Brattleboro adopts revised land use regulations

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BRATTLEBORO — Updates to land use regulations were adopted to fall in line with the Town Plan, but not without consideration for recent concerns relayed to the Selectboard.

"This has been a long process," said Selectboard member Kate O'Connor. "There are going to be things people don't like. We'll find out more about this along the way."

The Planning Commission and Planning Department have been looking at the regulations since April 2014. A consultant was hired to help make changes that would be compatible with the Town Plan.

On Monday, Selectboard members expressed satisfaction with amendments presented by the Planning Department after issues were raised at the previous meeting. Only one person spoke out before the regulations were adopted, saying the regulations were more strict.

"I'm being put in an incredibly awkward position. You'll notice there's virtually no small business people here," said Dennis Smith, owner of The Marina. "I realize we're fighting a totally losing battle and that's part of the reason you don't find many small businesses here. Even though these changes have been made and they're great, I agree with them, I feel, I can't say we because I don't represent enough people, they're really token changes. They're good changes but the entire process went completely in the wrong direction."

Addressing boundary lines between a rural residential district to the east and rural district to the west along Meadowbrook and Bonnyvale roads, the Planning Department proposed changing subdivision standards. Planning Director Rod Francis explained this would mean only a minor change as it would only affect language, not the maps, and it would solve a problem for landowners worried about losing their ability to sell off some their land to use the money for retirement or other purposes. If it was considered a substantial change, the public hearing process would need to be restarted. That would involve at the very least, a Planning Commission hearing then a Selectboard hearing.

The amendment was agreeable to board members including David Schoales, who had brought those landowners' predicament to the board at the last meeting. The change in language says a developed residential lot of at least 3 acres and less than 6 acres in size may be subdivided to create two lots.

"If each lot cannot meet the minimum requirement for 150 feet of frontage then the two lots must share a curb cut and driveway," the section on single lot divisions stated. "Any re-subdivision of either lot following approval of a single lot division must fully conform to the rural subdivision requirements of these regulations."

Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said he thought the provision responded to the issue and it appropriately balanced the public good.

Regarding non-conforming signs, the Planning Department suggested two possible changes in language.

"One was to simply clean up the language," said Francis, referring to two contradicting sections with one saying a landowner could alter, modify or reconstruct a sign while another said changing the primary content would not be allowed. "And the other was to allow a little more leniency for businesses that have non-conforming signs now and wish to make minor changes to their sign without fearing the cost of coming into conformance."

The proposals were identical except the adopted one contained an extra section involving a name change. If there were no other changes in ownership or type of business, that sign could be updated within the same sign area.

Board members praised the efforts of the Planning Department and took a suggested amendment from the public calling for the removal of kennels as allowable under permitted use in the rural residential district. Resident Michael Bosworth said changing it to conditional use would satisfy his concerns and Francis agreed.

"I think given that specific kind of noise level for kennels, we don't have a problem removing it from permitted to conditional," said Francis. "At some time, it's rural so we respect rural uses. But I think from bitter personal experiences, a kennel can constitute a lot of aggravation."

Also amended were site design, overlay and engineer standards that the department had previously brought up.

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


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