Addison planners and selectmen talk zoning

ADDISON — Members of the Addison selectboard will sit down with the Addison Planning Commission on Dec. 16 to discuss the changes the selectboard proposed in November to the planners’ long-awaited update to the town’s zoning laws.
Those changes, made during a Nov. 5 work session, include calling for smaller lots and a reduction in frontage setback requirements in Addison’s Low Density Residential Agricultural (LDRA) zone, the town’s largest.
Selectboard members, who received the update from planners in October, said the smaller lots they are proposing — a 2.5-acre minimum rather than 5 acres — would be more affordable to first-time buyers, conserve farmland and could boost the town financially by increasing the tax base with more homes.
The selectboard sent the document back to planners for consideration, a move that according to state law will require planners to file comments on the changes before the selectboard holds a public hearing and then a town-wide vote on the zoning rewrite.
Selectboard chairman Jeff Kauffman and planning chairman Frank Galgano were both asked to comment last week on the process.
Kauffman said the selectboard only briefly talked about zoning at its regular Dec. 3 meeting, but did decide to meet with planners.
“The selectboard will speak with the planning commission about our proposed changes at their next meeting, Dec. 16,” he wrote in an email. “Other than that, nothing much has been discussed.”
Galgano, who often works out of state, did not immediately respond. Minutes from planners’ Nov. 18 meeting state:
“Our board is considering to put the zoning regulations on the back burner until we get a clearer idea with directives from the selectboard as to what they want done or what direction they expect us to take … Our board will send a formal letter to the selectboard with our thoughts and ideas on the changes being made. We feel we need a clear letter with their directives and a sit down meeting with them.”
As of Friday, no copy of that letter was on file at the Addison Town Clerk’s office. In November, Galgano said changes proposed by the selectmen were not supported by Addison’s town plan, which will expire in August, and that planners had to turn their attention to updating the plan after focusing their attention for about three years on the zoning update.
Planners’ Nov. 18 minutes state, “At the December meeting we will start work on the Town Plan. We will take open ideas, suggestions on items that may need to be added to the plan such as a ‘Little Peoples Park’ and a possible preschool program to be located at the school. We will also be working on Economic Development and Childcare with help from ACRPC (Addison County Regional Planning Commission).”
Zoning law changes recommended by selectboard members included:
•  Reducing the minimum lot size in the LDRA zone from 5 to 2.5 acres and minimum required road frontage from 400 to 200 feet.
•  Reducing required road frontage from 400 to 200 feet for lots in the two Shoreland zoning districts.
•  Changing LDRA side-yard setbacks for outbuildings to 25 feet from 75 feet.
•  Removing wording that ruled outbuildings within two feet of homes were not detached.
•  Eliminating restrictions on retail shops in the LDRA zone that allowed stores only if they catered to tourists and only on a seasonal basis.
•  Allowing an increase of lot coverage in the LDRA zone from 15 to 25 percent.
•  Making changes to a new fencing section: striking a 42-inch height limit for front-yard fences and a 29-inch limit for front-yard walls, striking language that required fencing to be made of “uniform material,” and eliminating a height requirement for fencing at intersections while leaving language that banned fences that blocked drivers’ view.
Key elements in planners’ proposed new laws include a rewritten section on waivers that allow residents flexibility from lot-line setback requirements and the new section regulating fences, plus the addition of an already approved section on “personal landing strips” for private airplanes.
ACRPC director Adam Lougee said last month that town plans provide the legal underpinnings for zoning laws. And in the case of Addison’s LDRA district, the town plan calls for a 5-acre minimum lot size, not the 2.5-acre size the selectboard recommended.
Lougee said Vermont towns have adopted zoning that is not compatible with its town plan, and then changed the plan after the fact. But while citing that “gray area” he also noted Addison’s town plan is specific on the LDRA’s 5-acre minimum. Addison’s town plan also supports the existing 400-foot minimum road frontage for lots in the LDRA and both Shoreland zoning districts.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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