Zoning discussed at joint meeting in Wilmington


WILMINGTON -- Getting different municipal bodies on the same page was a goal that Town Manager Scott Murphy had in mind since zoning bylaws were adopted -- imperfect but updated -- months ago.

On May 23, the Wilmington Selectboard and Planning Commission held a work session to address proposed changes to articles dealing with signage and administration.

"Our goal is to bring you a document that's as close to a meeting of the minds as we can," said Planning Commission Chairwoman Wendy Manners.

Discussion began with signs. Both groups wanted clear language in the article that will replace the existing sign ordinance. How the town will handle enforcement also needed to be sorted out.

Interim Zoning Administrator Diane Chapman mentioned that the Selectboard, of which she is a member, had voted the night before to keep the zoning administrator position as full time. It was said that a part-time employee would not have the time for enforcement.

If the town began to take "a more aggressive approach" towards enforcing such ordinances, Manners said there would need to be "benchmark to start" and whoever is hired as the new zoning administrator would create a registry that essentially would serve as a database containing a list of properties compliant and not compliant with sign ordinances.

"Nothing is ever enforced or it's selective enforcement," said commission member Carolyn Palmer. "If the zoning administrator can do it, this whole section can go away."

Selectboard member Susie Haughwout, liaison between the board and commission, recalled past attempts within the town to make a document of this kind.

"The sense is this should have been the town's job all along to make sure these things were documented somewhere," she added.

Members of the commission thought the board may have had difficulties reading or interpreting the next updated section, Article 5, which addresses the administration of the zoning ordinances.

"I actually didn't find this too tough to read," said Selectboard Chairman Jim Burke.

The penalty section was debated. Some believed it was important to impose a steeper fine while others thought a first-time offender should be given leeway.

The commission proposed $200 for the first-time offense of erecting a structure without obtaining a permit or approval, with a $50 fine each day after; $100 for use of a property or structure without obtaining a permit or approval, with a $10 fine each day after; and $200 for failure to comply with standards and procedures and a $50 fine each day after.

For signs, the commission proposed $200 for the first-time offense of erecting a sign without approval and a $50 fine each day after. It also proposed $100 fines for failure to maintain signs in good repair, failure to remove signs within 90 days of discontinuing business, failure to bring non-conforming signs into compliance, and failure to comply with sign standards and a $10 fine each day following the offense.

There was discussion based around how the policy could hurt regular homeowners and general contractors but ultimately, it would not affect the larger projects. The commission will look at the penalties again.

In the future, Manners said the commission would like to hold educational seminars to inform the public of changes within the zoning bylaws and ordinances. Some attendees wondered how residents and business owners would learn of the upcoming changes.

"Most people should understand there's zoning and there's consequences," said Chapman.

The commission was going to discuss any corrections and re-writes of the sections at its next meeting in June. Once Article 2 and 3, dealing with districts as well as standards and procedures, is complete, there will be a public hearing. Haughwout said another work session would be held, before the hearing, to discuss those articles.

"You guys did great work," concluded Burke.

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


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