Addison weighs zoning updates vs. new town plan

ADDISON — Members of the Addison planning commission and selectboard reached at least a tentative consensus last week that planners should turn their attention away from updating zoning regulations and toward updating the town plan before it expires late next summer.
Planning commission chairman Frank Galgano said and selectboard chairman Jeff Kauffman confirmed that the members of the two boards at a Dec. 16 planning meeting also agreed that the Addison Development Review Board should in the meantime rely on the town’s 2007 zoning laws.
And they said that planners would consider during the town plan adoption process last-minute changes proposed by the selectboard to planners’ new zoning regulations.
Those changes include proposals for smaller lots and road frontage requirements in Addison’s Low Density Residential Agricultural (LDRA) zone, the town’s largest, and smaller road frontage requirements in the town’s two Shoreland zones.
Selectmen also recommended a number of other less significant changes, but Galgano said planners and selectboard members alike agreed probably only the lot-size and frontage suggestions would require public input during the town plan process before they could become town zoning law.
Zoning laws must be based on town plans, and the town current plan calls for larger lots and more frontage than the selectboard is seeking.
Galgano said decisions made on Dec. 16 were not made final because not all planners could attend the meeting, but there was consensus among the members in attendance.
“We all agreed they were major changes, and we will need a public hearing if we are to adopt,” Galgano said.
Selectboard members said the smaller frontage requirements and lots they are proposing — a 2.5-acre minimum rather than 5 acres — would made land more affordable to first-time buyers, conserve farmland and could boost the town financially by increasing the tax base with more homes.
After making their recommendations on Nov. 5, selectboard members sent the zoning update back to planners for their reconsideration.
Galgano said planners considered to be minor other selectboard suggestions — such as smaller sideyard setbacks and more permissive retail shop language in the LDRA zone and some wording changes in the new fencing section of the planners’ zoning update, which was three years in the making.
“The likelihood is we will have to have a public hearing on one or two points only,” he said.
Another agreement that came out of a Dec. 16 meeting that Kauffman called “pretty productive” in an email was that the two boards should meet more often.
“We need to be talking to each other on a face-to-face basis on a much more regular basis than we have in the past,” Galgano said. “I think that’s understood.”
Key elements in planners’ proposed new laws that will be on hold until an updated town plan is in place include a rewritten section on waivers that would allow residents flexibility from lot-line setback requirements, the new section regulating fences, and the formal incorporation of an already approved section on landing strips for private airplanes.
But after the volunteer planning board spent the past three years on the zoning update, Galgano said the clock is now ticking loudly on the town plan, which per state law must be updated every five years. When they received the laws back from the selectboard, planners decided the zoning update must take a back seat for the time being.
“We’re going to move forward with the town plan,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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