Friday February 15, 2013

WILMINGTON - Changes in defining zoning, as well as mapping, happens in part to shape the town plan and in part to establish districts or usage in those districts.

"It's been a long time since we've updated the zoning," said Wilmington Zoning Administrator Alice Herrick. "We've had minor changes over the last few years."

The Wilmington Planning Commission met on Tuesday night to discuss the proposed zoning map, articles pertaining to zoning, definitions for the map and public comment from the last meeting it held on Feb. 5.

A map was laid out on the table in the town offices, which showed land in Wilmington and the corridors it shares with Dover.

On Feb. 5, the Planning Commission met to hear public comments for the draft zoning amendment and draft zoning map. It closed the hearing and public comment period is now over. The members of the Planning Commission then discussed and reflected upon those comments brought up at the previous meeting.

"There was feedback from the Haystack area. There is a residential area that they'd prefer to be commercial," said Planning Commission member Karen Grinold on Tuesday.

Ben Joyce, a local land surveyor who has worked with Haystack owners in the past, showed the Planning Commission the proposed zoning districts that would affect Haystack mountain. The map as shown would put the mountain in three different zoning districts.

"Haystack would like to minimize the amount of zoning districts it would end up in," said Joyce.

Definitions for usage were also a concern for Joyce and the Haystack mountain. The VAST Trail Committee is concerned about what changes would do in regards to getting permits for its trails.

The Planning Commission is going to decide on whether it will change the district in the Haystack ski area to a conservation district. As of now, it is in a commercial district. At the next Planning Commission meeting, it will be discussed, whether or not that will change.

If the existing ski area changes its district, there will be more permitting processes its owners will have to go through.

Joyce also pointed out other things at the meeting that didn't pertain to Haystack, but definitions in general. He thought that some measuring units should be changed during revision and some language may need further clarification.

Herrick told the Reformer on Feb. 11 that over the past six years, the Planning Commission has been going through the zoning, "section by section, updating, making sure its clear and expanding some sections."

Some of the sections on the zoning map were vague, she said.

The main changes were renaming districts and defining usages in each district. There are performance standards that needed to be looked at.

"There are a lot of terms in the zoning that weren't defined before," Herrick said. "When we expanded, we have more specificity in the zoning. There's a whole new definitions section."

The map will also change a portion of it that used to be commercial district to a commercial/residential district, to make it easier for people who want to obtain mortgages in that area. It had been discussed on Feb. 5 that people were having difficulties getting residential mortgages in a commercial district.

"We made some commercial districts smaller, partly because they are in a flood zone," said Herrick. "It doesn't do well to encourage commercial (businesses) to be in a flood zone."

Every few years, the commission helps to update the town plan. It needs to update maps for the town and its districts then get updated, too.

The town plan is a way to "ensure that the town continues to look the way we like it," said Herrick. Defining what can and cannot be done in certain areas, helps to maintain and implement the town plan.

"The town plan is like the vision for the town," Herrick said. "Zoning then says, ‘How do we put this into effect through zoning?' So we looked at the surrounding towns and their town maps."

She told the Reformer that it was realized that "a lot of our resource areas overlapped." This would include wildlife habitats.

Some of the land the commission looked at was around a lake or owned by the U.S. Forest Service. It is undeveloped land and the town wants to keep it that way, Herrick said. That land is known as a conservation district.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273 or cmays@reformer.com.