By Erin Post

The Fayston Select Board has decided not to act on a petition asking for a temporary moratorium on development in town.

At their meeting Monday, December 11, the board passed a motion to take the petition on "advisement," one of three options laid out by the town's attorney, according to Fayston Planning Commission chair Chuck Martel.

The motion, passed unanimously by the board, encourages residents concerned about development to participate in the Town Plan revision now in the works, in lieu of specifically taking up the petition's requests.

"That's the right avenue to address this all," said select board member Ed Read, in reference to the town plan.

As part of the process to update Fayston's Town Plan, a survey has recently been mailed to households in Fayston, asking for input on a number of issues including growth and development. The planning commission is also hosting a series of public meetings as they work on the Town Plan update.

Martel said, because a few relatively large subdivision applications had already been filed and taken up by the planning commission before the petition was submitted, the board could not legally put a halt to their review.

And at least in the short term, Martel said there are no proposed subdivisions coming up, making a moratorium less effective.

"I don't really know if a moratorium would do anything," Martel said.

The other two legal options presented by the attorney included incorporating the petition's requests into the Town Plan and land use regulations, Martel said, or sending the petition back to the planning commission for "further review and study."

"I honestly don't know what we would study," Martel said, noting that some petitions request specific tasks and include "pretty precise wording" regarding what the petitioners would like to see.

The petition presented to the planning commission on November 7, however, was more open-ended, Martel said.

The petition, signed by about 75 town residents, asked for at least a six-month moratorium on multi-lot subdivisions "to allow time for our town to better prepare to respond to the recent onslaught of subdivision requests."

It called for a "more comprehensive land use plan" that would preserve the rural nature of the town, protect wilderness and recreation areas, and "allow for economic diversity among our residents."

Petitioners presented the document at a hearing for two subdivisions, one on Center Fayston Road and the other off Old Center Fayston Road that proposed a total of 12 new home lots.

At the meeting, petitioners voiced objections to any new subdivisions until the town had a plan in place to address growth and development.

Martel said since that hearing, there has been strong community participation in the town planning process. He said residents have e-mailed concerns and questions to members of the planning commission, and added that a recent meeting regarding the Town Plan was "one of the largest public meetings we've had in awhile."

"They are coming to the planning commission meetings to voice their concerns," he said.

Select board member Jared Cadwell said community participation is key, as is making sure the planning commission can focus on the task at hand.  

"My big concern is that the planning commission really has the time to do a good job," he said. "That goes to the DRB and planning commission changes that we're undergoing over the next few months."

The select board is considering forming a development review board to take over subdivision application review as well as duties now handled by the zoning board of adjustment, freeing the planning commission to focus solely on long-term planning.

The transition may take place early next spring, select board members said, although a date has not yet been set.

The board also discussed strategies some other towns have pursued to limit development, including setting a limit on the number of building permits issued per year, or limiting the number of lots that are allowed to be developed over a certain period of time.