OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD PUBLIC HEARING MINUTES
January 13, 2016
The Selectboard public hearing on the Planning Commission’s proposed revised Halifax zoning regulations opened at 7:00 p.m. in the conference room of the Town Offices. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Doug Grob, and Brad Rafus were present, as were Janet Taylor, Linda Lyon, Sue Kelly, Lesley Pollitt, Ross Barnett, Nick Bartenhagen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Wayne Courser, Benjamin Barnett, and Robbin Gabriel.
Chair Lewis Sumner read into the record the hearing notification, as follows, noting that the year should have been 2016 rather than 2015:
In accordance with the provisions of Title 24, Sections 4441(d) and 4444, of the Vermont Statutes Annotated, the Selectboard for the Town of Halifax, Vermont, will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, January 13, 2015, at 7:00 P.M., at the Halifax Town Offices, 246 Branch Road, Halifax, Vermont, to hear public comment on proposed amendments to the town’s zoning bylaws. The purpose of the proposed changes is to improve the quality of the collaborative process between property owners, the Zoning Administrator, and Zoning Board of Adjustment; increase understanding and simplicity of administration of the Halifax Zoning Ordinance in accordance with the duly adopted Town Plan, and clarify processes, procedures, and the roles and responsibilities of town governing bodies. The entire geographical area of the Town is affected by the proposed amendments.
Table of Contents
Article 1 Enactment and Provisions
Article 2 Administration and Enforcement
Article 3 Zoning Districts
Article 4 General Regulations
Article 5 Special Regulations
Article 6 Wireless Telecommunications Facilities
Article 7 Definitions (General)
Article 8 Flood Hazard Area Regulations
The full text of the amendments, and a map of the geographical area, is available for public viewing at the Halifax Town Offices, 246 Branch Road, Halifax, Vermont, or online.
Sumner now opened the hearing to comments from the floor. Janet Taylor thanked the Planning Commission for the enormous amount of work they had done, saying it was a great job. Sumner said the one Planning Commission member present—Linda Lyon—could pass that praise on to her fellow Commissioners. I’m here in support of the plan, said Lesley Pollitt. I appreciate the work that it took. We did get useful comments during the Planning Commission’s hearing, said Lyon, including some editorial corrections for clarification. Doug Grob said the revisions looked good. Were any changes made after the Planning Commission hearing, asked Brad Rafus, adding that he was referring to the May 12th, 2015, hearing on the separate bylaw amendments to definitions. Lyon described testimony received that night which resulted in the Commission removing the words “sourced on parcel” from the definition of resource industry. Windham Regional Commission’s John Bennett worked with us to help assure our regulations were in line with State law, said Lyon, and he provided us with template material from other towns which we adapted to fit our town’s needs. We strove to be sensible and not confining, to be in conformance with State law, and to maintain the character of the town.
Sumner had a question about Section 401(1), which states an approved 50-foot right-of-way can only serve one lot. A pre-existing driveway serving another lot cannot be used as a right-of-way to a newly created lot unless it is upgraded to Agency of Transportation standards B-71. That was in the old version, replied Lyon, I wasn’t on the Board for the whole process, but I don’t think it was discussed. Maybe that’s not being enforced, said Sumner; we do have some places with more than one lot. Wayne Courser said he had looked the revised regulation text over, but as it is 58 pages long reading it all the way through is a lot to ask for. Courser commented on Section 501(14) which states a gravel pit on a farm can be for the farm’s own use, but the gravel cannot be sold. A farmer has to live off his land, said Courser; I don’t think that’s quite right. Could someone wanting to sell gravel still apply for a permit, asked Grob. Yes, said Sumner, under Act 250.
There is nothing in the regulations that allows for gravel banks in the Conservation District, said Sumner, and this town is in dire need of gravel. I know there used to be a good gravel bank in the Conservation District, and there is still more there. The Conservation District is probably forty percent of the town, area-wise. A local gravel bank would allow hauling three or four loads an hour, but when we go to Brattleboro to get it one round trip takes two hours. Lyon said she had not heard this during the revision process. The gravel issue was discussed at the Selectboard’s September 22nd public hearing on the bylaw amendments, replied Sumner. Lyon had just joined the Planning Commission around that time and was out-of-town when the hearing was held. Further discussion included the focus of Act 250 permitting versus municipal zoning, and whether local regulations could be suspended during emergency situations. Sue Kelly thought that emergency access concerns should not be equated with the town’s routine activities. Grob said he had a concern about the sand and gravel issue, which he’d heard Sumner mention several times in the past, but he felt the new wording in Section 501 gives farmers a little more freedom to dig gravel for their own use. It’s not just farmers, said Sumner. Property owners who are building can excavate and move gravel in the construction process.
Ben Barnett said he would prefer no zoning regulations. Taxes are high, people paying taxes should be able to do what they want. I don’t mind what my neighbors do, he added.
The hearing closed at 7:37 p.m.