Town Plan Updates Recommended
by Nancy Wood,
May 5, 2011, page 1.....
Senior housing, ground water protection and transportation services were among the suggestions offered at the Town Plan Update public input session on April 28.
Planning Commission vice-chair Jim Donovan facilitated the meeting, and Town Planner Dean Bloch took notes and helped summarize the results. About 30 people attended, enjoying the refreshments and responding to questions projected on a screen.
In the “what’s missing” category, Joan Braun started off the conversation with senior housing. Heather Manning offered reasons for a recreation facility (indoor), saying it would be nice not to have to leave Charlotte to exercise. She pointed out that if the Charlotte Central School were to participate in the merger with other districts in the Chittenden South District, Charlotte residents might no longer own or have as much access to the school facilities.
Jinny Mclaughlin said we don’t have a transportation system – including bus and train service, and bicycle lanes. Bloch pointed out that CCTA runs the LINK service between Middlebury and Burlington that stops in Charlotte, which came as a surprise to many in the room. It was suggested that a midday run would be helpful, but Bloch said that Charlotte is not a member of CCTA, so has no say in the bus schedules. Perhaps the Town should consider joining, which would involve paying for services.
Sylvia Knight asked for the inclusion of protection of ground water under the areas of high public value, and Larry Hamilton suggested that the inventory of forest lands is out of date, and a general statement should be included of the Town’s tree and forest policy, as it may be necessary in order to receive grants in the future.
Kate Lampton, a former planning commission member now active in the Charlotte Land Trust, offered that the process of updating the plan could start with an evalution of the goals set in the past to determine what has succeeded and what has not, and assess which ones can be taken to the next step.
Donovan had opened the meeting by saying the first step of the update process was to determine how much of an update is needed – Do we need to revise the current plan, or is it good as it is? Or is a total rewrite needed? The many ideas offered would suggest that at least some areas need updating and revision.
Ideas flowed nonstop for an hour and a half, including the following suggestions:
The best way to build a village and community includes providing opportunities for “visiting” as people move comfortably around a safe and pleasant environment.
Several people expressed discomfort walking and biking along the roads in the villages that would be helped by sidewalks and bike lanes.
Questions were raised about the commercial zones at the intersection of Route 7 and Ferry Road, and on the west side of the railroad tracks north of Ferry Road. Both areas include wetlands. Where would it be better to encourage development, and what infrastructure is needed? The current discussion about sharing the public wastewater capacity with new development may be key to this issue. The need for more services in town, such as a bank, was expressed.
On the environmental front, Bob Hyams suggested that areas of high public value should be separated out by type because, for example, wildlife habitat needs different treatment than agriculture. Marty Illick said that there needed to be a more definite policy related to areas to be protected along rivers.
With the expansion of wind and solar energy installations there will be more and more questions about the impact on scenic views. A rigorous study was recommended to identify what constitute the best scenic views in Charlotte, and how wind turbines and solar trackers fit into the scenery.
Higher density development in the villages was explored, and its potential impact on historic preservation. Guidelines were suggested to prevent backyard expansion of buildings, as seen on historic homes in Burlington.
Underground utilities are prohibitively expensive, so why have the provision for them in the plan? Perhaps there could be a clearer policy of investing in underground utilities in areas of high scenic value, and differentiating between lines along roads and in subdivisions.
The Route 7 corridor bisects the town, and is a barrier to pedestrians. Tunnels and a cross walk were suggested. A comparison was made with Shelburne, where traffic is slowed in the highly developed village center, and questions were raised about allowing more commercial development along Route 7. Marty Illick pointed out that Route 7 is the primary north south highway on the western side of the state, and that there is high priority to maintaining it for mobility. Jeff McDonald added that when traffic is slowed on a major corridor, drivers migrate to side roads. Mt. Philo and Greenbush Roads in Charlotte are already suffering from that trend.
Fine-tuning of the agriculture policy was encouraged, with more definition of the types and scale of agriculture that is appropriate to Charlotte. Establishing policies to promote affordable farming was suggested, including linking provisions for affordable housing for a farmer with the conservation of agricultural land.
Stronger language defining how shoreland stabilization needs to be natural looking and an overlay district for higher elevations were suggested.
A master plan to guide public and private uses at Thompson’s Point was supported.
The length and layout of the Town Plan were also discussed, with discussion about how to make it more accessible to the reader. Those present asked how they can help with next steps, and how more people can become involved. The goal is to have a plan ready for public hearings during 2012, and a final vote at Town Meeting in 2013.