Addison Town Plan hearing set for next Tuesday

ADDISON — What could be the final public hearing on a proposed new Addison Town Plan will be held by the Addison selectboard on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the town clerk’s office.
The plan could lay the groundwork for new zoning laws that would allow for smaller lots in the town’s biggest zoning district, and create permanent regulations at the town level on solar arrays and wind turbines. The town now has interim regulations on the siting of solar arrays that the selectboard adopted in July.
Despite some pushback on the renewable energy provisions in the plan at its September public hearing, the Addison Planning Commission sent an unchanged draft to the selectboard.
Likewise, in an email to the Independent, selectboard Chairman Jeff Kauffman said that board also opted to make “no changes” to a document on which planners have been working for almost four years.
The plan is intended to replace a 2014 interim plan to which planners and selectboard members agreed after a debate on whether to allow smaller lots in the Low Density Residential and Agricultural District (LDRA), the town’s largest zone.
Selectboard members wanted smaller lots, setbacks and road frontages to create more affordable housing, while planners said many in town favored open farmland and vistas.
With help from the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, the new plan proposes as a solution to the discussion creating “a density based zoning code” for the LDRA district.
Density bonuses will allow landowners or developers to create one or more smaller lots if they agree to preserve open land on the larger parcel that is being subdivided. The tactic thus allows affordable lots and preserves farmland and scenery.
Other plan provisions, to be enforced only when zoning is adopted, would call for the lots created to be surveyed, and wherever possible to be served by a single curb cut.
If the selectboard does make any major changes to the planners’ proposed plan after the upcoming hearing, it must return it to the planning commission for further review — and more hearings.
Planners this summer also added a number of provisions in an “Energy” section after the Legislature passed a bill giving towns the right to go before the Public Service Board on proposals for solar arrays and wind turbines — but only if towns had standards in their plans to regulate renewable energy projects.
The Addison draft plan’s provisions on “Energy” include:
•  A ban on commercial solar projects generating more than 15 kilowatts (15kw) a year in the Village Center (Addison Four Corners), Shoreland Recreational and Shoreland Residential (along and near Lake Champlain) districts.
•  A limit of 500kw for projects in the LDRA zone and a complete ban in the Conservation district.
•  A ban of commercial wind projects on Snake Mountain.
•  A case-by-case review of smaller-scale (50-meter) wind turbines in some areas considered suitable.
•  Support for home roof-mounted solar arrays, but a limit of how high they can reach over roof peaks (10 feet).
•  Requirements for the use of landscape screening and natural topography to limit projects’ visual impact, which will be assessed using standard state methods to evaluate neighborhood impact.
Residents Jeff Nelson and Alden Harwood in September said the town lacked the authority to establish those provisions and in some cases they were discriminatory because the same standards were not applied to other commercial development.
Planners defended the section, noting that much of the language has been approved by regional planners, and is thus likely to be legal, and that the chapter meets the goal of getting the town a say when proposed solar or wind projects go before the Public Service Board seeking Certificates of Public Good.
Among other provisions, the draft town plan calls for establishing the town’s first conservation commission; adds pages of maps devoted to facilities, resources, soil septic suitability, population density and more; details survey results in a number of topics; creates a new “Flood Overlay District” within the Conservation District; and makes specific recommendations for how to obtain the goals included in each chapter.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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