Ferrisburgh plan hearing on tap

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard will take the town’s next step in what has been a three-year effort to update the Ferrisburgh Town Plan.
At 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, the selectboard will hold its first, and possibly only, hearing on the document at town offices, which will focus on how the town should grow along Route 7.
“There was some expansion of the Route 7 corridor for mixed uses,” said planning commission chairman Bob Beach, “so there was more opportunity for business growth along Route 7 in a mixed variety.”
In reworking language in a town plan that will underpin future zoning laws along Route 7 and elsewhere in Ferrisburgh, Beach said planners took great pains to listen to all points of view, including opponents of recent development along the highway.
“I would say that we tried very hard to be inclusive, and this took quite a while to do, more time than we would have hoped,” Beach said. “But we took in surveys from townspeople. We took in comments from the Conservation Commission, and we worked in conjunction with the selectboard, which was given an early draft, so it coincided with the way they were thinking so there would be no surprises by the time it got to the selectboard for their hearing.”
The full document may be reviewed at www.ferrisburghvt.org. The town plan may be found under the “Planning Commission” link on the menu on the left side of the home page.
The revised town plan also slightly extends the commercial district northward near Big Hollow Road, Beach said, and clarifies and eliminates some of the language that has caused confusion in the past few years, such as the outdated provision that the Route 7 Highway Commercial district should consist of  “uses typical of a 19th-century highway crossroads area.”
“That was reworded,” Beach said.
If the town plan is adopted, Beach said planners’ next challenge would be to focus on a zoning rewrite that could allow for new uses along Route 7, including professional offices, service businesses and home occupations.
“There’s been commentary about allowing more mixed uses along the Route 7 corridor,” Beach said. “And there’s been question about whether lot sizes along there could be reduced. So we’ll be revisiting some of those components.”
The proposed plan and future zoning will also focus on adaptive re-use of the town’s older buildings as another tactic to encourage economic growth.
“There was a lot of discussion about a town center, and I think there was a lot of discussion about trying to allow for a lot of people in Ferrisburgh working in Ferrisburgh (by) promoting small businesses throughout the town,” Beach said.
Beach said an October memorandum from the Addison County Regional Planning Commission on solar arrays was not received in time to include in the town plan. That memo provided suggested language on regulating solar arrays for towns to add to their plans.
But Beach said the selectboard has the option of adding language based on that memo to the plan. Senior regional planner Claire Tebbs said the memo is “really just a guide,” and that local boards are free to “adopt language that everyone in their towns feels good with.”
The memo provides guidelines for towns to regulate siting, screening and evaluating proposed solar arrays based on recent state law.
All these issues can be discussed on Tuesday, and Beach emphasized it is not too late for citizen input.
“I’m hopeful they’ll get a turnout,” Beach said. “I would encourage people to turn out. There is a copy online, and I would encourage people to read it and make comments because there is an opportunity to make changes. Because if people don’t like it, now is their real opportunity to speak up. Hopefully they’ll like it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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