Planning Commission forwards zoning bylaw changes to Selectboard

Planning Commission Meeting Feb. 9, 2017

At its meeting on Feb. 9, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on five proposals to amend the zoning bylaws. The proposed changes were requested by the Development Review Board because the current bylaws in these areas were ambiguous, left issues unaddressed, or needed improvement.

The Planning Commission worked on these amendments for several months in advance of the public hearing. The proposals concern sidewalk and path construction requirements to promote “multimodal connectivity within sites, between adjacent sites and neighborhoods, and to transit and public roads.” Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the proposal addresses setting sidewalk and path requirements by zoning district; requiring complete screening and permits for unregistered trailers or portable storage units; managing sign lighting to prohibit glare and set a schedule for when business signs may be illuminated on a district-by-district basis; setting setback requirements from private rights-of-way; and addressing excavation and fill requirements.

The commission formally adopted the amendments after the hearing was closed, and forwarded them to the Selectboard. Another public hearing will be held prior to the Selectboard’s vote.

Earlier in the meeting, commissioners heard from Brandy Saxton, a consultant who has been working on revisions to the form based code. She reviewed a technical memo she had prepared with suggested amendments, largely related to reorganizing the sections to make the code more easily understandable.

On a more substantive level, Saxton suggested adding a new section on building materials and styles to provide guidance to developers, including specific best management practices for addressing stormwater runoff, adding a new section on public and open space standards, and better integrating requirements for parking, bicycle and path interconnectivity, and stormwater management throughout.

Saxton also recommended that the commission adopt a new section for previously developed sites because so many properties along the U.S. Route 7 corridor already have structures. She suggested that allowing developers to take incremental steps toward full compliance beyond minimal requirements might provide an incentive for improvements.

Saxton furthermore encouraged rethinking the idea of a future road parallel to U.S. Route 7, which caused some controversy when the first application under the form based code was filed for a development off Webster Road. She noted that in some areas along U.S. Route 7, not enough space exists on some lots for frontage on two streets, and the desired goal for connectivity might instead be reached by bicycle and pedestrian paths or walkways. The Commission will review these suggestions and are likely to schedule a public workshop on any proposed changes in the future.

Planning Director Dean Pierce gave an update on recent grant proposals. The Town has requested funding from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission for the preparation of a village transportation study as well as a build-out analysis for the rural district.  The Town will also participate in an Environmental Summit on March 24 and 25 at the ECHO Center, which is designed to be the first step for submitting an application for a grant from the High Meadows Fund administered by the Vermont Community Foundation for “a multi-jurisdictional stormwater master plan for the landowners, farmers, municipalities, nonprofits, region and the state interests within Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne.”

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7pm in the Municipal Center.

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