Planning Commission discusses “pocket neighborhood” concept

At its meeting on Sept. 11, the Planning Commission focused on the question of amending the zoning regulations to promote “pocket neighborhoods” in the village area. Bill Posey and David Marshall introduced the concept at a previous meeting when they noted that the demand for smaller single family housing is on the rise, particularly in Shelburne where many older residents are looking to downsize. Posey would like to redevelop a parcel of land at the corner of Falls Road and Wes Road as a “cottage neighborhood,” with one and two bedroom homes ranging from 900 to 1,500 square feet bordering a central common green. Existing setback and lot coverage regulations must be changed to allow this type of development. Planning Director Dean Pierce had prepared maps illustrating some nine lots of 1.5 acres or more that might be conducive to this type of development. Commissioners were generally in favor of the concept, although Commissioner Dick Elkins was concerned about increasing density in this neighborhood and its impact on traffic on an already busy road. Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission member Dorothea Penar urged the Commission to maintain the historic street scape in the Falls Road area when and if the regulations are amended. Marshall suggested that perhaps increased density could be linked to requirements that a developer would have to meet to qualify for higher density. Such incentives might include energy efficiency, stormwater management, land conservation, affordable housing units, and the like. Commission Chair Kate Lalley proposed considering adding a form based code overlay for this type of development. The Commission directed Pierce to draft a proposal incorporating incentives as a requirement for higher density and amendments to the existing regulations that would be required. The Commission intends to discuss the matter in October.
Commissioner Ann Hogan recommended that the Commission consider adopting a policy setting clear community standards for solar installations. No such policy currently exists and she suggested that one is necessary to avoid any potential problems in the future. The adoption of a policy would also strengthen the town’s position in any proposal for large solar arrays brought before the Public Service Board. Pierce noted that Rutland Town had recently adopted such a policy and suggested that representatives from Rutland Town be invited to make a presentation to the Planning Commission on why they adopted a policy and what they included in it. The Commission asked Pierce to arrange such a presentation for a future meeting. Lalley suggested that the mapping project for siting telecommunications towers be expanded to include solar arrays since both types of structures impact viewscapes. Posey offered the idea of requiring developers to integrate the potential for solar panels into their building design and orientation. Lalley recommended integrating this concept into the form based code.
The Commission also held a public hearing on the proposed changes to buffer requirements requested by the owner of the Shelburne Shopping Park. There were no comments from the public. The Commission closed the hearing, adopted the amendments, and forwarded them to the Selectboard for their consideration.
The agenda also included discussion of a request by Wake Robin to modify building height requirements, but that discussion was postponed at the request of Wake Robin.
Because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the Commission agreed to change their schedule and will meet on Nov. 6 and 20 and Dec. 11. No second meeting will be held in December. One of the November meetings might be a Commission retreat focused on their work plan.