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Waitsfield subdivision regulations up for town-wide vote on Tuesday

10/18/2007

By Lisa Loomis

Waitsfield voters will be asked to affirm or reject revised subdivision regulations next week on Tuesday, October 23. Voting takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Waitsfield Elementary School.

The regulations were approved by the town select board on July 23, with one dissenting vote. In August the town received a petition from residents asking that the matter be brought forward for a public vote. The question which will appear before voters next week is as follows:

ARTICLE 1: Will the Town vote to adopt the Amendments to the Town of Waitsfield Subdivision Regulations, as approved by the select board on July 23, 2007, the complete text of which are on file in the Town Clerk's Office, available at the Joslin Memorial Library, and on-line at www.waitsfieldvt.us? The purpose of said Amendments, affecting all properties in the Town of Waitsfield, is to better reflect the desired land use patterns specific to each zoning district, to implement the provisions in the Waitsfield Town Plan, and to result in a more readable document.

A yes vote on Tuesday is a vote in favor of the proposed regulations and a no way is a vote against the regulations.

The board's support of the new regulations follows three years of planning work on the part of the planning commission, updating subdivision regulations adopted in 1988. After planners and hired consultants revamped the regulations, they also heard from a group of local land use attorneys who raised issues with several aspects of the new regulations. The planners incorporated some changes suggested by the local attorneys and did not adopt others. They had town attorneys vet the document for legality before sending it on to the select board.

At the select board level, as at the planning commission level, public hearings were held to present the changes to the public and take feedback. They were not well attended at either the planning commission or the select board. The new regulations are more specific to the town's various districts and zones and better reflect land use patterns and historic uses, according to the authors. The old regulations offered up a single pattern of regulation for the entire town without regard to use, topography, and natural or scenic resources.

Select board member Paul Hartshorn, the one dissenting voice against adopting the regulations last July, told the board that he is concerned with one specific clause within the regulations which calls for planners, and specifically the development review board, to consider development access roads as they relate to existing public and private roads in terms of proximity, connectivity and topography.

Hartshorn said in July that that provision was tantamount to blackmail, allowing the town to make a land grab, requiring developers to provide land for a future right of way or easement so that subdivision roads could be connected.

That section of the new regulations reads as follows: (emphasis added)

(7) Roads shall, to the extent feasible, be designed and laid out to:

(a) avoid adverse impacts to natural, historic, cultural and scenic resources;

(b) be consistent with existing road patterns in village and other settlement areas;

(c) maximize connectivity within the subdivision and to adjoining parcels and road networks;

(d) follow existing linear features, such as utility corridors, tree lines, hedgerows and fence lines;

(e) avoid fragmentation of farmland and other natural and cultural features identified in Section 3.3.

The planners who wrote the new zoning have countered that the former zoning contains the same clause and that both are based on portions of the Town Plan. The current regulations, which will remain in effect if the new regs are voted down next week reads: (emphasis added)

Section 2. Roads

2. Layout

All roadways and intersections shall be designed to insure the safe and efficient movement of vehicles. Roads shall be logically related to the topography so as to produce usable lots and reasonable grades. Wherever extensions of proposed roads could rationally provide public access to adjacent properties or connection to existing public, state or town highways, a right of way across the subdivider's property may be required.

Voting takes place Tuesday, October 23, at the Waitsfield Elementary School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots are available from the Waitsfield Town Clerk's office at 9 Bridge Street.

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