By Anna Syrell
75 New Housing Units? Concerns about the proposed East Charlotte land use changes
To the editor:
I want to thank the Planning Commission members for their time and effort building these proposed changes for the East Charlotte Village Commercial area. However, I have a difference of opinion with the commission in the interpretation of the Town Plan (pages 1.28 and 1.29) and regarding the conclusions of the 2009 East Charlotte Community Planning Workshops. My interpretation of these documents is a desired outcome of modest and site-appropriate growth which would not change the character of the village.
For this reason, I am opposed to the currently proposed East Charlotte Land Use Regulation Amendments.
First, what are the buildout numbers for the East Charlotte Commercial District with current zoning versus the buildout with the proposed land use changes? Between the Oct. 1 Zoom public hearing of the proposed land use changes and the day after the second hearing on Oct. 16, the maximum additional allowable building lots count went up from 34 to 45. Our Town Planner said it was not easy to say what the buildout would be, that there were a lot of variables to be taken into account. Understood, but it seems that after two years of working on this the Planning Commission should have an accurate high/low range for buildout.
Without knowing what the maximum possible buildout is, how could the Planning Commission and the public understand and determine the real impact of the proposed land use changes? The latest buildout analysis says up to 75 units (this would include affordable housing and Elder Housing bonuses).
To the best of my knowledge, no hydrology studies have been done or are proposed. We don’t have any idea of the impact of that much potential sewage would have on people’s wells. Is there enough ground water to supply up to 75 more wells?
Second, the idea of pumping sewage, under town roads if need be, to another site, is a dangerous planning tool. It takes away all natural limitations the land type provides to prevent excessive development. Do we know the impact on groundwater supply of putting multiple units of sewage onto one area? No studies have been done. Our Town Planner thought this tool was not widely used elsewhere in Charlotte. It was asked if sewage could then be pumped onto the common land at Sheehan Green. During the Oct. 1 Zoom hearing it was confirmed twice that none of the proposed land use changes would affect anything at Sheehan Green. In talking with our Town Planner the answer is more ambiguous: “Yes, maybe,” “I am not sure,” “It depends on the Open Space Agreement for Sheehan Green.”
To the best of my knowledge, no hydrology studies have been done. Will groundwater supply be easily adequate for increased demands?
Third, there is only one limited traffic study offering possible ways to slow down traffic on Spear Street. To the best of my knowledge there are no studies proposed to assess how the people from up to 75 units could be handled on Spear Street for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Sidewalks, street lights, traffic signal? Who pays for that, and is that what we want our village to become?
The 2009 East Charlotte planning workshops asked the question, “What do you want the village to look like in 20 years?” The answers on pages 16 and 17 of that Final Report overwhelmingly indicate that the residents want the village to remain much the same as it is today but allow for “…carefully planned commercial infill (a pub and/or public meeting space was suggested) and minimal residential growth.” Respondents’ biggest concern was overdevelopment in the village area.
Last, I don’t think it is correct to use the findings of the 2009 East Charlotte Village Planning Project/Community Workshops Final Report (May 2010) in developing these proposed changes, as was suggested in the Sept. 25 letter in response to Sheehan Green. Yes, there was talk of increased housing density and affordable housing in that survey, but none of it was tempered by talk of the impact to the village or cost. In fact, participants were asked not to consider cost or impact…the organizers wanted a free flow of ideas.
The number one takeaway from this survey was that the participants didn’t want the character of the village to substantially change. Overdevelopment was a major concern. How could the character of the village not change with the addition of up to 75 more units?
Using Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs), could the unit density become even denser in the commercial area? Can TDRs be transferred out of the commercial district to be used elsewhere in the village?
Clark Hinsdale was quoted in The Charlotte News: “I just can’t imagine the Planning Commission saying it is okay to kill density in the village in order to put more development in an open farm field.” I don’t think this is an accurate portrayal of the situation. I am not against appropriate growth, I understand the concept of housing density in village centers, and I strongly prefer that houses don’t pop up in the middle of prime agricultural fields. It is not a question of houses popping up in farmers’ fields, but one of what is appropriate growth in the East Charlotte Commercial District and Village areas.
I am not against growth. I am for modest and site-appropriate growth.
I feel the proposed land use changes would give developers the tools to change unalterably the character of the village.
Again, I thank you for all the effort so far in developing proposed land use tools for East Charlotte. I encourage you to find a workable and fully supportable version.
David Adsit, Spear Street
Chittenden says thank you
To Charlotte voters:
Thank you for electing me as one of your State Senators. If I did not earn your support in this election, I hope to do so in the years to come.
We are facing many new challenges in the coming legislative session. My plan is to work hard on priorities that attract opportunity, growth, investment and people to Vermont while increasing housing affordability, upgrading broadband access, improving the health of our environment and social justice issues. My aim is to represent Charlotte in a maximally transparent and accessible manner. Please call, email, text or tweet at me.
And please write letters to the editor of this newspaper. Our community newspapers like The Charlotte News provide high quality local journalism critical to a functioning democracy, an informed electorate and vigorous public discourse. Facebook and Google are not writing articles about our local schools—this paper is. And in so doing they are strengthening our communities and keeping Vermont neighborly.
I wish everyone the very best during these challenging times and you have my pledge to work hard for you in Montpelier.
Thomas I. Chittenden
Yantachka says thank you
Dear voters of Charlotte and the southwest corner of Hinesburg,
Thank you very much for once again trusting me to represent you in the Vermont House of Representatives. I will continue to work for a clean environment, for working families and for social justice. As the new year begins, the Legislature will continue to work remotely with the possible exception of the first week. We will continue to provide the help Vermonters need to get through the pandemic, and we’ll do it with a balanced budget. Hopefully, we will see additional help come from the federal government. I will continue to keep you informed about what is happening in the Legislature, and I will continue to welcome your questions and comments via email, phone calls and personal (socially distant) interactions.
Thank you again for your support and trust.
Rep. Mike Yantachka
Charlotte-Hinesburg (Chit 4-1) District
House Energy & Technology Committee
mikeyantachka.com, (802) 233-5238