Planning commisson takes up a number of topics
by Margo Avakian
Mar 18, 2014 | 2407 views | 0 0 comments | 79 79 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- Following a brief hearing on an application for a lot line adjustment, the planning commission took up a number of topics, including appointments, a possible role in disaster planning, its long-planned updating of zoning regulations, and a proposal for interim zoning.

The lot line request came from Stephen Hill, who wants to divide his 66-acre lot on Sodom Road into one 20-acre, and one 46-acre lot. Hill does not plan to build on either lot; the division would facilitate a property sale. The commissioners held their deliberative session after the close of the public meeting.

Selectboard chair Edee Edwards, attending in her capacity of liaison to the commission, notified the planners that their application for a grant to assist in zoning revisions was approved. Edwards told the board that they can “go online to get 40% of the grant up front” and recommended that they do so.

Edwards also asked the board if they are willing to participate in developing contingency plans for possible future disasters. The town, Edwards said, has received a Community Development Block Grant for such planning. Some of those funds might be used to bring in a consultant “to help us have difficult conversations at a little bit of a distance,” Edwards said. She gave as an example the question of whether the town might wish to throw up the Weir Road bridge, a structure that serves only one house. The bridge was replaced at considerable public cost after Irene. The planning effort could also include possible mitigation projects designed to prevent major damage. The board agreed to discuss the possibility of active participation in the process.

Edwards noted that the selectboard will be making appointments at its next regular meeting and asked Brian McNeice and Bill Pusey, whose terms are expiring, if they are willing to be reappointed. Both said yes.

Giving the board a “heads up,” Edwards reported that the selectboard has received a municipal impact questionnaire from an attorney representing Russell Denison, with a request that they fill it out and return it. The information would presumably be used as part of an Act 250 application for a proposed quarry on Denison’s property on Jacksonville Stage Road. Pusey told Edwards that no application for that project has yet come before the planning/zoning board. Edwards said she will be researching the Act 250 process and the town’s role in it.

Finally, Edwards asked Susan Kelly and Marilyn Allen to discuss a request some residents have made to the selectboard to consider enacting interim zoning, a request presumably inspired by the Denison project. Interim zoning is a temporary measure, valid for no more than two years.

Kelly cited concerns regarding fluvial erosion hazards and some of the definitions in the town’s zoning regulations, which she characterized as “inconsistent both internally and with the town plan.”

Board secretary Phyllis Evanuk told Kelly that the topics are among those to be considered in the planned zoning updates. “We’ve been discussing fluvial erosion for at least a year,” Evanuk said, “but we are waiting for some definite parameters from the Windham Regional Commission.” The WRC is doing a study of the Green River corridor, but “apparently it’s not done yet.”

Edwards expressed some reservations, saying she doesn’t want to see policy decisions rushed, or made on the basis of one project. “The timing is a little odd,” she added, “given that we are about to re-write zoning anyway.”

The planners seemed uneasy with the idea as well. McNeice said he is wary of anything resembling “an end run around the regulations.” Evanuk pointed out that although the final decision on an interim zoning measure can be made by the selectboard rather than by a town-wide vote, the rest of the process is the same as for permanent zoning, including properly noticed planning commission hearings and appeals. Further, Evanuk said, whatever regulation is in place at the time a particular application is made would govern the decision on that application.

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