By Lisa Loomis
Paul Hartshorn received approval for a five-lot subdivision in Waitsfield from the town planning commission this week.
At a June 5 planning commission meeting, planners deliberated on the application in open session, discussing their commitment to the notion of requiring connectivity between the Hartshorn subdivision and the neighboring Koeple subdivision.
After members talked about the need for town-wide input on future road networks, they concurred that their decision will include a 'suggestion' that Hartshorn create a non-motorized pedestrian/bike access across one of his five lots that connects to the easement on the Koeple subdivision. That 'suggestion' is not a condition of the permit.
A connectivity condition triggered an appeal of the 2005 approval. That appeal resulted in a negotiated settlement between the town and Hartshorn whereby he was allowed to come back to the planning commission and apply for a second subdivision with the understanding that he could revive his first appeal if he did not like the second result.
"I really think that a public process is needed to talk about where roads will go. The Town Plan provides us with guidance in terms of connectivity and goals, but I think the planning commission would be prudent to collect public input," said Jamey Fidel, a member of the planning commission.
"Is there something about this subdivision in particular that warrants connectivity?" he asked, adding, "I think we should move forward with approval of this subdivision with a suggestion to the Development Review Board that the cumulative impacts of traffic and safety be addressed if it comes before them."
This current subdivision proposal includes three building lots plus a fourth that could be subdivided once. There is a fifth lot of 57 acres, which adjoins the Koeple subdivision. When queried about that lot at a May 1 planning commission hearing, the Hartshorns and their attorney Lauren Kolitch said it was a 'non-development' lot and said they would appeal any permit condition that restricted future subdivision of that lot.
"I think it's important that we focus on the merits of the subdivision and not require the connecting road, then have the planning commission go through the public process regarding roads," Fidel said.
Planning commissioner Peter Laskowski agreed.
"The whole idea of the road may be premature, but perhaps, a right of way for kids to bike over to the Airport Road and get to the soccer fields in Mad River Park could be created. Maybe that's a way to eliminate charging ahead with a road that no one wants," Laskowski said.
"I have issues with the road because I think we're trying to do it the wrong way. None of us are road engineers and we don't know where roads should go. Just because the Town Plan calls for connectivity, that doesn't mean this is the right way - as someone comes before us we're asking them to lay out a road without the complete picture of what the town is doing with roads. We don't know where roads should go yet," planning commission chair Karl Klein pointed out.
Planning commissioners voted on a motion to approve the subdivision with several conditions including one that the internal roads have 18-foot travel lanes, excluding shoulders, and another calling for no non-emergency access to the subdivision from Hartshorn Road next to the project. The commission also conditioned their approval on having the road to the project, Quarry Road, and parking for Hartshorn's Farm Stand be delineated and upgraded before lots were sold.
Finally, planners wrote their 'suggestion' into their approval, asking that the Hartshorns provide space for a non-motorized access through the 57-acre lot to the existing easement on the Koeple land.
Planning commissioners then moved into a hearing on a proposed re-write of the zoning for Irasville. Commissioners have completed a two-year process of rewriting that zoning and were finalizing several final aspects of their proposal this week.
The new zoning creates seven subdistricts in Irasville, each with its own standards and uses. This week planning commissioners heard from several members of the public who had questions about the proposed changes. Former planning commissioner Bill Parker asked the commission why every district in the new zoning had minimum one-quarter and one-eighth acre zoning while the minimum lot size in the Fiddler's Green zone remained one acre. He said that size minimum, plus a requirement for creating residential development along with commercial, was a deterrent to good planning and growth. Planners explained their reasoning in keeping Fiddler's Green at a one-acre minimum but also said that if Parker were to present some sort of master plan for Fiddler's Green they would be interested in seeing it.
Town resident Ted Tremper told the commission that he felt the proposed Irasville zoning created too many conditional uses and not enough permitted uses and said that it was a deterrent to businesses.
No business owner would want to purchase land and pursue a project if approval is conditional rather than ensured.
Planners also considered whether or not to remove the requirement that new construction be two stories throughout Irasville and/or whether to remove that requirement for the Mill Brook zone. After hearing from planning commissioner Brian Fleisher, who favored removing the two-story requirement for the Mill Brook zone, planners discussed whether doing so constituted spot zoning and, after a straw poll, rejected the idea.
The Irasville zoning will now go to the select board for a final public hearing. The select board can adopt the zoning or bring it forward for a public vote. Members of the public can also petition for a public vote on the proposed new zoning.