Regional officials say current Bristol plan has shortcomings

BRISTOL — As the Bristol Planning Commission has ground away at a proposed new town plan — a document considerably larger than the current 12-page version — critics have repeatedly asked the question, “Why not readopt the present plan?”
Regional planners and town officials say the current town plan, first adopted in December 2001 and extended in January 2007, doesn’t conform to some state statutes. It also conflicts with other town plans.
The Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) is more than reluctant to approve the existing town plan. Without ACRPC’s approval Bristol won’t be eligible for municipal planning grants to fund their planning projects.
And readopting the plan would require the same process as adopting a new plan — submission to the selectboard, several public hearings and a vote of residence — which planners have worked on for the better half of the last decade and aims to conform closer, if not entirely, to state requirements.
“When we got our extension (the regional planning commission) came in and met with us and gave us a list of things that were not in conformance,” said Chico Martin, acting Bristol Planning Commission chair. “The extension was always granted with the understanding that we were in the process of creating a new town plan, and we’d complete that.”
Adam Lougee, executive director of ACRPC, confirmed Martin’s statement.
“To be fair to the (Bristol) Planning Commission, we have been driving them to adopt a plan that addresses all of the statutory requirements,” he said.
Among the deficiencies found by a 2008 ACRPC review of the Bristol plan were:
•  A clear incompatibility with Monkton’s vision for Monkton and Burpee roads, as well as no discussion about land use in surrounding towns.
•  No mention of extraction of earth resources in the plan.
•  No discussion of Bristol’s natural resources … (and) regionally significant resources in private ownership are ignored.
•  No discussion of school building capacity and current or projected enrollment.
The new town plan, which the planning commission is hoping to finish next month, is intended to correct many of these deficiencies, said Martin.
Although the current town plan fails to meet state requirements and likely wouldn’t gain ACRPC approval, voters still could adopt it.
“It’s the town of Bristol’s town plan. If they adopt it, it is valid,” said Lougee. “As to whether the regional planning commission would re-approve the current town plan … we said they had some deficiencies in 2002, but approved it then. In 2007, we had a long discussion about whether or not we should, but since they were rewriting a plan at that time … the commission listened to the delegates from Bristol and allowed them to adopt it at that time. But I don’t know if they’d get the same leeway again.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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