Halifax to keep zoning after Tuesday vote

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HALIFAX — Zoning will stay in town for now.

On Tuesday, residents voted 148-126 in favor of keeping it.

A petition had prompted the vote.

"They revised the zoning that we had and they put a lot more into it and it's gotten way out of control in my belief and several others," said Wayne Courser, the resident who started the petition, referring to the passage of the ordinances at annual Town Meeting in March.

Courser's not completely against zoning, he said, but the current ordinances are "way out of hand." He pointed to sections about not disturbing the soil nor selling loam or gravel as one example.

While Courser planned to vote to repeal zoning, he had said he doubted "very much if it will fly."

"But at least we tried," he said. "I know a lot of people are really concerned about it. I don't mean to knock the outsiders but the people who moved here are taking right over. The natives don't have much say anymore. I don't like that. I personally wouldn't move into another town in another state and say, 'You're not doing it right.' I'd keep my mouth shut."

Residents were asked whether to "repeal zoning regulations in the town," according to the warning. But the Planning Commission did not recommend doing so.

"Zoning bylaws are not immutable. Voters can amend zoning bylaws to accommodate changes in state law and the needs of the town," the commission said in a report on the issue. "Repealing the zoning bylaws altogether would sever the mechanism that allows Halifax to openly and fairly comply with the Town Plan."

The petition calling for the action was received by the Select Board with 125 signatures. That required the Planning Commission to issue a report about what would happen if the town were to do away with its zoning regulations. It "would not conform with or further the goals and policies" of the Town Plan, the commission said. Eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program and the Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund was another concern for the commission. Property values and property rights also could be diminished.

Some residents have called for a simpler set of regulations, according to meeting minutes.

Windham Regional Commission Senior Planner John Bennett said he believes there are nine towns in the Windham County region with no zoning ordinances besides flood hazard area regulations. Those regulations allow flood insurance to continue for municipalities. The list included Athens, Brookline, Grafton, Guilford, Jamaica, Somerset, Townshend and Vernon. Searsburg, which is in Bennington County, has no zoning or flood regulations along with Athens and Somerset.

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


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