications facilities. Comments are due at the PSB by Aug. 1.
Discussed the question of whether an ordinance and/or zoning regulations may be needed to address food trucks. Pierce suggested that perhaps the peddler’s ordinance could be amended to include food trucks. The Commission will consider the issue at a later meeting.
Pierce reported that he will be meeting with Professor Oughstun in mid-August about the Telecommunications mapping project.
Commissioner Ann Hogan reported that she is continuing her work on mapping businesses located in Shelburne. To date, more than 950 have been identified and more information about each will be gathered. A survey of those businesses will then be developed.
Commission members were urged to give their comments on the scope of the sewer service area study to the Town Manager as soon as possible.
The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 7pm in the Municipal Center to review the final draft of the Form Based Code. The Commission will resume regular schedule in September, meeting on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7pm in the Municipal Center.