Commissioners discuss making zoning revisions
by Margo Avakian
May 20, 2014 | 4956 views | 0 0 comments | 83 83 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- With no hearings or other urgent issues requiring immediate attention, the planning commission devoted a few hours to the work of revising the town’s zoning ordinance.

John Bennett, of the Windham Regional Commission, brought copies of zoning ordinances from several nearby towns for the commissioners to consult. Bylaws from Dover, Dummerston, Marlboro, Whitingham, Newfane, Putney, Readsboro, Wardsboro, and Windham are now available for board members to compare and see how other towns have approached various issues. Bennett also suggested that the board consult with zoning administrator Rick Gay to identify any practical problems the rewrite can resolve.

After board secretary Phyllis Evanuk volunteered to draft the new section on fluvial erosion hazards, the board settled in to a line-by-line examination of the ordinance, making it almost through section four by the evening’s end. Suggested changes will eventually be incorporated in a draft by Bennett.

One proposed addition to the ordinance is a process for granting “dimensional waivers.” This would give the board more flexibility than the procedure for granting variances allows. There are several criteria that must be met for a variance, Bennett explained. There must be unique physical circumstances or conditions that make it impossible to develop the property strictly in accordance with law. The difficulty must not be of the appellant’s making; the variance must not alter the character of the neighborhood nor negatively impact the welfare and safety of others.

The description of the village district’s borders will be rewritten for clarity, with landmarks and road names made current.

Bennett questioned the inclusion of earth and mineral extraction and campgrounds as conditional uses in the village. The village and rural residential districts list earth and mineral extraction and resource industry separately as permitted uses; the conservation district lists only resource industry. The implication, Bennett commented, is that a distinction was being made by the writers of the bylaw. But, while there is no definition of earth and mineral extraction in the current ordinance, the definition of resource industry reads: “An activity involved in the primary processing of agricultural or forestry products, including saw mills, but excluding those activities identified in the definition of agricultural use. Includes earth and mineral extraction.” “Somebody must have added that on,” said Brian McNeice. The board will probably write a separate definition for earth and mineral extraction.

A number of minor changes designed to clarify or update various provisions were suggested. Bennett cautioned against an overly heavy hand, saying, “If it hasn’t caused a problem so far, maybe leave it alone.”

Edee Edwards asked about developing a “how to” pamphlet to accompany permit applications. That’s a subject that has been raised at a number of past commission meetings. Bennett approved of the idea, but noted that it need not, and probably should not, be included in the ordinance itself.

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