Planning Commission reviews Village Overlay District Design Guidelines

At its meeting on May 12, the Planning Commission listened to a presentation by consultant Brandy Saxton, whose services were underwritten by a grant obtained by the Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission to update the guidelines first formulated in the early 1990s.

The new guidelines provide clear standards, with many illustrations, to define both the design objectives and how to achieve them in the Village Overlay District. They cover historic building materials and finishes; the windows, doors, porches, architectural details and roofs of existing buildings; the relocation and demolition of existing buildings; additions to existing buildings; new construction; accessory buildings; site features and design; mechanicals and utilities; and energy accessibility and code improvements.

The guidelines include three case studies: 38 Cottage Lane, 29 Harbor Road, and the Shelburne Inn. Braxton stressed that the guidelines address contemporary issues such as in-fill, energy conservation and retrofitting. She said they offer a balance between specificity and flexibility, encouraging infill with compatible design and in scale with the existing neighborhood. The Planning Commission members reacted favorably to the proposed guidelines, which will next be presented to the public as part of a Selectboard meeting. If approved, they will be cited in the bylaws as a policy of the town.

The Development Review Board chair and vice chair explained the DRB’s concerns about the lack of specificity in the bylaws regarding trailers used as storage. At issue is when a trailer ceases to be a vehicle and becomes a structure used for storage. Presently, the issue is only addressed in the solid waste section of the bylaws. The commission agreed that it should be removed from this section and that a separate, more specific section should be created. Planning Director Dean Pierce will bring draft language to the commission at a subsequent meeting.

The Commission then reviewed a chart prepared by Pierce concerning off hours, on hours, and low-level hours for sign lighting levels in each of Shelburne’s ten zoning districts. There appeared to be consensus that sign lighting should be off from 9pm to 8am in the rural, residential, and village residential districts, and off at all hours in the conservation district. There was disagreement on when sign lighting should go off, or onto low levels, in the museum, village center, Shelburne Falls, mixed use and Commerce & Industry Districts. The commission will revisit this issue at their next meeting.

The commission reviewed their updated work plan for 2016, citing as priorities addressing the issues raised by the DRB, refining stormwater requirements, establishing solar facility siting standards, focusing attention on growth issues particularly in the rural district, updating public works specifications, adopting a “complete streets” policy, considering an official town map, quantifying the need for housing in collaboration with the housing subcommittee, and publicizing the business needs assessment to support local economic development.

In support of these priorities, Pierce distributed materials on Burlington’s Complete Streets Guidance, the current Shelburne Public Works specifications, and a built environment landscape and views map of the Village. Commissioner Mark Brooks reported that the housing subcommittee held its first meeting on May 9 to begin its work.

Commissioner Ann Hogan questioned whether the Envision tool, developed by a consultant for the town, could be used to help analyze the rural district. Pierce reported that, while currently imperfect, the tool could be used in its current form with “cautious application and prudent interpretation” and may be used to analyze the proposed housing development at Kwiniaska.  He offered to hold a briefing session on Envision for those who are interested in learning more about it. Commission Chair Jaime Heins noted that significant interest has been expressed in the stormwater summit.

Heins reported that he had presented the Planning Commission’s annual report to the Selectboard at their May 10 meeting, and congratulated the Selectboard on adopting the food truck ordinance and amendments to the peddler’s ordinance.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on Thursday, May 26 at 7pm in the Municipal Center.

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