By Erin Post

Moretown officials have approved an eight-lot subdivision off Route 2 with conditions to ensure conservation of open space.

The Moretown Development Review Board (DRB) issued a notice of decision June 11 for a planned unit development (PUD) and subdivision proposed by Stanley, Catherine and Stephen Scribner.

Plans call for eight lots on a 24.4-acre parcel that extends from Route 2 north to the edge of the Winooski River.

Seven of the lots -- located on a upper "terrace" fronting Route 2 -- are slated for commercial development, with lot sizes ranging from .23 acres to .55 acres. The land is currently a hayfield.

An eighth lot designated for conservation-as per the town's regulations for PUDs -- is located on a lower terrace near the river.

The DRB imposed two conditions involving the land designated for conservation. The applicants had proposed a single lot, owned in common by the seven lot owners, to govern all the undeveloped land. Some of this land would host shared services, including wells and septic systems, for the commercial lots.

The Scribners would reserve the right to farm an eight-acre cornfield on the lower terrace as well as transfer those farming rights to someone else in the future. If the Scribners or transferees no longer wanted to farm the land, the owners' association would obtain the rights and determine how to manage the property.

But the board, in their notice of decision, took issue with handing over control to the owners' association.

"The board believes it unrealistic that the future seven individual lot owners and their owners' association will have much incentive to monitor and enforce any development restrictions," the decision reads.

As a result, the board is requiring the applicants to "submit a revised plan dividing lot eight into two portions." The first should represent the acreage on the upper terrace that contains shared amenities governed by the association. The DRB requires the "remaining acreage consisting of the lower terrace presently being utilized as a cornfield, together with those portions of the upper terrace which are to remain open and undeveloped," be depicted as a separate portion of the parcel.

The applicant is required to "conserve the open space by dedication, either in fee or conservation easement, to a government or nonprofit land conservation organization" consistent with ordinance requirements.

Copies of the covenants, easements, or other methods of preserving the land must be filed with the DRB "prior to conveyance of any lot in the subdivision."

The town's land use regulations require planned unit developments to meet several criteria, including preservation of open space and protection of identified resources. PUDs may be residential or commercial and are designed to allow for "innovative and flexible design and development that will promote the most appropriate use of the land."

The Scribner subdivision is located in an area zoned for commercial use.

The applicants had originally proposed a 12-lot subdivision, but scaled back plans after learning that a portion of the lower terrace is designated a "fluvial flood plain" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The designation limits development potential, according to testimony presented to the DRB by engineer Gunner McCain.

The project also requires state Act 250 approval.

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