By Carol Casey
At its meeting on May 10, the Planning Commission briefly discussed the report from Bill and Mary Dennis on reinventing the Shelburne Road corridor north from the village to the South Burlington town line. Commission chair Brian Precourt characterized the report as “pretty comprehensive” and commended the authors for giving the Commission the next steps. He reported that the Selectboard had recommended hiring the Dennises to conduct two sessions over a two-day period with the public to educate them about form-based codes. However, the SDAT Committee thought a better approach would be to have a town hall meeting in June with Selectboard and Planning Commission members to hear from town planners, city managers and other municipal managers, from Manchester, Vt. and Newport, Vt. about their experiences with design guidelines and form-based codes, focusing specifically on their impact on economic development. Town Planner Dean Pierce noted that St. Albans, Colchester, and South Burlington are currently looking at adopting form-based codes. Commissioner Dan Burks stated that it would be important to explore unintended consequences of adopting form-based codes and that the meeting should include representatives from towns that have had negative experiences simply to provide a balance and alert the Commission to possible downsides. Commissioner Ron Bouchard recommended that the net be cast wider to include town officials beyond the border of Vermont. Pierce was charged with developing a “scope of work” document to be considered at the Commission’s next meeting after feedback from the SDAT Committee. Precourt thought that the Selectboard might approve up to $10,000 for continued work on the project.
On the same topic, Pierce briefly reviewed the designs for a Shelburne Visitor Center presented by 28 Norwich University students who worked under the direction of architecture professor Matt Lutz. (An article about these designs appeared in the May 9 edition of Shelburne News.) Commissioner Dick Elkins suggested that these same students might be approached in the future about doing designs to illustrate a form-based code.
Following up on Fritz Horton’s request at the Commission’s April 26 meeting, Pierce presented three options for amending the zoning bylaws to provide some form of design review on land development on the Shelburne Road corridor north of the village. Precourt noted that there are design elements already in the bylaws and suggested as an alternative that these be expanded for application in commercial and mixed use PUDs. He proposed specifying that the Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission (HP&DRC) be charged with making formal recommendations to the Development Review Board on such projects. Pierce noted that the charter of the HP&DRC might need to be changed to reflect this new responsibility. Pierce was asked to draft proposed language based on the Precourt alternative to be presented at a later Commission meeting.
Pierce also presented “housekeeping” amendments to the subdivision bylaws which would update references to state statutes and town boards and commissions. The Commission reviewed and approved the amendments as presented. Precourt noted that the town’s website also needs to be updated in regard to the respective responsibilities of the Planning Commission and the Development Review Board.
Turning to the subject of updating the Town Plan as requested by the Selectboard, Precourt suggested that the four goals included in the newly revised visions statement now be applied in the introduction to each section of the plan, and that all references to the town survey be deleted. He asked that Pierce take this approach to the sections on Land Use and Growth which the Commission could then discuss at its next meeting. Burks recommended that Commissioners look for inconsistencies between these four major goals with specific recommendations now included in the plan as part of their review.
The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held on Thursday, May 24 at 7 pm in the Municipal Center.
By Carol Casey