BRATTLEBORO — From new cannabis businesses to efforts to address the urgent need for housing, changes in the community are expected to guide updates to local land use regulations.
Planning Director Sue Fillion said it’s good to get the groups drafting and implementing those regulations together in the same room every few years to collect feedback. That’s what happened Monday in a joint meeting of the Planning Commission, Development Review Board and Design Review Committee.
“We’ve had a couple of requests for conditional use review for cannabis grow sites and we have nothing in the regulations,” said DRB Chairwoman Maya Hasegawa, who also serves on the DRC. “So we’ve been treating it as if they were farms.”
DRB member and DRC alternate Nora Dissinger said the board has more information at this point and now treats cannabis grow operations as mixed manufacturing.
“Some of the concerns I think might be rolled into the nuisance areas as far as the possibility of having odors and things being released from the growth area, especially if you’re doing it in a populated area,” DRB member Michael Averill said, calling for detailed specifics for cannabis in the special use standards in local regulations. “It seems that as of late that growing marijuana is going to be a big thing.”
DRC member Barbara George suggested making other neighborhoods fall under Historic Resource Overlay District guidelines the committee considers when advising projects. She cited Estey Street and Oak Grove Avenue as places where historical features might want to be preserved.
Having more Historic Resource Overlay or Design Review districts in town wouldn’t preclude the town from changing regulations to encourage more housing, said Steve Hayes, town planning technician.
Adding housing units is a major goal for the town and the Planning Services Department. An action plan from Camoin Associates endorsed by the Select Board in March says Brattleboro needs 500 housing units right away.
Monday’s meeting also touched on the topic of what constitutes a domestic pet, which Dissinger said has come up for the DRB a couple of times. In July 2019, the board allowed for pigs to stay as pets in a home on Chestnut Street West although a neighbor opposed.
“We went back and forth on that,” Dissinger said. “I could see people wanting mini goats. We don’t have a category for mini goats but they’re really cute and people are going to want them as pets ... mini horses, too.”
When discussion turned to having a maximum weight or size for pets, Hayes questioned the practicality of enforcement for the town’s zoning administrator.
“We don’t want to be the pig police,” he said.
Also brought up on Monday were ideas about creating demolition standards, making landscape regulations less complex and being clearer about what the town wants to see in terms of energy conservation in new buildings.