TOWN OF WEATHERSFIELD, VERMONT
MINUTES OF PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING
Monday, July 24, 2017
I. Chair, Julie Schmitz called the meeting to order at 7:05pm.
II. Introductions: Nancy Heatley, Julie Schmitz, Michael Todd, Gil Whittemore (joined the meeting by phone), Hal Wilkins (Land Use Administrator) Julia Lloyd Wright, Energy Coordinator (ex-officio)
Visitors: Members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment: Jim Cahill, Dave Gulbrandsen, Ethan McNaughton, Willis Wood
III. Agenda Review
Chair, Julie Schmitz moved Item V. Meeting with Weathersfield ZBA, ahead of Item IV. Approval of Minutes of July 10, 2017.
V. Meeting with Weathersfield ZBA
a. Discussion of current zoning issues/conflicts
Setbacks for measuring a pond from a neighbors property were discussed as bylaws only determine a setback be measured from a structure. There are no regulations for guidance, a pond is not a pool and it needs to differentiate. A pond could have a conditional use over a certain size and the impact on the neighbors should be considered.
Reducing the setbacks in some areas and creating waivers in village areas may be considered and/or waivers in rural areas. It was suggested in each zoning district use: “all uses, all development” such as bricks and mortar and not other stuff, driveways, parking spaces, etc.
The Planning Commission is looking at performance standards and allowed use.
Other issues raised by the ZBA included:
Measuring height on buildings, with cupolas and a slope at differing levels was raised by the ZBA.
(Thirty-five feet is the building limit and the Ascutney Volunteer Fire Department ladder will reach 75ft.)
Taking dimensions laterally with walk-out basements was also raised. With small lots that cannot meet requirements are variances used. Michael Todd suggested reducing setbacks in villages for specific reasons. Ethan McNaughton suggested going through variances when there is a need to make a determination. Regulate porches; there are some grand porches vs. decks to be considered. The ADA has requirements from the State as a guideline.
For commercial parking there is a 50ft setback to a residential property but with proper drainage and solution for runoff, screening etc., setbacks can be reduced. With residential equipment and vehicles next to a play area how can you blockade an “attractive nuisance.” Consider separate regulations for commercial use and for use during off hours where abutting residences.
It was suggested that this should be written in the Town Plan.
Michael Todd said that permitted use needs flexibility with language for the Zoning Board to evaluate.
There was a request to move the Flood Plain requirements to the end of the section, print in a difference color and make it clear and unrelated to other sections. Ethan McNaughton suggested a water mark reading “Flood Plain.”
Jim Cahill also requested an index for the Zoning Board. Hal Wilkins will add a Table of Contents and use the latest copy for the ZBA.
Other Bylaw suggestion changes:
4.2.5 Agricultural Structures (See section 6.10.8)
7.19 (Page 62.) Residential Care and Group Homes, should include Daycare - move it closer to 7.13.
7.8 Site Plan Review (Page 51) and 9.2.2 Exemptions (Page 91) include together.
Wells - within 1/8th of a mile from a property boundary and new wells, the ZBA needs to know where they are as the applications don’t give any information. They also need to know if wells are inside or outside the property boundary and area of proposed use. Hal Wilkins has requested a comprehensive list from the State.
b. Review Proposed zoning bylaw changes
Gas Stations and Convenience Stores
Why should they not be allowed within 1/2 mile of each other and not clustered with business/commercial.
Lighting - should be on when the station is operating and gas is being pumped. There was a discussion on turning off the TV ads at the pumps.
Signs -Should there be conditional use for signs inside a building or per permitted. Commercial signs are to be onsite (except for agricultural). Home Business signs are two-sided if hanging. One internal illuminated beer sign is permitted, other internal illuminated signs prohibited.
Ethan McNaughton suggested leaving the bylaw as is but the Planning Commission might look at it.
Size and location of signs was discussed, 10ft off the road and no taller than than 10ft in height. Signs on a hanger inside the bracket at 2ft x 3ft.
Home-Based Occupation - Lighting on the home for setback of 15ft (4.1.5 not in either of my ZBLaw copies) and lighting on garages allowed. Carl Wyman said you have to be kind to your neighbors, light should be low and not spilling over. The focus should be on where the light is from the property edges with some consistency from the roads.
There was a discussion on trips and traffic with one vehicle per hour, no employees and people are to live in the residence.
Home-Based Occupation - Level II (4.1.3?)
Size: shall never exceed character of the neighborhood or size of structure in rural areas. Michael Todd said the ZBA has leeway to make decisions.
The 4,000sq.ft. could be for agricultural purposes but not residential size of zoning. Dave Gulbrandsen spoke of restrictions on building size and it was asked if this is what we want in a conservation area. Use and location will be reviewed.
c. Discuss pros/cons of possible change to Development Review Board (DRB) organization
The option for the ZBA to handle some present responsibilities of the Planning Commission were reviewed. The current work load of the Planning Commission involves subdivisions and hearings, zoning bylaw reviews, rewriting chapters leaving insufficient time for actual town planning. There was consideration that the ZBA become a DRB taking on subdivisions and hearings which would be more formal (there are currently two contested subdivisions). Suggestions from the ZBA that as there is no formula and they are not operating as a DRB, they would stay with committee work and get more people involved who were familiar with issues on certain sections. The Planning Commission has already dropped a step in the sketch plan review and are using the Conservation Commission members to help. The ZBA is unprepared for hearings, do not like the current system confusion and prefer to check in a couple of months. They would like to bring back check lists and Hal Wilkins will provide copies for the ZBA.
VIII. Agenda for Monday, August 14, 2017
Continue zoning bylaw review
Subdivision sketch plan public hearing(s)
Land Use Administrator Notes
Approve Minutes of July 10, 2017 and July 24, 2017
A motion was made by to adjourn by Nancy Heatley at 9:20pm, seconded by Michael Todd. Voted unanimously