Middlebury eyes planning, zoning revisions

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents on July 22 will get to weigh on a series of proposed town plan and zoning bylaw revisions, some of them aimed at facilitating the siting of the new municipal building at 77 Main St.
Middlebury Planning Commission Chairwoman Nancy Malcolm on Tuesday presented the proposed changes to the selectboard, which must convene at least one public hearing on the amendments before deciding whether to approve them. Some of the changes have stirred opposition from opponents of the municipal building project, who charge that town is trying to retroactively correct provisions that should have required the town offices and gym to be rebuilt or renovated at their current location.
“This looks ex post facto to me,” said Middlebury resident Ellen Oxfeld. “I don’t get the process here.”
“We are making our town plan comply to a project rather than making the project comply with the town plan,” said resident and former Middlebury Planning Commission Chairwoman Victoria DeWind.
But current planning commission members said the changes simply clarify language that might have been ambiguous.
The commission is proposing three town plan amendments, including:
• Changing the current language of “Ensure that the Post Office, town offices and community services remain in their downtown prominent, accessible locations and support renovation,” to the amended “Ensure the Post Office, town offices and Ilsley Library remain in downtown prominent, accessible locations.”
• Striking a paragraph on Page 112 that dates back to 2012 that talks about redevelopment of the current municipal building/gym site at 94 Main St. Since that plan is off the table, the planning commission is proposing to replace it with a paragraph outlining the recent vote in favor of new town offices at 77 Main St., a new recreation center off Creek Road, and the transformation of the 94 Main St. site into a park to be maintained by Middlebury College.
• Eliminating language calling for replacement/renovation of the municipal building with a community center. That language would be replaced with language calling for replacement/reconstruction of the town offices to “meet long-term public needs and energy efficiency in an affordable manner while providing a respectable landmark on a downtown site that will support economic development in town,” and also to “construct a town recreation facility to meet public needs in an affordable manner.”
Planning officials are describing the proposed zoning amendments as primarily housekeeping, to improve language for better clarity and to establish consistency with the objectives of the 2012 town plan.
“It cleaned up a lot of things,” Selectwoman Susan Shashok said of the zoning revisions, which she has been monitoring on behalf of the selectboard.
Meanwhile, Selectman Nick Artim announced a tentative construction timetable for the new buildings: Oct. 20 to Sept. 18, 2015. Design development is expected to wrap up in early July, followed by permit applications in August. Bread Loaf Corp. is expected to provide an updated cost estimate for the project later this summer that will include a price for achieving net-zero energy at the new municipal building.
As for the new recreation facility, planners have selected wood flooring for the main gym. The parking lot will be graveled, with the potential it could be paved in the future.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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