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Select Board urged to change zoning

October 26, 2006 

By Lisa Loomis

An attorney and three Route 17 property owners asked the Waitsfield Select Board to amend the zoning for Route 17 so that new construction does not require building a second floor at the same time.

Present at the October 23 public hearing on the proposed zoning amendments were attorney Alan Solomon, representing Mill Brook Imports owner James Garilli, Andrew Baird Jr., owner of Baird Mill, and Freeman White, owner of  F. G. White. All own businesses on Route 17, which is considered part of the Irasville Village District where new construction requires a second story.

Solomon petitioned the town to drop the second story requirement last spring/summer. The planning commission held a public hearing on the proposal and passed the matter on to the select board with a recommendation that the second story provision be left intact.

Solomon told the select board that although the Town Plan and zoning ordinance are clear in specifying that second story construction is desired to create infill development, these particular properties on Route 17 are ill-suited for infill development, particularly any kind of residential development.

He further told the board that the goals of recreating the historic settlement patterns of Waitsfield Village and creating sidewalks with tree canopies were inappropriate to the reality of Route 17. He suggested that the ordinances were hamstringing business people who would like to grow their businesses and said the town was preventing business development today while planning for decades down the line.

"I don't think people want to live facing a car repair place, an LP gas facility or a gas station. This second story requirement is stifling business growth and peoples' ability to make a living. We should recognize that this Route 17 area is not the center of Irasville and it's not historical Waitsfield Village - so none of those regulations should apply to it. This is a unique piece," Solomon said.

Karl Klein, planning commission chair, disagreed with Solomon.

"We, the planning commission, do see Route 17 as part of Irasville and that corridor in particular is one of the entrances to our town. Part of our work in focusing on creating compact village centers is to look at not what the effect of regulations/ordinances is today but what the effect is in 50 years. The businesses that are there now may not be there in 50 years. We don't see this area of town as some sort of stepchild, we look at it as an important part of our village," Klein said.

"You're penalizing people who have been here for years. You're planning for years and years into the future and these restrictions were never discussed for Route 17. You're depriving three people of the right to make a living and I don't think the town wants to do that. It's a pure pipe dream to think something is going to happen or grow there. We have to look realistically at the foreseeable future," said Solomon.

Solomon represented Garilli when he applied for permits to expand his business by building a 280-by-18-foot car storage facility but was denied due to lack of a second floor. That denial was appealed to Vermont Environmental Court where the town prevailed.

The select board can deny the request, adopt it or take no action. Board members did not discuss the matter after the public hearing was closed.

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