Created on Wednesday, 17 October 2007 20:00
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 October 2007 20:00
By Russ Bennett
The Subdivision Regulations that have been duly adopted by the
Waitsfield Select Board are important to the future of the Town of
Waitsfield. Waitsfield has had the same subdivision regulations since
These regulations were a good beginning but they are a
one-size-fits-all-land kind of ordinance and they are incredibly broad
which means they can be interpreted many ways. This leads to
misunderstanding on behalf of applicants and the inevitable lawsuits.
The planning commission has surveyed the townspeople many times in the
past 20 years and these subdivision regulations are in concert with
what the voters have said is important. The PC spent three years
re-writing these regulations, hired the best planning consultants in
the state to assist and held numerous public hearings as did the select
board before adopting them.
The newly adopted subdivision regs recognize that some areas of town
should allow denser development than others, such as existing
settlement patterns both residential and commercial and that in other
instances the natural resources that are precious to us all need to be
considered. They are not perfect, no ordinance is, but they can be
amended and will be as needed. It would be a pity to throw the baby out
with the bath water as some disgruntled citizens would advocate.
The era of "it's my land and I should be able to do with it what I
want" is long over. We all have a right to own property -- we don't
have a right, an inherent right, to profit from it (although that would
be nice but is not part of a capitalism, maybe socialism) pollute it,
misuse it, or not consider whether our proposed uses for it work
with the stated goals of the townspeople.
Zoning has been found constitutional many, many times. Global warming,
polluted water, acid rain, poorly designed developments that don't
consider natural resources and traffic and interconnectivity are the
result of 'it's my land and I'll do what I want with it for my own
personal gain' kind of thinking. If we want our town to be developed in
responsible ways we need thoughtful, responsible regulations.
There are a few vocal folks who did not get exactly what they wanted
out of the old subdivision regulations when they made their
applications who are complaining about these newly adopted regulations.
The new regulations are clear; developers always ask for clear
direction, not fuzzy ones. The old ones are fuzzier and in many ways
stricter. The old regs allow a much broader way to look at the
possibility of new road networks than the new ones, so if the new
regulations are overturned the old regulations that demand a review of
future road ways will be in effect.
The original town fathers laid out roads for towns with no cars and
much smaller populations; they laid them out where they thought they
should go. It is critical to look at the impact of roads or the lack
thereof when development is proposed. The original charters called for
taxes to be paid to support the roads, the schools and the parsonage
and you were required to keep five acres open and a house 18 feet
square or you could have your land taken. Those guys were much more
heavy-handed than any regulations in effect today.
Destruction of natural resources, preservation of ag land -- some folks
are opposed to regulations of any sort so don't be beguiled into
thinking the complainers can be mollified. It's your town, it's your
vote, it's your responsibility. If you care about your town, vote in
support of the regulations. If you want to see the town developed in
thoughtful ways that take many criteria into consideration, not simply
the immediate desires of any particular developer, vote yes to support
the select board, the development review board, the planning commission
and the new subdivision regulations. If there are changes you want to
see made to the new regulations, propose those to the PC where they
will get a full public review and hearing. Don't throw a lot of good
work out with the bath water.
Destruction of natural resources, preservation of ag land, these things
are important and some folks are opposed to regulations of any
sort so don't be beguiled into thinking the complainers can be
Russ Bennett lives in Waitsfield.