Land use ordinances aren’t sexy. That’s been said here in this space before. But they are vitally important. Land use regulations shape the way we use and develop land in The Valley, and they offer a critical tool for achieving the goals we have for our towns and our landscape.
The character and historic settlement patterns that make the Mad River Valley scenic and charming include compact villages and open farm, field and forested lands. It is our land use regulations that foster and preserve those historic settlement patterns.
The Warren Planning Commission is engaged in a total rewrite of its land use ordinances, attempting to simply and clarify them while making it easier for citizens to use and easier for developers to understand as well as easier for the town’s development review board that must administer them.
The planning commission has held two informal public hearings and garnered a tremendous amount of public comment and input on the proposed regulations. The planning commission has also created videos of each member explaining one of the new districts in the regulations. (http://planning.warrenvt.org/).
There has been great public outreach and a strong response from the community and that’s a great thing. Land use regulations dictate whether someone can build an asbestos factory next to your house or a single-family home. They allow towns to concentrate development where it is most appropriate and protect areas of town where it is less appropriate. Not sexy by any measure but still indispensable for establishing a set of criteria that protects and informs residents and developers.
Planning commissioners don’t work in secret. They develop and discuss land use regulations and changes to them in open meetings. The public is always able to attend and always able to comment. There has been some grumbling about parts of these new proposed regulations, made on community bulletin boards and other digital sources. A better place for those comments to be made would be at the Warren Planning Commission meetings on Tuesdays either live in person or via Zoom.
Planners are not ogres intent on destroying lives, livelihoods, property values and investments. They are our neighbors, voluntarily doing the yeoman’s work of crafting ordinances that protect and reflect the priorities and concerns of the fellow citizens.