Hearing on Wetlands Inventory continued

At its meeting on March 26, the Planning Commission re-opened a public hearing on whether to use the Vermont Significant Wetlands Inventory as the sole standard for determining “developable land” on a particular property. Town Planner Dean Pierce presented overlay maps that illustrated the differences among the National Wetlands Inventory, the regional inventory, and the State inventory. Currently, property owners may choose which of the three to use and are likely to select the one most favorable to their objective. The purpose of the amendment would be to set a single standard that is considered the most up-to-date and accurate. However, some commissioners and members of the public questioned the accuracy of the map and in the end, the commission decided to continue the hearing so that experts on the State Wetlands Inventory could speak to the commission about the map at their next meeting.

The majority of the meeting was spent in reviewing the final sections of the Form Based Code proposal. Commissioner Ron Bouchard who had volunteered to explore better signage language reported about the regulations in effect in Davis, Calif. and Denver, Colo. which he believes reflect Shelburne’s goals. The commissioners agreed and asked Bouchard to adapt these regulations for their Form Based Code proposal. Chair Kate Lalley asked that wayfinding signs and banners be incorporated, with perhaps some delineation of acceptable materials. Commissioner Jaime Heinz urged that the regulation be readable and user-friendly and offered to work with Bouchard on the proposal.

The commission spent a considerable amount of time on refining Tables 1.3-1 and 1.7-3 to clarify which building types and uses would be permitted in each character district, and in reviewing Section 1.8. The commission voted to send their amendments to the entire proposal to the consultants for final editing, with a review of the signage section held over to its next meeting.

In reference to energy issues, Pierce reported that the Selectboard had agreed to join other towns in signing a petition proposed by the Rutland Town Selectboard asking the legislature to amend the law concerning the siting and approval of renewable energy projects “to ensure that Vermont municipalities have a more meaningful role in the Certificate of Public Good process and to require compliance with appropriately-developed municipal siting standards.” The commission has long advocated a greater role for towns in Public Service Board (PSB) processes and were pleased to hear the Selectboard had signed on to the petition. Commissioner Ann Hogan reported that she had recently met with State Representative Joan Lenes who is co-sponsoring H.377, a bill in the legislature which would strengthen the standing of towns in PSB decisions.

The commission also heard from James L. Benson, Jr. who has applied to a State Permit to install a small wind turbine project on an outbuilding on his property at 288 Barstow Road. Benson explained that it was a small turbine screened by trees that would be visible only by pedestrian and automobile traffic on Governor’s Lane. The noise generated would be minimal and would have no impact on neighbors. The commission thanked Benson for his presentation and decided to take no action on his application.

In the commissioner question and comment period, commissioner Hogan asked that the panel take some time at their next meeting to review the table on housing permits issued last year that had been prepared by Pierce for the Town’s Annual Report. The commission agreed to do so.

In other business, Pierce reported that the sewer service area study is continuing and that an updated report on existing conditions has been completed. He anticipates a public presentation on this issue will be scheduled for May.

The next meeting on the Planning Commission will be held at 6pm on Thursday, April 9 in the Municipal Center. The agenda will include the signage language for the Form Based Code proposal, a review of the housing permits issued table, the continuation of the hearing on using the Vermont Significant Wetlands Inventory, and the election of commission officers.