By Keith Morrill
Town officials have moved one step closer to finalizing Charlotte’s new town plan. The proposed plan has been in the making more than five years, and if all goes smoothly, it will be put before voters at this spring’s Town Meeting.
The last town plan was enacted in 2008. At the time, the state required town plans to be updated or readopted every five years. According to Peter Joslin, the chair of the Charlotte Planning Commission, Charlotte town officials were in the process of rewriting the town plan when a new rule went into effect extending that timeframe to every eight years. “We knew it would not be possible to complete the plan in time to meet the five-year requirement,” he said, so the town took advantage of the new rule.
With that extra three years, the town has attempted to streamline and reorder the document in a way that better represents town priorities. Similar to the previous draft, the plan is split into three major sections—Charlotte yesterday, today, and tomorrow—though Joslin points out that sections have been reordered, placing “Charlotte tomorrow” at the forefront of the plan. “It made sense for this to be first, as it is the core of the plan,” Joslin said. “The other two sections act more as an index, supporting documentation.”
Joslin said the new plan features a number of notable changes, particularly regarding energy use in town. While the energy section addresses energy use in the town, it points largely to state regulations that the town adheres to, whereas the newly proposed plan crafts an approach much more personalized and responsive to the town’s needs.
The proposed plan “seeks to guide local policy as it relates to energy demand and potential generation” and states that, moving forward, the town itself will seek “to minimize energy use and greenhouse gas emissions within the Town while ensuring a secure energy future through conservation, improvements in efficiency and an increase in renewable energy use and production.”
This ambitious energy plan is not entirely unique to Charlotte. The state of Vermont has set itself a goal of reaching 90 percent renewable energy use by 2050. The Charlotte plan takes it just a little further, aiming to achieve “zero net energy use” across the town by 2050. To achieve that end, the town will seek to pursue avenues for making public buildings more energy efficient, as well as updating municipal facilities and infrastructure standards “to accommodate changing environment conditions.”
The Oct. 12 Planning Commission meeting also hinted at other areas that the town is interested in updating, as members spent the meeting making edits to the draft and discussing the town’s plans and strategies to address diversity issues.
According to the current draft of the plan, the town seeks to maintain and continue to grow diversity, including the economic diversity of its population. To that end, the new plan states that the town will tackles affordable housings issues, saying the town “will seek solutions to address this need.”
The town intends to present the finalized form of its new plan to the Selectboard in mid-November. From there, the town must hold two public meetings on the plan, after which it can either approve it as is or make changes. At that point, the plan will be ready to be put before voters this March at Town Meeting. In the meanwhile, the plan is publicly available on the Charlotte town website.