Selectboard Discusses a Better Planning Process

The Selectboard meeting on April 12th proceeded speedily through a daunting list of items.  They included interviews for various Town committees, applications for liquor licenses, a lease at the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge, and a replacement window at the Senior Center.  The members approved an application for the use of town roads for the Tour de Farms bicycle ride in September.

Considerable time was spent reviewing proposed extensions of the Town Link Trail.  A path from the edge of the Mack property moving to the Burns property, then progressing in three different possible pathways to Greenbush or Ferry road, was discussed. This proposal would depend upon gaining landowner easements. Part of the pathway would extend into forested land. Robin Reid suggested caution about disturbing this wooded area. Matt Krasnow recommended that the Selectboard conduct a site visit, and that conversations be held with neighboring landowners and others before final decisions are made.

Similar issues arose concerning the Beach Master Plan. Chair of the Recreation Committee, Bill Fraser-Harris, stated that the committee is overwhelmed by the many activities being proposed  for the beach area.  Current plans identify pickle ball courts, tennis courts, a large number of additional parking spots, a playground, a pavilion, cooking areas, and perhaps a skate park.

Bill pointed out that parking is now inadequate and including the proposed activities in a plan would exponentially increase the number of visitors and the parking required. Sue Smith asked that the board take a step back and determine, “how many people can be in this park without disrupting the beauty of what we have now?” Jim Faulkner suggested that the Selectboard make a site visit with the various proposals mapped out, and then explore how to proceed, including zoning issues.

The agenda proceeded to the discussion of whether the Town should institute a Development Review Board (DRB). A majority of Vermont towns now have DRBs to facilitate planning and decision making. Questions have been raised about the inefficiency of the town planning process.  Eight years (and counting) have been consumed in presenting Town Plan amendments for a public vote.

A DRB would take over some functions of the Zoning and Planning Boards. Frank Tenney noted that the DRB would be taking over a good portion of the Zoning Board’s work, and that means it would have to conduct many meetings. Jim Faulkner responded, “This process must work because 75% of Vermont towns have instituted it.”  Matt Krasnow suggested that the Selectboard contact the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for advice.  Jim Faulkner proposed that a small committee of representatives from Zoning and Planning work with him to study the issue, and present the pros and cons to the Selectboard at a meeting soon.

The meeting ended with a proposal on Conflict of Interest.  The Selectboard’s Rules and Procedures would be amended to prohibit members from holding simultaneous positions on other Town committees, commissions, or boards. Lewis Mudge has developed language to this effect. He said he would present it for a vote at the next Selectboard meeting.