Wind: 9 mph
November 9, 2006
By Erin Post
Fayston residents urged the planning commission to consider the long view on development during public hearings this week for two proposed subdivisions.
"The time is now to take a look at the bigger picture," said Marge Keough during the second hearing on Tuesday, November 7. "We as a community...need to take a time out and take a look at these bigger issues."
Earlier in the first hearing, she presented the planning commission with petitions signed by area residents asking for a six-month moratorium on multi-lot subdivisions.
The petition calls for a "more comprehensive land use plan" that will preserve the rural nature of the town, protect wilderness and recreation areas, and "allow for economic diversity among our residents."
"Now is the time to consider a vision for our town before there is a boon of development whereby a few profit at the expense of the resources that are so dear to many of us who live here," the petition reads.
The law, however, gets in the way of any such action, planning commission chair Chuck Martel told the crowd gathered in the town office for the hearings.
Because the review process is already in motion, Martel said his board must evaluate the existing applications according to regulations, and issue timely decisions.
"Legally, my hands are tied," he said. Although some residents shuffled in and out between hearings, roughly 15 people attended each.
Martel said the petition would be turned over to an attorney for review and suggested that two upcoming meetings to revise the Town Plan may be the best forum for residents to address concerns about development.
"We've got to get at that Town Plan pretty quickly," he said. Once the Town Plan update is complete, any changes may then be incorporated into the town's land use regulations.
The two subdivisions discussed Tuesday-one at 2401 Center Fayston Road and the other off the Old Center Fayston Road-propose a total of 12 new home lots.
Five homes are being considered for the 86-acre Center Fayston Road property, located east of the intersection with Kew Vasseur Road. Lot sizes range from about 5 acres to almost 37 acres.
Gunner McCain of McCain Consulting and Sheila Ware, administrator for the Otten Estate, said plans call for an existing pond in view of the road to be maintained as it is now. A forest management zone, with no building allowed, is proposed for a steep, wooded area behind lot four. Two areas have also been designated open meadow.
Ware said covenants on the parcels prohibit any further subdivision of the land.
The proposed location for a drive into the property had Fayston resident Andy Baer concerned. He said the specter of headlights beaming into his home across the street as well as potential noise from accelerating vehicles prompted him to ask for the drive to be relocated.
Neighbor Paul Sipple said he also had doubts about the road's location, in part because of safety concerns.
But McCain said designated wetland areas limit other potential locations. An existing field access was also ruled out because it runs very close to an abutting neighbor's property line.
During the second hearing on a proposed subdivision off the Old Center Fayston Road, concerns about preserving what some residents described as one of the few neighborhoods in the area took center stage.
Plans call for the proposed seven-lot subdivision to be accessed by the Old County Road, or Loop Road, in the town of Waitsfield.
Eleanor D'Aponte said children learn to ride bikes on the Loop Road and pedestrians often frequent the area. Houses face the street and form a community, as opposed to many developments with residences set back in the woods, shielded from view. Because of these attributes, D'Aponte said the area deserves just as much protection as wildlife habitat or wilderness recreation areas.
"We need to consider the Loop Road habitat as pretty unique," she said.
Mary Simmons echoed D'Aponte's arguments.
"It seems like we're accessing what you call a major development through what is now a residential area," she said.
The subdivision would host six parcels of less than 15 acres; the last measures roughly 75 acres. Seventy of the 130 acres in the property is designated for conservation, protected from development by a covenant, said applicant Robin Morris.
"There is significant, mapped, deer wintering habitat," he said.
An existing mountain bike trail would be relocated and would remain open to the public as long as the homeowners association approves, Morris said.
Waitsfield resident Ken Quackenbush pointed out his town has a large stake in the development.
"It really comes down to Waitsfield and the Old County Road," he said. "The impact of development is going to be 99 percent on Waitsfield as far as access goes."
McCain said the Fayston Select Board has granted approval for upgrades to about 2,000 feet of the class IV Old Center Fayston Road necessary to access the subdivision.
The Waitsfield Select Board has not yet taken up an application for an upgrade to the tenth of a mile of the road that lies within their town, Martel said.
A second public hearing on the proposed subdivision for the Old Center Fayston Road is scheduled for January 23.
Because the proposal for the Center Fayston Road is considered a minor subdivision, a second hearing is not required.
The planning commission is set to discuss their notice of decision for the proposal on December 5. A decision must be rendered within 45 days of the hearing.