Thunder in the Vicinity
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By Erin Post
Fayston officials plan to begin taking inquiries from town residents interested in serving on either a reconfigured planning commission or a new development review board (DRB) just after New Year's celebrations are over.
The select board informally agreed on a timeline to create a DRB at their December 28 meeting, culminating months of discussion about whether the time was right to make the switch and, if it was, how to do it with the least amount of disruption.
In the second week of January, the select board plans to begin soliciting letters of interest from residents who would like to serve on the planning commission or the DRB.
Officials have touted the formation of the DRB as a chance to draw in residents who have not been involved in the past.
"This is an opportunity for people to reconsider their involvement and also for new people to consider getting involved," said select board member Jared Cadwell at the December 28 meeting.
Fayston officials also approved an article for Town Meeting asking voters to consider the formation of a natural resources committee.
Plans call for a DRB to be officially approved by the select board and in place by April 1. The new board will be charged with reviewing subdivision applications, a job currently handled by the planning commission. The DRB would also take over duties now assigned to the zoning board of adjustment (ZBA), a group that is to be disbanded under the plan.
Formation of a DRB should allow the planning commission to focus solely on municipal planning, officials have said, giving them the time they need to revise the town plan and create a long-term vision for Fayston.
Officials have also touted the new configuration as a way to separate zoning enforcement from planning, streamlining the process for applicants and making it more efficient.
At their first meeting in February, the select board plans to begin interviewing applicants for both the DRB and the planning commission, with those interviews to continue at select board meetings through the first part of March.
The select board is responsible for appointing members of both the DRB and the planning commission. That may happen by late March, according to the schedule the select board discussed.
The number of residents to serve on each board has yet to be determined, although officials have discussed creating a five-member DRB, the minimum allowed by law. Some current planning commissioners and other officials have advocated for seven or more, in order to allow for a wider diversity of opinion and experience.
Currently, nine residents serve on the planning commission, and five serve on the ZBA.
The schedule calls for the planning commission to cease accepting subdivision applications in mid-February, allowing the new DRB to take on projects in April from start to finish.
Chuck Martel, planning commission chair, said at this point there is only one pending large subdivision application-for the Morris property off Old Center Fayston Road--that may be still in the midst of review when the DRB is formed.
Officials planned to check with an attorney regarding whether the same group of people would need to follow that application through to the final decision.
The select board also discussed changing the term of office for planning commissioners from four years to a shorter length of time, although no final decisions were made.
As part of the DRB and planning commission changes, Fayston voters are slated to consider at Town Meeting the formation of a natural resources committee, after the select board reviewed the article language at their December 28 meeting. Officials have discussed creating the committee as an additional resource for the town, and the planning commission in particular, as the group shifts its focus to long-term planning.