Planning Commission turns down request to change zoning in Harborwood Shores

At their meeting on Feb. 12, the Planning Commission heard a request from Maura Wygmans, an architect interested in purchasing five vacant lots in Harborwood Shores with the intent of building two three-bedroom homes. She previously asked for a change in the current zoning regulation that limits development on these lots to a 5 percent building coverage standard vs. the 20 percent allowed for existing homes. She argued that the approximately 2,000 square foot homes she intends to build are “consistent with the neighborhood” and should be subject to the same regulations as those previously built.

Several property owners in the Harborwood Shores area expressed concerns about water flow conditions, arguing that given the topography of these lots, water will flow downhill, negatively impacting other lots and their community beachfront. Town Planner Dean Pierce pointed out that Wygmans could build the homes she envisions under the existing regulations. Wygmans concurred, but stated that she would not have the same expansion opportunities as other owners. The commission turned down Wygmans request because she is able to develop those lots without any change in zoning.

Earlier in the meeting, the commission continued their review of the proposed Form Based Code, focusing on Site Development Standards, Parking and Loading Standards, Landscaping, Screening and Lighting Standards, and Sustainable Design and Development Site Performance Standards. Their primary concern was to include provisions for better stormwater management techniques and practices throughout. They intend to complete their review at their next meeting.

The commission opened a public hearing on a proposed change to the zoning bylaw that would modify the definition of Developable Land by removing references to National Wetlands Inventory and the most recent regional wetlands inventory and instead setting the Vermont Significant Wetlands Inventory as the standard. After comparing these maps, the commissioners concurred with commissioner Jaime Heins who wanted more time to review the differences in each before determining which should be specified. The hearing was continued to their March 26 meeting.

The commission then heard a presentation by School Board Chair Dave Connery about the school bond issue to be voted on at the March Town Meeting. According to Connery, the proposed $11.2 million would improve education, safety, and energy efficiency in the school. He noted that the building is now 47 years old and critical maintenance needs must be addressed. The proposal calls for a complete re-roof and increased insulation, upgrades to the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructure in the D and E wings, window replacement, gym roof structural reinforcement, fire alarm upgrades, and hazardous materials abatement. In addition, the renovation would create tighter security zones within the school, address acoustics issues in the D and E wings, integrate group spaces, including “maker space,” and provide additional bathrooms consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Commissioner Ann Hogan reported that she had been in touch with State Representatives Joan Lenes and Kate Webb, asking them to support any legislation that would help small businesses. She and commissioner Heins will meet with them in March to discuss this in more depth.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on Thursday, Feb. 26 in the Municipal Center.