Addison looks to residents for input on new town plan

ADDISON — The Addison Planning Commission will take its next step toward a rewrite of key provisions of Addison’s town plan on Monday, when planners will host what they hope will be a well-attended open house at Addison Central School from 4 to 7 p.m.
They hope especially to talk about the issue of allowing smaller lots and protecting open land in the town’s largest zoning district, the Low Density Residential and Agricultural (LDR/A) district.
The town plan and current zoning laws call for a 5-acre minimum lot size in that zone. Planners had proposed keeping that provision in their 2013 zoning law update, but that update was put on hold after selectboard members and some residents suggested smaller lot-size minimums and smaller road frontages in the LDR/A zone.
Now, at the suggestion of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC), town officials are looking at a new way to answer those concerns while also satisfying another concern many Addison residents expressed in a spring survey — preserving scenic and agricultural open land.
ACRPC officials have recommended that Addison’s updated town plan include provisions to allow planned-unit developments, or PUDs, in the LDR/A zone, and ACPRC planner Claire Tebbs said Addison’s planners and selectboard members are both interested in the proposal.
PUDs allow landowners or developers to create one or more smaller lots if they agree to preserve open land on a larger parcel that is being subdivided, thus both allowing more affordable lots and preserving farmland and scenery.
Tebbs, who thanks to a $15,000 grant to Addison is helping with the plan rewrite, said almost all of the 134 Addison respondents to the springtime survey made it clear they value both housing affordability and open land, and PUDs offer an answer.
A September memo to Addison officials written by Tebbs and ACRPC Executive Director Adam Lougee stated that PUDs offer “an opportunity for a more flexible configuration of building placement, an opportunity to sell a smaller lot size from an existing large property, and insurance that open space/working lands are being set aside for future generations.”
Planners are calling Monday’s open house an informal meeting at which they are happy to discuss any issues, and local snacks and beverages will be offered. After it concludes, the planning commission will hold its formal monthly meeting.
Planning Chairman Frank Galgano said planners hope the meeting, the second major outreach to residents after this spring’s 10-question survey, will draw many residents to come and ask questions and share their opinions.
“We think the most important thing is to give them the opportunity,” Galgano said. “We’ll all be there, and we’re going to have our meeting at 7 o’clock when the other three hours are up. And we’re just trying to interact with as many people who want to come and talk to us.”
That survey provided crucial data, Galgano and Tebbs said. Addison’s population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, is 1,317. The response of 134 residents thus exceeds 10 percent of the town’s adult population.
“Somewhere along the line I learned that 5 percent survey participation is good, and this is double that, if not more,” Tebbs said.
Monday’s meeting is part of a long process toward new zoning, which requires an updated town plan to support it. Back in late 2013, the planning commission put a halt to what had been a three-year effort of the town’s zoning rewrite; the town’s 2007 laws are now in effect.
That 2013 proposal included a new section regulating fences and a rewritten section on waivers that would allow residents flexibility from lot-line setback requirements.
Instead, planners and the selectboard turned their attention to a quick update of the town plan, a project that was accomplished last summer before its expiration.
Next, town officials began to focus on reaching a consensus on a comprehensive rewrite of sections of the plan that will include the underpinning for new LDR/A regulations.
Since late 2013, Tebbs said, selectboard and planning commission members have been on the same page, including on the process and the PUD question.
“They really wanted to have a strategic, transparent process in their community, working from the get-go with both the planning commission and the selectboard around the same table,” Tebbs said. “Frank (Galgano) and Charles (Kelly) on the planning commission feel really good about that. That’s what I really like about this project, so I’m hoping we can get more community input at this point.”
Tebbs said in discussing the rewrite with Addison planners, ACPRC officials saw the need to address the existing plan’s entire Land Use section, not just the LDR/A zone. That process does not mean changes in regulations to Addison’s other zoning districts, however.
“We’ll definitely be revising that whole (land use) section just so it has clearer goals and recommendations for the future,” Tebbs said. “We’re just reading through the whole thing and making sure there’s a consistent voice throughout the whole text and it’s formatted similarly.”
Another change will focus on what has become a prominent issue in Addison County — siting of solar arrays. Addison’s plan will include a section that will allow planners to add a provision in the town’s zoning laws on solar panel installations.
Tebbs said Lougee is now working with a statewide group that will soon release a new draft of proposed language that towns dealing with this issue, including Addison, can insert in their documents.
After Monday, planners, with the help of ACRPC, will take what they hear and move onto writing the plan. Galgano hopes to have a draft ready by next summer, at which time the planning commission will hold at least one public hearing before forwarding the document to the selectboard, which in turn must hold at least one hearing.
“We have to be finished pretty much by July of next year. That’s the time frame we put on it to begin with,” Galgano said.
Galgano said planners can then restart their zoning update, including the sections on fences and waivers, because a plan will be in place to support it.
“We just have to keep them in balance,” Galgano said, adding, “We have to change the town plan first.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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