OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
PLANNING COMMISSION REGULAR MEETING
February 10, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:07 p.m. Planning Commission members Sirean LaFlamme, Bill Pusey, Brian McNeice, Stephan Chait, and Meggie Stoltzman were in attendance, as were John Bennett (Windam Regional Commission), and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to the Agenda
Noting that the District #2 Environmental Commission required comments or questions to be presented verbally during Act 250 hearings, Stephan Chait requested discussion on choice of a speaker. As Chait expects to attend the upcoming sessions, Planning Commission members agreed he would fill that role.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Meggie Stoltzman made a motion to approve the 01/13/15 special meeting minutes with two small corrections. Stephan Chait seconded the motion, which passed, 5-0.
Update of Zoning Regulations with John Bennett
While researching in preparation for tonight’s meeting John Bennett located a number of broken links on the town web site’s Planning Commission Minutes page. These links have been repaired.
The Commission continued their review and revision of Article 7: Definitions, beginning with discussion of a list of terms Brian McNeice had prepared for possible inclusion. While considering the addition of a definition for “right of way”, Bennett asked the secretary to locate the state Environmental Court’s decision on the LaFogg appeal from several years past, for use as reference at the next meeting. Legal trail, Class 4 Road, and Class 3 Road are all terms defined by the state, said Bennett, who advised citing the relevant statute in the town’s zoning regulations. Bennett will also do some research on the term “private lane.” McNeice also suggested including definitions for “plat” and “subdivision.” The Board discussed the need to clarify, for subdivision applicants, requirements for submission of informally drawn plans versus plans prepared by a certified land surveyor. An official survey is required before a deed can be recorded in the town’s land records.
Bennett will provide some examples of other area towns’ regulations pertaining to boundary line adjustments, simple land division, and larger subdivision projects. In particular, he mentioned, there are models available addressing conservation land subdivision and cluster housing. Chait made a distinction between the delineation of a conservation area and the meaning of cluster housing (i.e., construction of several dwellings in close proximity to conserve open space on a large acreage parcel) to minimize impact on the land. A suggestion had been made at an earlier meeting, Chait said, to remove the phrase “cluster housing” from permissible conditional uses under Conservation District in the Halifax zoning regulations. Bennett noted that the town’s regulations give no definition of cluster housing, but do define PUD (Planned Unit Development), which has essentially the same meaning. Meggie Stoltzman advocated for simplicity of style in the composition of subdivision regulations. Clarity is important, but too much complexity will just make it harder on future Planning Commissions, she said. Bill Pusey agreed, saying the regulations should be easy for everyone to read and understand.
Variances and waivers are also defined by state statute; here again Bennett recommended crafting some introductory language and then citing the statute in the town’s regulations. The state’s definition of variances is a page and a half in length, and differentiates between structures that are primarily renewable energy resource structures and structures that are primarily non-renewable energy resource structures. Some towns, said Bennett, have adopted a narrow interpretation of state law regarding waivers, while others utilize a much broader application. He has assembled a collection of examples of both styles and—expressing regret over not having brought printed copies with him–promised to email the Board electronic files to examine.
The group now returned to reviewing the remaining definitions in the town’s current zoning regulations. Bennett said he has not seen the term “Road line,” used elsewhere—it refers to right-of-way. The definition of “Sign Area” is lengthy, but no changes were proposed to the wording. Bennett will research the manner in which other zoning administrators have handled hoop houses (temporary garages or carports) within the definition of structure, as the Commission intends to include hoop houses in their own glossary.
Bennett distributed copies of flood regulation reference materials from the Agency of Natural Resources for Board member study in advance of the next meeting. He also told the meeting that Windham Regional Commission’s request for North River assessment grant funding had been denied.
Hearing of Visitors
Chait made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Pusey seconded the motion, which passed, 5-0. The meeting was adjourned at 9:04 p.m.
Planning Commission Secretary