Panton adopts new zoning laws

PANTON — The Panton selectboard on July 11 adopted new zoning regulations that include for the first time extensive provisions on the siting of wind and solar projects, and also create rules on the siting and occupation of farm labor housing.
At the same time the board adopted new subdivision regulations, with the most significant change there an expansion of the section outlining and clarifying how an applicant and the Development Review Board (DRB) should interact during the “Sketch Plan Review” and “Preliminary Plat and Final Plat Review” parts of the application process.
Selectboard Chairman Howard Hall said he believes the expanded energy section, which he said was modified after Cornwall’s, and the farm housing provisions are the most significant changes made by town officials to zoning regulations last updated in 2007.
The “Energy Systems” section requires all “energy generation or energy generation projects” to “address conformity with the Panton Town Plan and the Community Standards set forth in the Panton Town Plan.”
The Vermont Public Utilities Commission, formerly the Public Service Board, retains the final say over siting of energy projects. However, the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and other experts have advised towns to adopt regulations such as these in Panton — plus add related language in their town plans (Panton is also working on a new plan) — in order to increase the likelihood of local input over project siting and screening.
Panton’s language allows its DRB to require applicants to fund studies on projects’ impacts and require project decommissioning and site restoration, and states that Panton retains the right to insist on “alternative mitigation measures to offset any identified or projected imparts to town interests, resources and properties.”
Specifically on wind projects, the regs state that Panton may insist that the so-called “Quechee Analysis,” which Act 250 officials use to review projects’ impact on surroundings and neighborhoods, be used to review wind proposals in town. They also insist that wind project sound levels conform to state standards.
On solar, the regs provide nine subsections listing landscaping, aesthetic and screening requirements, plus offer another list of 10 bullet points that focus on minimizing the visual impact of solar arrays by showing the difference between “good solar project sites” and “poor solar project sites.”
Subsections on both wind and solar projects also deal with setback minimums.
As for farm labor housing, the regs note a home for farm workers is considered “non-conforming,” but is permitted as a conditional use in all zones with a number of requirements, including that it:
•  Must not be a “temporary structure,” such as an RV.
•  Must be sited on a lot that could be made to conform to the underlying regulations of its zoning district.
•  Must have a state-approved septic system if subdivided.
•  Must not be used as a rental or any other use other than to house farm employees and their families.
The section also provides for a “bunkhouse and/or dormitory” for farm employees in the Rural-Agricultural 10-acre district, again with DRB conditional-use approval, assuming it meets “applicable health and safety standards” and all required state permits are obtained.
Other changes in Panton’s zoning law include a requirement that development near Lake Champlain must meet the requirements of Vermont’s new Shoreland Protection Act, an expanded section on home occupations, several new provisions in the general “Landscaping” section, and some new limitations on the location and lighting of signs.

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