Brattleboro puts off vote on land use regulations


BRATTLEBORO >> Hearing several concerns deemed worthy of taking a second look, the Selectboard put off voting on updated land use regulations.

"It sounds like there's two particular sets of issues that have been raised that we're going to need to make a decision about," Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said at a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 10. "One of them is the rural residential and rural (district boundary) line along Meadowbrook Road and Bonnyvale Road and the other is the continuation of the non-conforming signs."

Instead of voting on whether to adopt the regulations, Gartenstein recommended the board review those topics at its next meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 17.

Brattleboro's Planning Commission and Planning Department have focused their efforts on the town's land use regulations since April 2014. A consultant was hired to look at making changes with the idea that the regulations must be compatible with the Town Plan.

Revisions pertained to goals for making a unified document that contains both zoning and subdivision regulations with a new organizational structure; creating new zoning districts and making adjustments in respect to their boundaries; having more specific design, engineering and technical standards; including design standards for non-residential uses regarding building form, frontage and parking lots; and improving the current planned unit development system.

Selectboard member David Schoales brought up the change to the districts' boundary lines he believed to be in error.

"The people on Meadowbrook (Road) and on Bonnyvale (Road), who are on that west side and who have lots that were large enough six weeks ago to subdivide, now are not. They have to be six acres now," said Schoales. "There were people who were planning on selling off part of that lot or using that for their retirement. They're not able to do that now."

The consequences outweigh the goals of the change, he told the board after pointing out the boundaries on a map. Planning Director Rod Francis responded by saying the basis for the decision involved consistency.

"The rationale for shifting the setting on Meadowbrook so it's rural residential on the eastern side and rural on the western side is that the character of that road is specific and there's some topographical features and historical patterns of land use that are important to take into account," he said. "If we were to leave the zoning as it was, we would encourage what is called rural sprawl so the continuation of small parcels. However, there are some natural constraints to the topography that make that assumption a little less easy to make."

Of the 44 lots on the western side of Pleasant Valley, Meadowbrook and Bonnyvale roads, Planner Sue Fillion said four will be made unable to subdivide. Changing this regulation back would be considered substantial, Gartenstein said, meaning the public hearing process would need to start again. The Planning Commission would need to host one hearing. Then, if approved, the changes would be passed back to the Selectboard.

Signs will always be a struggle, according to Francis, who was asked about re-wording a section on non-conforming signs after Gartenstein pointed out a contradiction between two sections.

One says that a landowner is allowed to "alter, modify or reconstruct a sign" so that logos and letters are arranged in the same way. But another section says changing the "primary content" is now allowed.

Keeping the former was preferable to Francis, who said the change could be made without restarting the process as it does not constitute a substantial change.

Contact Chris Mays at or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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