Most hotly debated zoning changes ever

  • Published in News

The Fayston Select Board closed the public comment on proposed changes to the town’s land use regulations last week and this week deliberated on the proposed changes, accepting some and rejecting others.

The select board will create a red-lined version of the document that will be available via the town’s website for members of the public to see how the board’s changes differed from the planning commission’s proposed wording.

Because those changes are substantive, further public hearings will be held at both the planning commission and select board level. Over the past three months, public hearings on the proposed changes have garnered record turnout at hearings by residents in favor of and opposed to the changes.

This winter the Fayston Planning Commission 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.

During the course of at least three select board hearings on the changes, minor edits and changes have been made, clarifying, for instance, that biking trails above 2,500 feet are part of alpine ski area activities.

After the select board deliberated this week, the board voted to adopt some of the changes but rejected the Natural Resources Overlay District. Members of the public had raised concerns about how an 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.

At the April 24 and May 1 hearings on the land use regulations, planning commissioners and board members fielded questions from the public including questions about clustering development – something the existing regulations already include for certain types of development.

At the May 1 hearing, the select board heard from residents who opposed the use of the word “shall” in the proposed regulations as well as those who supported the use of the word because of the clarity it brings to the application process. Board members also affirmed that the proposed regulations become the effective regulations of the town, overlay district and all, until they are adopted or modified at the select board and then planning commission level.

Any applicant whose project was denied during this interim level would have their application reheard at no charge.