Leicester invites input on updated town plan

LEICESTER — It’s been a long process, but Leicester town planners are hoping that the end is in sight for the adoption of a new Leicester Town Plan.
The planning commission is inviting all year-round and summer residents of the town to an open house at the Leicester Town Office on Wednesday, Aug. 24 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., where the current draft of the plan will be on display.
“This is really an opportunity for landowners to come and (learn),” said Bethany Menkart, a member of the town’s planning commission.
Menkart said members of the planning commission will be staffing different stations, where residents will be free to ask questions and write comments on sections of the plan.
The town’s last plan was passed in 2003 and expired in 2008, and per state the planning commission may not make changes to the town’s zoning ordinances without a current town plan.
Leicester officials have been working on updating the town plan since March of 2010, with help from Claire Tebbs, a land use planner at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.
Menkart said the draft of the new town plan offers no sweeping changes, but that the old plan did require updating.
“There certainly have been changes in the economy and energy since then,” she said.
She said the majority of the changes are in the sections covering land use, energy, the lake district, farming, transportation and natural, cultural and historic resources.
She said some examples of new and updated topics that the draft addresses are building around — and protection of — Lake Dunmore, including curbing milfoil; water conservation; and wind and solar development.
Overall, said Menkart, the new plan seeks to clarify and to be more specific in areas where the 2003 plan was very general.
The planning commission hopes to get a new town plan adopted by town selectboard by the end of this year, and to tackle zoning shortly afterward. The process will include public hearings before both planners and selectmen.
But first, planners hope to incorporate as much citizen input as possible.
Input, said Menkart, “is essential for it to be a democratic process, and to not be decided by just four members of the planning commission.”
Ultimately the plan isn’t just a hurdle in the process of redefining its zoning ordinances
“It’s all about educating people as to what’s possible,” said Menkart. “This is a difficult time — prices are up, jobs are scarce. We’re thinking about how we can move more easily into a cleaner future, and how we can help each other.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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