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The Valley Reporter
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Zoning bylaws up for debate

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05/17/2007

By Mary Alice Bisbee

Only four citizens, one new commissioner who is not yet able to take part in the hearings, and five current commissioners attended a public hearing on the latest draft of proposed changes to the town of Waitsfield's zoning bylaws.

Commissioners have been taking testimony and working with the public and planning consultant, Scott Baker, to meet the requirements and deadlines that accompany the town's application for designation of the Irasville District as the defined growth center for both Fayston and Waitsfield.  

Two comments related specifically to the Fiddler's Green division as part of the Irasville District, which currently contains well-defined residential and commercial sectors and roadways that do not afford much interchange between these entities.  

Mark di Mario, who owns the car wash, said he had hoped to change the use of the structure to include light industry, such as car repair, and believes that the new designation takes away his right to do so. Officials explained that even though he owns less than one acre, he will be grandfathered in as to any permitted or conditional uses, so long as he does not subdivide. Most of the new bylaws refer to subdividing existing lots and require that 25 percent of the additional subdividing include residential as part of that mix.

Planner Scott Baker interjected that part of the concept of growth centers and the tax increment financing (TIF) designation from the state that the town is seeking is to provide for affordable housing, make walking to work a reality, maintain the rural landscape, avoid sprawl and protect businesses from vandalism and crime.

"Residents living in a commercial district have been shown to protect the entire community,"- he said. "When lights are on in the second and third floors with people walking around and paying attention at night, crime goes way down."

Former planning commissioner Bill Parker, who also is a commercial owner at Fiddler's Green (FG), had several comments about how these new regulations may affect his and other FG owners' rights to expand their businesses, design their own structures and possibly subdivide.

Commissioner Robin Morris responded several times to Parker's various comments about how these regulations adversely affect most FG owners. He said the commission has been waiting for Fiddler's Green to come up with a plan so they can incorporate it into the master Irasville design, which must show a strong mixed use component in order to access the TIF funding.

"We are very willing to work with you," said Morris.

Irwin Barkan remarked that no development will be forthcoming until the water, septic, and other infrastructure components are in place. All agreed, and commission chair Karl Klein stated that work is progressing rapidly in both areas.

Ted Tremper addressed concerns with the wording about rebuilding a damaged structure within one year. Although there are exceptions written in, the commission agreed to look into adding more wording to protect those who may have delays due to litigation or insurance claims.

The planning commission will concentrate on rewriting this draft and incorporating minor corrections before submitting it to the select board for their comments and another public hearing process.

Board reviews subdivision proposal

In other business after closing the hearing, site technician Gunner McCain presented site plans for a three-lot subdivision on Bowen Road, a class four road, which has been used for years as a path into the Scrag Mountain Municipal Forest.

According to McCain, this project--which at one time was a seven lot, and then a five lot subdivision proposal--has been in litigation for over 10 years. McCain also stated that he did his first water table borings on this site in 1991. He said attorney Paul Gillies has been handling the legal case, and said it is his understanding that the court has remanded back to the town.

The Kisiels, owners and applicants, are currently requesting a division of their property into three parcels, one of 104.1 acres, a second of 27.2 acres, and a third of 30.1 acres, all located between the 1,500- and 1,700-feet above sea level agricultural/residential district where a conditional use permit must be obtained from the Planning Commission.

Commissioners made a site visit and had several concerns. Bowen Road is not yet meeting specifications the select board mandated for construction, and a stream runs very close to where the proposed pressurized pipeline to the septic system is sited. Commissioners suggested that such a long pipeline, skirting the stream so closely, may need monitoring for leakage, even after tests at its inception.  McCain suggested a five- year squirt test would be sufficient to ensure that there are no leakage problems.

Other concerns included road turnouts for emergency vehicles, a parking area for hikers, a prohibition on cutting trees over a certain size to leave a visual screening, and construction of a well-designed bridge that would have a limited impact on the stream bed below.
 
There was disagreement between McCain and commissioners about whether some of the land contains a deer yard. McCain stated that the Kisiels are not conducive to donating any of the upper lands to the Stark Mountain Municipal Forest which it adjoins. Open areas were asked for, and McCain stated unequivocally that he will so designate, but that they will not be located adjacent to the town forest land.

Commissioners said they wanted to review the old records and ask other experts to review some of the plans and land before deciding on whether to issue a permit with several restrictions. There were also some procedural issues regarding what is in the planning commission's jurisdiction and what should be left to the newly created development review board. The hearing was continued until June 6.

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