Nobody ever claimed that zoning ordinances and land use regulations are sexy. But there’s no denying that land use regulations are the single most effective tool that communities have in asserting a vision and directing how growth occurs in a town.
Over the past few months, a comprehensive revision to Fayston’s land use regulations has taken place and public hearings on the proposed changes have been robust, consistent and respectful.
Aside from the protracted and litigious consideration of whether groundwater extraction was an agricultural use by right or a conditional use in the Virginia Houston era of Waitsfield’s 1990s history, no proposed zoning changes in this writer’s memory have brought so many people to the table as these Fayston regulations.
Last week the Fayston Select Board closed the public comment period on the proposed changes after many well-attended public hearings where recreation enthusiasts, river advocates, business owners, trail creators, private citizens, developers, ski area trustees and others took the time to voice support, express concern and gain a greater understanding of the proposed changes.
Their views and opinions varied, but their respect for each other, the process and the planning commission was evident throughout each hearing. And their input mattered as select board members and planning commissioners listened and worked toward a final version of the regulations.
The proposed changes are significant and speak to subdivisions, stormwater management, steep slopes and more. There was a requirement that limits driveways to 500 feet as well as a plan to create a Natural Resources Overlay District. That district had its own permitting requirements, some of which could be waived at the discretion of the development review board.
The select board this week voted to go forward with some of the changes and will reject or modify others, sending the document back to the planning commission for revision. This will trigger more public hearings and hopefully more significant public participation.
Land use regulations aren’t sexy, but they are crucial. Every planning commission and select board in The Valley would be thrilled to have the kind of participation that the Fayston Planning Commission and Select Board have seen this spring.
Let’s hope this is the start of a trend.