By Lisa Loomis
Waitsfield is continuing its pursuit of two state designations that will help fund the cost of infrastructure in the town's growth center and also help fast track the town in terms of receiving state funds for infrastructure.
Four years ago Waitsfield voters budgeted $15,000 to pursue the creation of a TIF district and that work is finally getting underway. Creation of a TIF district allows the town to capture all of the increased tax revenues from new development within the district. Waitsfield is creating a TIF district in Irasville. Tax revenue from development there can be used to pay for infrastructure such as roads, water and sewage, rather than having to be sent to Montpelier, or shared with Montpelier through the state's statewide property tax.
The designation of a growth center for Irasville is also something the town is working on. Achieving that designation means the town will be better able to achieve certain state funds earmarked for planning and infrastructure.
Brian Shupe, a Waitsfield resident and currently program director for the Vermont Forum on Sprawl, came before the planning commission on April 3 to discuss with the board how the town's current Irasville planning process works with that state designation.
Shupe explained that growth center designation requires some very specific mapping as well as concrete plan to accommodate 51 percent of growth in the town over the next 20 years in that designated growth center.
Waitsfield has been working on a complex re-write of the zoning for Irasville that specifies residential infill development, mixed use commercial and residential, streetscapes, municipal space, greenway and more. That re-write does envision a significant amount of growth being channeled into that area.
Achieving the state growth center designation also requires that a town's development plan and accompanying bylaw focus on retaining the rural character of the town and that they provide protection for important natural and historic resources, including prime agricultural land.
Prior to Shupe's presentation, planning commissioners continued a hearing on a proposal for an eight-unit affordable housing project on Mad River Meadows' land off the Dugway Road. The project is proposed by the Central Vermont Community Land Trust. The planning commission deliberated on that project but did not take action.
There were only five planning commissioners present at the meeting. There are currently two configurations of the town planning commission, an older version which had eight of nine possible members, but currently has only six members, and a new version (which was created when the town created a development review board) which has seven seats and currently has six members.
Because the older version of the board could have nine members, it will take five affirmative votes (from the six members) to constitute a majority for projects under review by that commission. The new commission, with seven members, will need four affirmative votes to pass a project.
Applications that were under review prior to the town making the change to a DRB and smaller planning commission must be heard and adjudicated by the older version of the commission.
Those applications include the Mad River Meadows project, a proposed four-lot subdivision by Bob Foster, a three-lot subdivision proposed by Gordy and Kay Marcelle, the Mark and Polly Kisiel four-lot subdivision and Paul Hartshorn's five-lot subdivision.