Community center committee forming, LURs the same for now

Here’s the quick takeaway from Monday night’s Selectboard meeting: there’s a problem with the relationship between the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Zoning Administrator (see related article), Land Use Regulation (LUR) amendments are still up for discussion, there are a couple of new people on the Planning Commission (PC), and Charlotte town leaders are perking up their ears regarding planning for a town recreation center.

Land Use Regulation amendment
Town Administrator Dean Bloch led the discussion regarding a proposed LUR amendment that was submitted to the PC through a petition submitted by Debra Kassabian and Mike Dunbar, owners of Gemini Properties, LLC, which owns the Charlotte Crossings building. They want to change the LUR so they can have a parking area at the front of their building, facing Route 7. Bloch said the Selectboard has three options: hold a hearing, which they are currently doing, and then do nothing to follow up; send the petitioned amendment to the town for a vote on Town Meeting Day in March, or submit an amendment that they have changed to the town for a vote at town meeting.

Kassabian spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing, noting that the regulation said that parking should be excluded from the front of buildings “if possible.” She said, “If there’s no alternative, it’s allowed.” She argued that in the case of Charlotte Crossing, because of building entrance locations and accessibility requirements, they need to put those spots at the front of the building.

She said she thinks the Selectboard is “not actually being open” to the idea that the guidance is not a firm requirement and said the current regulation “is really being pushed as a hard rule.”

Charlotte landowner and developer Clark Hinsdale said that he thought changing the LUR in this case would be a “slap in the face” to the volunteers who he said put in “thousands and thousands of hours” to craft the current LURs to “make Charlotte special.”

In the interest of time, the hearing was continued until the Monday, Nov. 9 Selectboard meeting.

Talk of a Charlotte community center has been kicking around town for years, but Recreation Director Nicole Conley took the concept a little closer to reality after the Recreation Department presented their preliminary budget figures for the next fiscal year. Conley showed a possible floor plan and map that could be the possible site for a recreation and meeting spot for Charlotters.

After Charlotte Central School consolidated with other area schools two years ago to become the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD), the town lost its ability to use the school facility how it pleases. This means that CVSD has authority over how and when the building is used, which could be problematic when it comes to town meeting and voting, which have historically been held in the CCS multi-purpose room.

Conley’s proposed building includes a gym and pickleball courts that recreation programs can use, a large storage space, an indoor walking track, a conference room that could be rented, and locker rooms.

The center could potentially be located on the former Burns property, which the town owns, off of Greenbush Road near the West Village.

Conley is going to start a committee to research and plan and “see if the community wants it,” and Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow said he thought the project could take some cues from the Friends of the Charlotte Library and make an effort to secure private donations for some costs so the burden on the taxpayer is lessened.

Other news
Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue presented their first-round budget for FY 21-22, though the figures for payroll were missing and will come out later this week. The Charlotte Senior Center also presented their budget spreadsheet, which is similar to this year’s, with the caveat that with COVID-19 still a factor, less money might be spend in some areas.

After interviewing all candidates at the previous meeting, the Selectboard appointed Kelly Devine and Benjamin Pualwan to the Planning Commission. Devine’s term goes until April 30, 2023 and Pualwan’s until April 30, 2022. Both were recommended for the position by the board because of their experience and knowledge regarding planning and the town of Charlotte.

The trails committee made a request to form a Trails Steering Committee to work with Jim Donovan, a Charlotter who has agreed to donate his time as a planner to the project, thus saving the Trails Committee almost $50,000, which will be redirected toward trail construction. The committee will be made up of Jim Faulkner, Bill Fraser-Harris, Bill Stuono, Marty Van Vleck, Bill Regan, Mark Dillenbeck, Laurie Thompson, and Jack Pella.