By Peter Richardson, Charlotte
In support of a Development Review Board (DRB)
Land uses in Charlotte are regulated by two citizen boards. Both are appointed by the Selectboard. Prospective members present their interest to serve, their experience and credentials, and something about why they are seeking the appointment. There are no particular criteria that guide the Selectboard in approving members of either the Planning Commission or the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board conduct separate reviews of many of the projects that are proposed for development in Town. The basis for their actions—approval, disapproval, or seeking changes—resides in the Land Use Regulations. The LURs include and integrate traditional zoning bylaws and subdivision conditions. The matters of focus of the two boards, however, are different.
Planning reviews subdivisions, boundary line adjustments, and site plans. Zoning is concerned with conditional use applications and hears appeals. Problems sometimes arise when projects produce inconsistent or even contradictory results. Dual reviews also take time, can create confusion, and may open opportunities for protracted challenges by neighbors who wish to assert individual self-interests.
A Development Review Board in Charlotte would exercise a coherent process of regulation over developments throughout Town. It would replace Zoning entirely, and Planning’s project review role would be eliminated. Planning would then have time to tend to broader matters of importance to residents, how the Town Plan reflects them, and whether Land Use Regulations promote implementation of approved policies.
A DRB would be established with clear purpose and improved capacity to apply and interpret the LURs. Its principal function would be to determine whether development proposals comply with the rules and requirements set by the Selectboard. These are reasons why 75% of towns in Vermont have adopted the DRB model. It will be good for Charlotte too.