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Update to Vergennes zoning on tap

VERGENNES — Vergennes residents and the city council will be considering new zoning and subdivision regulations this spring and early summer, Vergennes Planning Commission Chair Shannon Haggett told councilors at their Feb. 9 meeting.
Haggett said planners had been working on the new laws since early 2020, when Vergennes adopted an updated municipal plan, and the new regulations will bring zoning and subdivision provisions into alignment with that plan.
Planners expect to approve the new laws in March and hold a public hearing in April. If that goes well, the planning commission would forward the document to the council in May.
The council would then by law hold at least two hearings on the proposal before voting on adoption. Any major changes prompted by public feedback could reboot the hearing process.
Haggett said changes from the existing regulations that planners are proposing include incorporating the city’s agricultural zone into its existing low density residential zone, expanding the high density residential zone, and giving the Vergennes Development Review Board flexibility to ease setback and parking restrictions in some high density zones.
He added another goal was to make Vergennes “more bike and pedestrian friendly.”
In other business, the council heard from new Vergennes City Manager Ron Redmond that:
•  Officials determined it was not feasible to hold even a limited in-person annual city meeting to discuss city business. It will be conducted by Zoom on Monday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. Details are at Vergennes.org. “We’ll make it as grand and glorious as we can, but it’s going to have to be COVID-safe,” Redmond said.
•  Vermont Agency of Transportation officials had committed “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to a preliminary study of an alternate truck route to Route 22A/Main Street, and that research should pin down a preferred route within three-to-five years. Redmond said that initial outlay suggests VTrans had a strong commitment to the project.
•  He and Police Chief George Merkel had recently held a productive meeting with the committee studying whether Vergennes should have a citizen advisory panel to work with city officials and the police department. Redmond praised the level of research and dedication of the committee members and said they should have a recommendation ready by May. 
•  He expected the city’s backlog of recording deeds, mortgages and other documents to be cleared by Feb. 26.
•  He had established monthly meetings with the city’s department heads.
•  He had met individually with 32 “community stakeholders,” and would continue to schedule such meetings as he attempts to familiarize himself with Vergennes and residents’ concerns.

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