Planning Commission Minutes 04-02-2018






Members Present: Shannon Haggett-Chair, Mike Winslow-Vice Chair, Tim Cook, Cheryl Brinkman, John Coburn, Danelle Birong, Christine Garrow,

Carrie Macfarlane

Also Present: Mel Hawley, Zoning Administrator

Shannon called the regular meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. He asked if there were any proposed amendments to the agenda. Mike requested to add “Emergency Management” to the areas of interest updates. Mel requested to add discussion of Planning Commission member’s personal information on the City’s website. Both proposed amendments were accepted.

The minutes to the meeting of March 5, 2018 were reviewed. Cheryl moved to approve the minutes as presented. The motion was seconded by Mike with all voting in favor. Danelle, Christine and Carrie did not vote on as they were not members of the Planning Commission at the time of the March meeting and, therefore, were ineligible to vote.

With three new Planning Commission members at the meeting, Shannon asked everyone to introduce themselves. After the introductions, he provided a brief overview of the Planning Commission’s role and process. New members were provided with the rules of procedure, the municipal development plan, and the version of the zoning and subdivision regulations currently under consideration by the City Council.

At the March meeting, Shannon asked everyone to be prepared to discuss potential sites for electric vehicle charging equipment/stations. Mel noted the grant opportunity that initiated the discussion at the March meeting had passed, but added if the Planning Commission has everything prepared in advance, an application can be submitted whenever the next funding opportunity arises. While the grant will only potentially fund sites on municipal property within the downtown development district, everyone agreed the list should include sites on both public and private property. The sites discussed include:

  • City Green
  • Vergennes Union High School
  • Bixby Memorial Free Library
  • Vergennes Fire Station
  • Kennedy Bros., Inc.
  • People’s United Bank
  • Settler’s Park
  • Small City Market
  • UTC
  • In front of businesses on the south side of Main Street

Shannon stated he would look at the grant requirements in more detail and report back in May so everyone will know which potential sites would be eligible for funding under the Downtown Transportation Fund Grant program. All sites could be proposed for inclusion in the next iteration of the municipal development plan.

Mel reported the City Council held their first public hearing on the proposed amendments to the zoning and subdivision regulations on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 6 p.m. in the fire station meeting room. He noted Scott Hardy provided testimony in the form of a letter to the City Council requesting a reduction in the minimum lot size for a one-family dwelling in the High Density Residential District and revamping the regulations that provide for a density bonus for energy efficiency. Mel added Shannon also provided testimony that the Planning Commission would like to examine these ideas more closely and to receive public input from residents in and near the High Density Residential District prior to making any changes to these areas. Shannon stated the City Council has scheduled their second public hearing on the proposed amendments to the zoning and subdivision regulations for Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 6 p.m. in the fire station meeting room. He encouraged everyone to attend if their schedules allow. He said the Planning Commission should be on hand to answer any questions and to hear any testimony first-hand. Shannon asked Mel when the proposed amendments would take effect once adopted by the City Council. Mel responded after checking state statutes the amendments would take effect 21 days after adoption.

Shannon reported he had been in contact with Jeff Fritz, the City Manager Search Committee chair, to determine if the committee wanted a preliminary job description for zoning administrator or if it had been decided to include those duties into the city manager position. He stated Jeff had said a zoning administrator job description would help inform the committee in their efforts. He provided Shannon with a copy of the City Manager Search Committee’s job description in order to develop a zoning administrator job description in the same format. Shannon stated he had also been in contact with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to see if there was any existing model language for the job description. His contact at VLCT stated there was no model language but provided recent zoning administrator job descriptions from various municipalities around the state. Mike asked if Shannon could provide the names of those towns. Shannon listed Hinesburg, Northfield, Richmond, Morristown, Greensboro, Charlotte, Highgate and New Haven. He added he also had received from Mel and City Clerk Joan Devine a copy of the employment agreement for a part-time zoning administrator the City had on file from several years ago. Shannon said with all these documents he could develop a job description but wanted to know if anyone on the Planning Commission wanted to be involved in drafting the description. The consensus was to have Shannon write the job description and forward it to the City Manager Search Committee. Cheryl expressed interest in reading the draft job description.

Mel reported he had forgotten that he had agreed to articulate the duties and responsibilities of clerk of Planning Commission in a memorandum to assist members in determining how best to fill that role. He said he would write something up, but most of the duties and responsibilities are clearly outlined in 24 VSA Chapter 117. He added that he has always assisted the Planning Commission as part of his duties as zoning administrator without additional compensation which may or may not be the case with a new appointee. He said if the new appointee is not the clerk, it could be a member of the Planning Commission or a non-member. If compensation is required, the City Council should be advised so it can be included in the next fiscal year budget.

Shannon asked Mel to discuss his amendment to the agenda concerning the City website. Mel stated as he questioned whether he should include telephone numbers and email addresses of members of the Planning Commission members to the website. After a brief discussion it was agreed by all to only have the chair’s telephone and email information on the website as any public contact should be directed through the chair.

Shannon reported the current municipal plan is scheduled to expire in September 2019 and this only gives the Planning Commission a little more than a year to update the plan. He said he is also a member of the Local Government Committee of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and has reviewed most of the plans in Addison County which has provided insight on elements we may want to include in our plan. He pointed to items in the Planning Commission’s information packet which included examples from other towns as well as a copy of the review criteria from the Local Government Committee. He added we should keep these items in mind as we update the plan. Mel stated the importance of ensuring the plan continues to be a “good read” as the Planning Commission does its work. Mike asked if the Planning Commission would be enlisting professional assistance in the effort. Shannon responded the state’s planning grant deadline for 2018 was last fall and at this point we were too late to apply for funding. Mike expressed concern for the public engagement aspects of the update – especially surrounding possible changes in the Agriculture and Rural Residential district and the High Density Residential district. Shannon agreed we should try to engage in surveys and workshops sooner rather than later. He added he would supply a draft calendar at the May meeting. Tim asked if that meant no plan work should be done before the public engagement piece is complete. Christine replied we should have items to present during the public engagement efforts and then modify them afterward based on feedback received. Everyone agreed.

Next the Planning Commission heard items of interest updates:

  • Transportation items update – Mel reported the Addison County Regional Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a vote on the re-write of the transportation element of the regional plan on April 11, 2018. He noted the proposed plan includes significant input from Vergennes in regard to truck traffic through the downtown.
  • Stormwater items update – Mel reported he needs to contact Dana Allen from Watershed Consulting Associates to answer any final questions Dana may have and to determine the timeline for their final report.
  • Materials Management items update – No update.
  • Energy Planning items update – Cheryl reported the Addison County Regional Planning Commission is nearly finished with proposed amendments to the energy element of the regional plan and it would soon undergo a public hearing process.
  • Emergency Management – Mike reported he had seen reports in the Addison Independent that Middlebury is developing an emergency management plan and he wondered if this was a requirement at the municipal level. Mike stated he would investigate the matter in more detail and would report back at a future meeting.

No new business was presented.

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Mel Hawley, Clerk