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Lincoln selectboard to weigh town plan

LINCOLN — The Lincoln selectboard is expected to approve a new version of the town plan next month, paving the way for the town’s planning commission to forge ahead with long-awaited changes to Lincoln zoning regulations.
The selectboard has scheduled a final public hearing on the plan for May 18 at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln town clerk’s office. The hearing comes after the board mistakenly voted to adopt the plan earlier this spring, but realized soon after that they hadn’t scheduled the formal final hearing necessary to adopt the plan.
Planning commission chair Aaron Thomas said the board has been working on the plan revisions for about two years. At the time, the commission was interested in rewriting Lincoln’s zoning regulations, but realized the plan needed to be changed first.
One of the biggest changes in the new draft of the plan calls for creating new zoning districts. Thomas explained that Lincoln has used “one-acre zoning” in all of its districts up until this point, but the new plan would allow for the creation of one-, two- and five-acre zones.
The change arose out of public meetings several years ago when residents voiced concern that uniform one-acre zoning wouldn’t preserve Lincoln’s character as a “rural mountain town.”
The planning commission worked with the Addison County Regional Planning Commission to pinpoint areas where new zones could encourage development, particularly close to the town’s existing road infrastructure, while also protecting open land and wildlife corridors.
In addition to the new zones, the proposed plan would also create two overlay districts to encourage thoughtful development. Neither overlay district is regulatory, but instead outlines guidelines that property owners are encouraged to consider before applying to build.
One is a viewshed overlay district, meant to protect vistas in Lincoln, discourage ridgeline development, and rein in lighting that might diminish views of the night sky.
The other is a river overlay district, centered on the New Haven River. 
Thomas said that once the new plan is adopted, the planning commission can move forward with changes to the town’s zoning regulations, which are “95 percent” complete. He said that he hopes by mid- to late summer the board will have something for either the town to vote on or the selectboard to adopt.
Thomas said that on the whole he’s pleased with the proposed town plan, which he thinks was strengthened by the broad range of town residents who weighed in on the project.
“I think a lot of effort has gone into incorporating the views of the people of Lincoln,” Thomas said. “We had a lot of public meetings and a lot of opportunities for people to come to us and say what they like and what they didn’t like.”
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com.

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