Land use regulations spark debate in Fayston

  • Published in News

Fayston residents disagree when it comes to proposed changes to the town’s land use regulations.

At least 40 residents and others made it a point to attend a recent select board hearing and make their feelings on the proposed changes known.

The Fayston Planning Commission has recently completed revisions to the regulations that create a natural resources overlay district above 1,700 feet and in other areas that are ecologically sensitive, limit driveway length to 500 feet in that district and the forest reserve district, and establish a 12 percent elevation limit for driveways; create a streambank setback standard of 50 to 100 feet with conditional use review and disallow new horseback riding or biking trails above 2,500 feet in the forest reserve district.


The select board held a public hearing on the regulations on February 19 during which time town residents and others had plenty to say about the regulations.

Planning commissioners Carol Chamberlain and Shane Mullen explained the proposed regulations and how the commission had arrived at their conclusions.  Their work, they said, was informed by the goal of bringing the regulations in line with Fayston’s Town Plan.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, the regulations make it easier to add accessory dwellings by getting rid of the requirement that such dwellings can’t be more than one-third the size of the primary dwelling.

Members of the public had questions about what percentage of the town is in the new natural resources overlay district.  Chamberlain explained that the Town Plan calls for protection over 1,500 feet, but commissioners changed it to 1,700 feet. She noted that in much of the district – such as the area around Mad River Glen – a lot of the land is already fully developed.


Gerry Nooney, speaking for the Mad River Riders, asked that cycling be included in the forest reserve district. He asked that properly constructed trails be allowed.

Chamberlain explained that the commission was concerned about shallow soils, alpine nature and the steepness above 2,500 feet.

People also asked questions about how the extra layer of review for development in the overlay district would impact costs, with many of the opinion that the regulations would add to the costs.

Mad River Glen president Matt Lillard asked what specific problem the town was trying to solve with these changes and also said he did not favor clustering development in new subdivisions.

Heather Lynds, owner of the Mad River Barn, said she is strongly opposed to regulations that prohibit trail systems and said she recognizes the need to protect natural resources, and feels it doesn’t need to be binary, all or none.


Gunner McCain asked those present to pay attention to the fine print. He said that in three areas, steep slopes, streams and wetlands and open space and agriculture, the standard for development approval is “no adverse impact.”

“It’s generally accepted that all development is adverse. Adverse and unduly adverse are well defined land use terms.  When you have a standard for approval that says no adverse impact as opposed to new undue adverse impact, you’ve pretty much said no,” McCain said.

Valerie Welter asked if the proposed changes are more or less restrictive than those of other towns and Chamberlain said Fayston’s regulations are generally less restrictive.

Corrie Miller, of Friends of the Mad River, explained how the regulations support the goal of improving flood resilience by addressing steep slopes and erosion and runoff.


“Fayston is a mountain community that sends its water downstream and downhill to its neighbors,” she said.

Many of those present expressed concern that the regulations could negatively impact Fayston and The Valley’s recreational opportunities. An attorney for Mad River Corporation (Betsy Pratt and her daughter) voiced opposition to the overlay district noting that they own a lot of land between the Mad River Barn and Mad River Glen and want the option of development that supports the ski area.

Karen Sauther said that she too loves the trails and recreational opportunities and said that is why she came to Fayston.

“I’m guided by your Town Plan. I encourage you all to read it again.  A lot of these proposals stem from what’s in the Town Plan. I’ve seen our road impacted by two recent developments that have caused a great deal of runoff because our land use regulations are not sufficient. The runoff fills up the ditch and then the roads have issues and then it’s a town problem,” Sauther said.

The select board will hold another public hearing on the regulations in April.