Shelburne considers the future as it rewrites town plan today

By Madeline Hughes

With the planning commission currently wrapping up the latest town plan update, town officials have been thinking a lot about Shelburne’s future.

In a new twist, the latest version of the town plan has a new format that looks more like a chapter book illustrated with photographs.

The Planning Commission hired MajaDesign, owned by Shelburne resident Maja Smith, to help design the town plan for $5,000.

The 96-page document has photos and maps illustrating each chapter. The document, updated every five years, is typically used as a reference for the town’s future growth. It offers guidance to future development informing formal regulatory processes at the local and state levels and supporting applications for municipal grants.

Shelburne has been writing comprehensive town plans since the 1960s, longer than many other Vermont towns, said town Planning and Zoning Director Dean Pierce. Vermont Legislature recently changed the law to have town plans implemented for eight years each.

Besides the changes in the appearance of the town plan, the revised version contains new content. For example, it emphasizes land conservation, addresses potential stormwater issues, and prioritizes what the planning commission calls “placemaking” – a smaller-scale type of planning that focuses on a particular area of the town.

Each chapter lays out the goals, policies, objectives and recommended actions town officials want to see come from the plan. The plan itself has no regulatory effect but is used as a guiding document to town development.

The vision statement throughout the town plan states: “Shelburne in 2050 will be a place that embraces the economic vitality of the greater Burlington Chittenden County area while maintaining a strong village center, large areas of conserved and rural lands, a vibrant and diverse economy, and attractive working landscape.”

How will that vision come to fruition?

The draft revised town plan accounts for conserved land differently than previous editions, including Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms on the conserved-land map.

The new plan also emphasizes affordable housing as a priority for the town to help spur economic development, citing a Chittenden County Regional Planning study.

“We hear from entry level museum staff that they can’t afford to live near the museum,” Tom Denenberg, director of Shelburne Museum, said at a planning commission input session. A representative from Wake Robin echoed the sentiment.

The plan calls for the commission to look into zoning regulations and tools such as density bonuses that could encourage developers to build more affordable housing.

Also new to the town plan is a subsection on energy. Pierce said the economics and land costs in Shelburne will shape how many renewable energy projects are built.

Currently the Planning Commission is finishing a draft  of the town plan, which the commission expects to finalize in November and present to the Selectboard in December. The Selectboard must have a public hearing on the plan and the goal is for the new edition to be adopted by February before the current town plan is out of date.

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