By Erin Post

A subdivision proposal off the Old Center Fayston Road that embroiled two Valley towns in a debate about road upkeep has been approved by the Fayston Planning Commission.

The board unanimously approved the application with 11 conditions attached, according to the notice of decision signed March 6. The application was submitted by landowners Robin and Jenny Morris.

Plans call for seven lots on the 130-acre property, with lot sizes ranging from about 4 acres to almost 18 acres. Roughly 75 acres is designated conservation land to be permanently protected from development.

According to state statute, residents with interested party status who participated in proceedings before the planning commission have 30 days to submit appeals to the Vermont Environmental Court.

Several hearings on the subdivision proposal drew a crowd to the Fayston municipal offices. Some Waitsfield residents voiced concerns that the subdivision would result in more traffic through the residential neighborhood along the Old County Road, also known as the Loop Road.

Others asked the commission, in debating the subdivision application, to consider the pace of development in The Valley overall, citing concerns about public trail access and open land.

Waitsfield officials also lodged objections to the subdivision. The select board submitted a letter questioning whether the Old Center Fayston Road would hold up while serving seven new houses and the "associated additional vehicle trips." The board suggested they may consider discontinuing their section of the Old Center Fayston Road, citing the additional expenses Waitsfield may incur for upkeep.

Just over 2,000 feet of the Old Center Fayston Road--from the Fayston-Waitsfield town line to the subdivision access drive--has been approved by the Fayston Select Board for upgrades; the remaining roughly three-tenths of a mile of the road lies within Waitsfield, according to information presented at a January hearing.

Although the notice of decision does cite the town of Waitsfield's letter and the select board's "disapproval of access to this subdivision via the Waitsfield section of the Old Center Fayston Road," the decision does not address the issue of road access in its conditions.

Fayston Planning Commission chair Chuck Martel said that on the advice of an attorney the board made their decision based on the current situation in regard to road access. The appropriate time to address discontinuance of Waitsfield's section of road would be if and when the action is taken, Martel said. If it does happen, the select boards from the two towns would then be tasked with coming up with a solution.

According to Vermont statute, select boards are responsible for road issues, including repairs and classifications, a fact Martel stressed at several public hearings on the subdivision.

According to the notice of decision, an existing recreation trail--to be re-routed through the property--will remain open to the public unless a majority of the homeowners association votes to close it.

A trail running parallel to the Old Center Fayston Road, to be constructed by the applicants, is slated to have permanent, public access.

Additional conditions require property owners to leash or kennel dogs because of the land's proximity to designated deer habitat; they also prohibit further subdivision of any lots, and lay out specific requirements regarding the conserved land.

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