Planners balk at need for city conservation panel

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen at their Sept. 18 meeting accepted a recommendation from the city’s planning commission that Vergennes does not need to create a conservation commission.
Specifically, planners suggested that aldermen not place an article on the city meeting ballot asking residents to approve a conservation commission, and aldermen agreed.
City planners have been evaluating that issue because the city plan that they wrote and Vergennes aldermen adopted about two years ago called for Vergennes to “establish a Conservation Commission that acts in an advisory capacity to the Planning Commission and the City Council … to help preserve and protect our city’s important natural resources.”
City Manager Mel Hawley told aldermen at a recent meeting that planners were evaluating whether the planning commission itself could fulfill that role rather than creating a new panel to do so.
On Sept. 18, he described planners’ conclusion to aldermen: That a conservation commission would be “redundant” given the environmental review or proposed developments already written into zoning laws.
“The planning commission really felt there was no pressing need to create one,” Hawley said.
Alderman Bill Benton also noted that Vergennes does not have a large amount of undeveloped land.
Hawley said the issue could still come up for a public vote, the only way a conservation commission can ultimately be established, through a citizen petition.
But he hinted that may be unlikely — Hawley noted one factor in the planners’ decision was lack of public demand for a commission.
“The planning commission has just not heard from a lot of residents about the need for a conservation commission,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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