Newfane Planning Commission – Nov 15 2010 Letter
Newfane Planning Commission
TOWN OF NEWFANE
15 November, 2010
The Newfane Planning Commission (NPC) invited the public to comment on the petition to rescind the town’s zoning ordinance and at that public meeting many points were raised. Some of the points made by residents were questions seeking clarification or facts. There were also a number of residents who expressed anger and frustration but these opinions were balanced by residents who apparently understood the zoning ordinances, supported the concept, but had some reservations about the current version. Perhaps a common and prevailing sentiment was an interest in knowing when and how to edit, modify, customize the ordinance to meet the needs of Newfane. These comments really asked for a response and the NPC will attempt with this letter to provide information.
A set of zoning ordinances helps a town accomplish the provisions and goals of its town plan. Aligning the ordinances with the elements of the town plan are difficult and frequently there are several draft attempts at creating the appropriate set of ordinances. Finalizing this process requires volunteer time to read through the final draft to ensure the two documents compliment each other. It may well be time to secure several community volunteers who would be willing to critically read through the current set of ordinances and recommend rejecting editing or expanding where appropriate. Recommendations would go to the Select Board.
Zoning ordinances can be reviewed and recommendations for edits, changes, etc can be made at any time, by anyone.
Zoning ordinances support set backs from property lines that may be required by the state, safety departments, or the town plan. Reviewing those set back requirements and their impacts is important to ensure Newfane secures what it needs and wants and establishes a process for a land owner that can take into account exceptions.
Variances are decisions granted that allow a property owner to do something that is in exception to the zoning ordinance. The process for requesting, reviewing, determining, and awarding variances has been established and is open to any qualifying application.
The Zoning Administrator reports to the NPC and according to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns is a member of the NPC and may sit with them and vote. Clearly, there may be moments when there is a conflict of interest but there is no statutory prohibition on the Z.A. from sitting on the NPC.
According to some members of the public, the zoning ordinances do not favor or support business development. The specific ordinances that create this impression should be critically reviewed and presented to the NPC by those who have experienced this frustration.
The vote when it is held will ask registered Newfane voters if they want to rescind the zoning ordinances. If the response is yes, by a majority vote, then the ordinances will be rescinded.
When the official results are publicly announced, the zoning ordinances will cease to apply. The consequence is that all commercial development of one acre or greater will need to be reviewed by ACT 250 staff and their ordinances. For all single family residential development, there will no longer be any controls other than state permitting for water and sewer. As there are still sub-division ordinances, residential sub-division development will continue to be governed as has been the norm.
If the public votes to support zoning ordinances, then immediately or as soon after the vote as is reasonably possible, residents frustrated with sections of the zoning ordinances should meet to begin a review and editing process. The NPC will provide the public a clear definition of the review and editing process.
The NPC meets at 7PM on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month and any member of the public may attend.