Planning Commission opts for conditional recommendation of VTel tower to Public Service Board

By Carol Casey

At its meeting on July 25, the Planning Commission asked Town Planner Dean Pierce to draft a conditional recommendation for the VTel tower to the Public Service Board which will make the final decision on the VTel application. The Commission reached this decision after hearing additional information from William Dodge of Downs Rachlin Martin who is representing VTel.  He reported that they explored siting the tower at various locations around Shelburne, including the water tower, the library, the United Methodist Church, the Stockman parcel, the wastewater facility location, Vermont Teddy Bear, and Shelburne Green but found that the previously proposed site at the Magee Hangar, 254 Air Park Road, best met their needs. Several residents of Air Park Road appeared before the Commission to express their concerns that the 75’ tower would be located in a residential rather than commercial district, decrease property values, be unsightly, and require additional maintenance of Air Park Road due to the construction and oversight of the tower. The Commissioners acknowledged the residents’ concerns and the fact that the siting would conflict with town ordinances, specifically due to its location in a residential district, failure to meet the setback requirements, and its adverse impact on neighboring property owners, but Commissioner Hogan stated that VTel had made good faith efforts to address these concerns. Commissioner Burks added that Vtel had “the potential to be a viable business” and Commissioner Bouchard noted that VTel would be “a benefit to the community.” Commissioner Elkins asked that VTel explore the Redstone site at the former location of Harbor Industries before the Commission makes a final recommendation on the Magee Hangar site. In the meantime, Pierce was directed to draft a conditional recommendation noting the conflict with the town ordinances and setting the conditions that VTel use no heavy construction vehicles on Air Park Road, screen the south side of the tower with evergreens, remove the tower at the completion of the project, and contribute proportionately to the maintenance of Air Park Road. The final text will be considered at the Commission’s next meeting.

The Commission next turned its attention to proposed zoning changes discussed at previous meetings. Working from draft language provided by Pierce, the Commission decided to allow small portable signs without requiring a permit in the Commerce & Industry South district and in a portion of the residential district south of the intersection of Marsett Road, Bostwick Road, and Route 7. This change would permit Shelburne Vineyards and Shelburne Green to use small portable signs if certain conditions were met.

A proposed zoning change in the developable area definition and applicability engendered considerable debate and public comment. In the end, the Commission agreed to exempt lots of 14.9 acres or less in the rural area in existence at the time the change is made from the developable area definition, thus allowing those lots to be subdivided into two lots of not less than five acres each.

The precise language for these two changes as well as for outdoor seating at restaurants, expansion of structures in the lakeshore setback, and restaurant use in the Commerce & Industry South District will be considered at the Commission’s next meeting. The latter change would primarily affect Folino’s Pizza and a possible restaurant in the previous daycare center facility near Vermont Teddy Bear. Any zoning changes recommended by the Commission would have to be adopted by the Selectboard and Folino’s Pizza or any new restaurant would still have to obtain proper permits to operate.

Commission Chair Brian Precourt suggested that the Commission consider holding a joint meeting with Development Review Board (DRB) to ascertain whether the DRB wanted any other modifications or clarifications of existing regulations and recommended that the Commission schedule a retreat to consider its work plan for the coming months.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held Thursday, Aug. 8 at 7 pm in the Municipal Center.

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