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Subdivision regulations deserve careful review

10/18/2007

By the Waitsfield Select Board

After several years of effort, the planning commission forwarded completely rewritten subdivision regulations to the select board in December 2006 for their consideration and anticipated adoption. The planning commission had undertaken this task in response to changing circumstances within the town, because the subdivision regulations currently in place were written in the late 1980s, and to implement certain goals expressed in the 2005 Town Plan.

We held public hearings in February and March 2007 and, after making some minor revisions later in the summer, adopted the new regulations on July 23, 2007. A petition was filed on August 10 calling for a special town meeting to vote on the subdivision regulations, and that vote is scheduled for Tuesday, October 23, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Waitsfield Elementary School. 

A majority of the select board voted to adopt the subdivision regulations; one member was opposed. While each select board member had his own reasons for voting yea or nay, there was shared interest among us to provide an opportunity for voters to decide the matter and we welcomed a petition as a good way to do it. 

Despite concerns individual members have with a particular element or elements in the regulations, the majority of us support the subdivision regulations overall. There is agreement that the new regulations are an improvement over the current regulations. They offer significantly improved clarity and detail, and move us away from the one-size-fits-all suburban approach commonly adopted in the late 1980s.  

The following statement in the Town Plan helps explain the purpose of the subdivision regulations: "Through  subdivision regulations, the Town can ensure that new development does not harm sensitive natural areas, that adequate sewage disposal and water supplies exist, that new roads and utilities are coordinated with improvements on neighboring properties and will meet minimum standards, that farm and forest land remain available for production, and that residential development is encouraged at appropriate densities in appropriate locations."

One concern several select board members share relates to future road connections. This issue needs to be further addressed in the context of the Town Plan and will require public input and discussion. The closest interface the select board has with the subdivision regulations is with the issuance of permits for curb cuts and construction of new or upgraded town roads serving subdivisions, particularly class 4 roads. We intend to look carefully at road design and construction standards, traffic and road capacity, access and safety issues, culvert and drainage issues, and future road networks. 

As volunteers, we know how challenging it is for people to make the time to attend meetings or even to read a 40-page regulatory document if you do not absolutely have to. At the same time, these regulations, which will help shape the future of Waitsfield, are very important and deserve careful review and informed public input. Thanks to Mad River Valley Television for their support in broadcasting the first-ever live call-in program on this topic. 

We urge voters to take the time to review the subdivision regulations and to go to the polls on Tuesday, October 23, at the Waitsfield Elementary School, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots are also available. The 1990 and recently adopted subdivision regulations can be found at the Town Office, the Joslin Library, and on-line at www.waitsfieldvt.us.

Select board members: Roy Hadden, DVM, Paul Hartshorn, Charles Hosford, Elwin Neill Jr. (Chair), Sal Spinosa
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