Bristol votes yes on town plan

BRISTOL — The proposed new Bristol town plan passed with a decisive 68.7 percent of the vote on Tuesday, ending an eight-year process that at times seemed to divide the town on issues of zoning proposals and resource extraction.
“In all honesty, I’m ecstatic,” said Kris Perlee of the Bristol Planning Commission. “A lot of work was done by a lot of people to make a plan that reflects the desires of the town as a whole.”
In Vermont, town plans are visionary documents that chart a community’s priorities for growth, transportation, housing, energy and natural resource stewardship, among other things. They also serve as the basis on which zoning rules are written.
In Bristol, which sits atop a wealth of natural gravel resources, the town plan quickly became wrapped up in the issue of where and when to permit extraction, and changes were made along the way to address the at-times contentious question. 
“The planning commission is a really diverse group that worked hard to see that all sides we well represented,” said Peeker Heffernan, chairman of the Bristol selectboard. “They made a lot of compromises to get to this point.”
The latest incarnation of the plan, which passed on Tuesday, 1,061-484, incorporated major compromises, including creation of a Village Planning Area that protected land around the village from natural resource extraction, but permitted other forms of economic growth.
“As a staff, we are just pleased that the board that worked so hard achieved a version that passed,” said Town Administrator Bill Bryant.
Heffernan also praised the planning commission for their hard work. He said that the 42 changes the selectboard made based on public input to the draft the planning commission approved were run by the commissioners first, to ensure that the intent of the plan was preserved.
“It is their document,” he said.
With the passage of the plan, planners will be able to turn their attention to implementation and other goals.
“(Passing the plan) would allow us to move forward as a town to things that are not controversial, to look at things like housing opportunities and outdoor recreation that have very broad support,” said planner John Elder last week.
Now that residents have passed the plan, Perlee echoed Elder.
“I’m very excited. It was a very long process,” said Perlee. “Now we can move forward on implementing the plan. It allows us to bring to a close some very tenuous issues in the community. That closure is going to be very beneficial.”

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