By Carol Casey
In a recent review of the current zoning regulations, Town Planner Dean Pierce discovered that no specific sign standards for the Shelburne Falls zoning district were included. At the Planning Commission’s meeting on April 26, he offered three options for consideration. As an interim step, the Commission chose to set the same standards for Shelburne Falls as are in place for the Village/Institutional/Museum districts. These are the most restrictive standards in the town. Dan Burks asked for and was given assurance that current property owners with signs posted already would be grandfathered in and would thus not face any expense that might be necessary were they required to change their existing signs. At a later date, the Commission may revisit this question and adopt Shelburne Falls specific standards. This proposed change will be included in a package with six other amendments that the Commission has discussed and adopted earlier this year. A public hearing on these issues will be held shortly.
In the public comment period of the meeting, Fritz Horton, the Chair of the Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission (HPDC), asked that the purview of the Commission be extended to encompass the Route 7 corridor. At present the HPDC, whose recommendations to the Development Review Board are advisory only, is charged with reviewing projects solely in the Village district. He cited two examples of new buildings on Route 7 that might have been improved in appearance had the expert opinions of the HPDC been solicited. Commission Vice Chair Kate Lalley, who presided over the meeting in Brian Precourt’s absence, commented that the input of the HPDC “would be a Godsend to the DRB and the town.” Pierce stated that simply asking the DRB to add a review of Route 7 corridor projects by the HPDC to the checklist of items the DRB considers when approving a project would offer a quick fix. A more formal way of accomplishing the goal would be to conduct a design study of the Route 7 corridor, a requirement before officially calling for an HPDC review. Pierce will lay out these options in more detail for the Commission to consider at their next meeting.
Bill Dennis, one of the consultants for the “A Vision for 7” project, appeared via Skype to update Commission members. The consultants’ report is in draft form and was due to be finalized by May 1. A copy of the report may be available shortly on the town’s website or obtained from Pierce.
Pierce announced that the Selectboard had invited members of the Commission to attend the May 5 retreat for the session when it will discuss the “A Vision for 7” project. Commission members Ron Bouchard and Toni Supple will attend that session, as will Kate Lalley if her schedule permits.
Vision statement for Town Plan
The Commission next turned its attention to a revised draft vision statement for the Town Plan as suggested by the Selectboard. After a discussion of various alternatives and with some amendments, the Commission reached a consensus on the vision statement. [See below for the text.] Commissioners agreed that they needed more specific input from the Selectboard before considering what other revisions to the Town Plan they had previously adopted might be necessary or desirable. The Selectboard will be invited to join the Commission at its meeting on May 24 or on a date more convenient to the Selectboard for this discussion.
Pierce announced that the Norwich University students working on designs for a Shelburne Welcome Center will be making a presentation to the Commission at the next meeting. He also reported that Brian Precourt had requested that the Commission review subdivision regulations at that time to update references to state law and make other administrative changes. Both of these items will be on the agenda for the Commission’s next meeting on Thursday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Municipal Center.
By Carol Casey