By Carol Casey
That’s the question the Planning Commission grappled with at their meeting on Dec. 13. The ballot proposition for funding a study lost by 32 votes in the November election, due perhaps in part to its position as the very last item on the back of the ballot. The Commission decided on a two-pronged approach: (1) asking the Selectboard how they would like to proceed; and (2) incorporating form-based code standards where appropriate in future Commission decisions. In addition, Commissioner Elkins suggested creating an informal committee to develop more ideas, especially focusing on improving communications with town residents about the issue.
The Commission opened their meeting with a public hearing on proposed zoning changes (1) authorizing expansion of non-complying structures in the Lakeshore setback; and (2) regulating excavation and filling in the Lakeshore setback. No members of the public appeared to express opinions, so the Commission will forward the changes they previously adopted to the Selectboard for their consideration.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, Elizabeth Hern stated that she is continuing to seek a location for developing a small, upscale hotel in Shelburne, and is pursuing negotiations with property owners on the southern end of Route 7. She alerted the Commission that she may be seeking an amendment to the zoning regulations in the future to include a hotel as a permitted use in the district. Larry Michaels of the O’Brien Brothers Agency also appeared to describe their intent of building a development on some 110 acres of land on Irish Hill Road across from River Crest. The property is not currently within the growth area or sewer service area and they are hoping that the Commission might entertain proposed amendments in the future to facilitate the development. They do plan to conserve some 65 acres of land within the property.
Bernie Gagnon, the Director of Public Works, reported to the Commission on a recent study done by Stantec focused on the intersection of Route 7, Falls Road, and Harbor Road. He was also interested as to whether building a loop road would have any impact on congestion at that intersection. The study did take into account the future development of Harrington Village. The next phase of the study will include alternatives for improving traffic flow. Commissioner Lalley stated that she felt the loop road was “a very suburban looking solution for a historic 19th century village” and had great concerns that it would give the area a “Taft Corners sort of feel.” Gagnon replied that the loop road was still a very conceptual design and that the development of Shelburne Woods has not yet been taken into account. He stressed that there would be ample opportunity for public input on what is a very rudimentary plan at this point.
The Commission then reviewed a new draft section on parking to be included under Transportation in the proposed Town Plan revision.
Before adjourning, the Commission considered alternatives for amending zoning changes in the Commerce and Industry South District, prompted by the request of John Koerner of Folino’s. Commission Chair Brian Precourt asked Town Planner Dean Pierce to develop alternative language that would expand permitted uses in the district, such as food service, retail, and hotels, along the eastern edge of Route 7 heading south of Marsett Road.
The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held at 7 pm on Thursday, Jan. 10 in the Shelburne Municipal Center.