Bristol public to review new town plan

BRISTOL — On Monday, May 14, the Bristol selectboard will hold its first public hearing on the new draft of the town plan. Before the draft can be presented to voters, the selectboard — by state law — must hold two public hearings without altering the plan. The hearing is at 7 p.m. at Holley Hall.
For that reason, Town Administrator Bill Bryant strongly encourages Bristol residents to come to this hearing and voice any questions or concerns that they may have. In order to present the plan to voters, the selectboard must eventually OK the plan without alterations, said Bryant. 
The key component of this new plan draft is the stated prohibition of commercial resource extraction operations in the downtown Village Planning and Rural Conservation Planning areas (see map). But at a selectboard meeting last month, Selectwoman Carol Wells pointed out that the draft’s current wording might cause legal confusion, if adopted, as it doesn’t prohibit extraction in the part of the plan that carries the most legal weight.
The policy statements of the plan, Wells maintained, hold the most influence in future Act 250 proceedings — state legal hearings that determine whether large commercial developments, like sand and gravel mining operations, are permitted. These policy statements are located at the end of each section of the draft under the heading of “Policies.”
The part of the plan that would give these statements their power is title “Interpreting the Plan.” It states: “In certain settings, such as during Board of Adjustment hearings or Act 250 proceedings, policy statements should serve as the basis for determining a project’s conformance with the plan. While other sections of the plan, in particular the narrative sections and goal statements, provide useful context for understanding the policies, it is the policies alone that serve as the final statement regarding the town’s position.”
The lack of a clear statement of policy on resource extraction is a point of concern, she said.
A copy of the draft Bristol Town Plan is available on the town website at www.bristolvt.org.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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