Opinion: Act 250 process protected Ferrisburgh from sprawl

I applaud the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and their recent ruling on the proposed Denecker development at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A in Ferrisburgh. Their ruling that this development would encourage sprawl development in the Route 7 corridor is spot on. The Route 7 corridor in Ferrisburgh is under huge development pressure and I am pleased that the ANR and the Addison County Regional Planning commission recognize that.
I take issue with recent comments in the Addison Independent from selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence that Ferrisburgh supports this development. While it is true that the selectboard has supported the Denecker development, one only needs to look at the recent town survey (check out the planning commission section of the Ferrisburgh town website) taken by the Ferrisburgh Planning Commission to see that the people of Ferrisburgh are very concerned about development pressure in Ferrisburgh, particularly in the Route 7 corridor.
The results of that survey include: 63 percent of respondents believe design standards should be developed for new buildings along Route 7, 52 percent said that design standards should be developed for all business/commercial development in Ferrisburgh, and 73 percent said that development should be limited in some areas of town, in order to maintain our natural and scenic resources. My point is that there is serious concern among many Ferrisburgh residents about development in the Route 7 corridor and I do not believe that the selectboard truly represents the diverse nature of the populace on issues of planning and zoning.
You don’t have to look far to read the tea leaves on where we are headed in the Route 7 corridor of Ferrisburgh. The Champlain Oil Co. truck stop and fast food restaurant and the Dollar General are prime examples of what we can expect. I believe that large, out-of-scale development will continue to progress down the Route 7 corridor in Ferrisburgh if action isn’t taken regarding the update of the town plan and even more importantly the upcoming update of the zoning ordinances.
If Ferrisburgh doesn’t have the will and vision to enact reasonable development restrictions in the Route 7 corridor, the writing is on the wall for future strip development. Welcome to South Burlington and Shelburne. I am advocating for a balanced approach to zoning and planning that encourages small, appropriately sized businesses to come to Ferrisburgh but discourages large, out of scale for Ferrisburgh, corporate cookie-cutter development.
I appreciate that the Ferrisburgh selectboard has a fiduciary responsibility to the townspeople but I also believe they have an equally important responsibility to leave a town for future generations that is a desirable place to live. It is also penny wise and pound foolish to believe that attracting any and all development to Ferrisburgh will in the long run improve the economic vibrancy of the town. If we continue down the path of development at all costs we will suck the soul out of our town and leave a wasteland of sprawl development for our children.
The Ferrisburgh Planning Commission has been working hard for the last few years to update the town plan. This process is now in negotiation with the selectboard, which has to approve the changes before it goes to the voters. Following on the heels of the town plan update will be the update to the zoning laws. This is a critical time for the town of Ferrisburgh and I encourage all concerned about the future of the Route 7 corridor to get involved, contact the members of the planning commission and selectboard to voice your concerns and attend meetings related to the upcoming planning and zoning process.
Nick Patch

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