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October 5, 2006
By Lisa Loomis
The Waitsfield Planning Commission approved a scenic roads plan designed to protect the resources of the town's roads, and sent the plan back to the select board for adoption.
The planning commission discussed and approved the plan at its October 3 meeting. The plan is a revision of a scenic roads ordinance which the planning commission sent to the select board last winter.
The planning commission ordinance had legal teeth and possible requirements to adhere to state statutes which a 'plan' does not have. The select board, after several intense discussions on the ordinance versus plan issue, rejected the ordinance. Former town administrator Bill Bryant put together a scenic roads plan which identifies scenic features on town roads and lays out maintenance goals for such roads. That plan went from the select board to the planning commission for review and is now going back to the select board with the planning commission stamp of approval.
At the behest of the select board, the planning commission created a scenic roads committee in 2005. That committee inventoried town roads and using a similar ordinance created by Stowe, proposed the scenic roads ordinance. After the select board rejected the ordinance in favor of a plan, the committee dissolved. Planning commissioner Jamie Sherman, who served on the committee, told her fellow planners this week that she and others are working to re-create a scenic roads committee that will be tasked with carrying out the goals of the plan.
In other business at this week's meeting, the planning commission heard a continuation of a request from Robert and Joan Foster to create a three-lot subdivision on 28 acres off Joslin Hill Road. The Fosters told the board that they may amend their application to create a four-lot subdivision rather than a three-lot subdivision and said they have recently received an offer from a neighbor to purchase a five-acre parcel from one of their proposed lots.
Planning commissioners asked for plans showing proposed building envelopes, driveways and septic plans.
"All I'm trying to do is sell property. Why should I have to specify where building sites are?" Foster asked.
"Let me answer that. If we don't look at the overall property you are subdividing, we lose the ability to look at the features of that land," planning commission chair Karl Klein explained.
"This is like me selling a used car and telling the buyer, 'You can only drive this on Saturday and Tuesday,'" Foster replied.
"Well subdivision conditions outlive you. They are in perpetuity. We don't do this to be contrary, we do it to protect the land and this is our only opportunity to look at the qualities of the land," Klein responded.
"If you were just selling the land as one lot, the new owner would have the ability to build anywhere. But this is the only opportunity we have to identify and protect the resources of the land," commissioner Steve Shea added.
Among the scenic resources of the land, which the planning commissioners discussed, is a field currently in agricultural use. That field could be fragmented by the proposed subdivision and planning commissioners raised concerns about whether and how its agricultural uses could be protected and preserved.
The planning commission also discussed its revision of town subdivision regulations and when the new regulations would be sent to the select board for review and adoption. Planners hope to send the new regulations within the next two weeks. Once sent to the select board, the regulations are in effect for 150 days, or until the select board approves them, rejects them or calls for a public vote on them.