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Ferrisburgh voters to rule on land use regulations

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents will be asked on Town Meeting Day to approve an update of the town’s zoning bylaws and subdivision regulations that will create two new zoning districts.
One new district is in the developed area on and near Route 7 that includes Ferrisburgh Central School, the town’s office building and community center, and a number businesses. The other is in the North Ferrisburgh Village along Old Hollow Road.
Other provisions would ease rules that allow developers to create Planned Unit Developments, which allow homes and businesses to be clustered while preserving open land, rename the two Highway Commercial Districts along Route 7 and add homes as permitted uses in them, and add a section clarifying the town’s existing laws on fence building and placement.
According to the Ferrisburgh Planning Commission and Zoning Administrator Bonnie Barnes, changes were made both to align Ferrisburgh’s land use laws with the latest town plan and with state and federal laws that have changed since the town laws were last adopted.
According to information on Ferrisburgh’s website, zoning laws were last updated in 2010 and subdivision rules in 1980.
Changes to comply with federal laws include updates to Ferrisburgh’s Flood Hazard Regulations to standards required by FEMA. Those would mean the town would be eligible for FEMA funding for flood damage and property owners would be eligible for flood insurance.
According to town officials, most Zoning Districts remained the same: Rural Residential, Rural Agricultural, Conservation, Shoreland and Industrial.

MAJOR CHANGES
A closer look at the changes that will take effect with voter approval follows:
•  The two “Highway Commercial” zones as on Route 7 would become one “Highway Mixed Use District.” One zone now runs north from the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A, and the other surrounds the intersection of Old Hollow Road with Route 7 and runs a short distance south.
Both, note Barnes, include a mix of uses that include homes. The change of name better acknowledges the existing mix in the areas, and makes one basic change: One- and two-family homes will become permitted uses rather than conditional uses.
This means, Barnes said, those who seek residential permits will not have to go through a hearing process before Ferrisburgh’s zoning board, and that she and future zoning administrators will be able to issue permits for homes.
•  Similarly, Barnes said, the new “North Ferrisburgh Village District,” which would run east from Route 7 on both sides of Old Hollow Road, affirms the area as a village with mixed uses rather than its current inclusion in the larger Rural Residential district.
As also described in the town plan, it adds what Barnes called “light commercial” activity to the area’s list of permitted uses: “Retail store,” “Professional or Personal Office or Service Establishment,” “Multi-family residence,” “Group Home/Community Care Home,” and “Day care facility” serving fewer than six children.
Other, more intensive commercial uses, such as car sales, restaurants and bars, and short-term rental offerings, would require conditional uses permits, and thus zoning board review and hearings.
The current 2-acre lot size minimum would remain in place.
•  The other new zone, the “Ferrisburgh Town Center District” was also presented in the town plan, and it would reduce the minimum lot size from 2 acres to 1 acre.
It would allow the same permitted uses as in the new North Ferrisburgh district, while also permitting an extensive list of commercial activities on a conditional-use basis.
Barnes said this new zone is “more reflective of the diversity of activity that’s already present and what we’d like to encourage more of.”
•  The section on fencing regulations makes no substantial changes to the town’s existing rules, but clarifies such issues as the fact that setback rules to structures don’t apply to border fences, Barnes said.
And she added one other thing: “It doesn’t really make any changes to what is currently allowed, it just makes it clear you need a permit.”
•  As for the section on Planned Unit Developments, or PUDs, Barnes noted the existing laws, “up until now did not afford a lot of flexibility to the developer,” largely because they limited the application of PUDs to parcels of 25 acres or more.
The new laws would allow PUDs on any size parcel, assuming it had the septic capacity, preferably for a communal system, Barnes said.
For example, four or five homes could be clustered on a 10-acre lot if the remaining 5 or 6 acres remained open, she said.
“The purpose of the changes were to make it more attractive for developers … to make use of the PUD model,” Barnes said.

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