Planning Commission holds session on land use and supports study of Charlotte’s farms

The Town of Charlotte, VT

The Planning Commission again took up business related to the East Charlotte Village at its Jan. 16 meeting, which also included a working session on Charlotte’s land use regulations. Five members of the commission took no action on the village commercial boundaries or lot size, but did go through the regulations to discuss where changes might occur if they reduce lot sizes from five acres to one.

Planning Commission Shawn Coyle has not attended the past four meetings, David Kenyon has attended only every other meeting.

The commission took questions from the sole public attendee, Jonathan Fisher, who asked the board for details about the buildout analysis Vice Chair Charlie Pughe presented in November. He asked, “Of the number of possible houses on one acre or two acres, what was the difference roughly?” Pughe estimated approximately 52 on one-acre lots and 34 on two-acre lots. Fischer said, “I bring up distances on lot size because I was wondering how realistic it is. There are three land owners affected by this that have big enough lots.” He referred to land owned, among others, by Clark Hinsdale III behind the Charlotte Grange.

The commission also discussed and proposed language in the land use regulations allowing utilities like septic and water to pass under town roads and across districts to facilitate development in the East Charlotte Village commercial district.

Farming study by Charlotte Land Trust
Kate Lampton spoke to the commission about a proposed study next year by the Charlotte Land Trust that would collect data about farming in Charlotte, including identifying and interviewing farmers about their agricultural activities. Lampton said a similar study was conducted 20 years ago by the CLT to identify potential areas for conservation but was not used widely because the output was “spreadsheet after spreadsheet.” The proposed new study, Lampton said, would be “more user friendly, more accessible.”

She continued, “There are several reasons to do the study again, to quantify what’s on the town’s conservation front and getting a sense of direction of agriculture in Charlotte. … I consider this to be something that could be used by different entities in town.”

Chair Peter Joslin supported the idea, suggesting the Charlotte Land Trust could build on the initial work the Town Planner Daryl Arminius recently did to identify area farms. Arminius was asked by the commission to compile a list of farms using state data as part of Planning Commission activities related to Act 143 and accessory on-farm businesses.

Commission member and Charlotte Land Trust member Marty Illick also supported the idea of interviewing farmers. “It’d be great for them to say what they might like to see in this [study],” she said. Lampton concluded that while the proposal was close to complete, their next step would be to see if there are any grant funds available and hire an outside consultant to conduct the study.

Other business
The commission heard from Roy Marble during sketch plan review (PC-20-01-SK Marble-Winn-Clark) for possible subdivision of a 31.5-acre parcel at 3411 and 3453 Spear Street. They voted to continue the review and also referenced a deferred open space requirement which, according to the staff report, was a condition of a previous 2005 subdivision approval. Of note, most of the eastern portion of the parcel is within the conservation district with delineated wetlands.

The commission then discussed the East Charlotte village traffic calming study. The request for 20 percent of the estimated cost of the study to be included in the FY2021 Planning Commission budget was removed by the Selectboard during budget review at its Jan. 13 meeting, after board member Fritz Tegatz expressed concerns about the merits of the study.
The commission expressed disappointment at the decision, and Arminius and Joslin said that Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission grant funding for the traffic study would not be available to apply for again until next year.