CITY OF VERGENNES
MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017
Members Present: Shannon Haggett-Chair, Cheryl Brinkman, Tim Cook, Morgan Kittredge, Mike Winslow, Jason Farrell
Members Absent: John Coburn
Also Present: Mel Hawley, Zoning Administrator, Mayor Michael Daniels, Jeanette Van Buren, David Austin, Joseph Fortune, Cristy Goyette, Robert Feuerstein
Shannon called the regular meeting to order at 7:15 p.m., immediately after the public hearing was closed. He then asked if there were any proposed amendments to the agenda. No amendments were requested.
The minutes to the regular meeting of April 24, 2017 were reviewed. Cheryl moved to approve the minutes as presented. The motion was seconded by Morgan with all voting in favor.
The Planning Commission began discussion of public testimony from the public hearing that just concluded. The group considered the request made by Jeanette Van Buren on behalf of Linette and William Poquette to rezone a section of their property, currently in the Agriculture and Rural Residential District to the High Density Residential District. Aerial photos and the parcel map were reviewed. Mayor Daniels explained the relative topography of the area. Jeanette Van Buren, who provided the relevant testimony during the public hearing was unable to provide specific information on exactly what portion of the parcel was being requested for rezoning. Mel added that he had spoken with the Poquettes and with Scott Hardy and the development was in the very early stages. Shannon and Morgan both expressed concern about having a single parcel in two different zoning districts. Mike Winslow suggested the parcel would likely need to be subdivided in order to be rezoned. Jason asked if carving out a two-acre parcel would meet the description of the High Density Residential District which according to the plan is characterized by areas that are “generally held in large parcels.” Mel said it was possible the subdivided parcel might be combined with the larger existing parcel already in the High Density Residential District. The group reached consensus there would need to be more detailed information provided before the requested change could be made and input from surrounding property owners would be sought, but that in theory such a change could be made.
Tim asked about the process for amending the plan after the Planning Commission delivers the proposed amendments to the City Council. Mel explained the City Council is required by statute to hold at least two public hearings. Their first public hearing will be on the proposed amendments as submitted by the Planning Commission. Following that first public hearing, they can make changes to the proposed amendments prior to the second public hearing. And if any subsequent changes are made, they must hold another public hearing. Shannon added the current plan will expire in 2019 so even if this request or other changes are not made during the City Council’s process, they could be considered once the Planning Commission begins the next plan adoption process expected to start in 2018.
The group briefly discussed the testimony given by David Austin regarding prohibiting ground-floor residential uses in the Central Business District. As the testimony was in support of the proposed amendment, no additional change was necessary. Shannon reported he had received an updated overlay district map from Kevin Behm at Addison County Regional Planning Commission and he would like to replace the solar energy overlay district map with the new map in the proposed amendment package to be delivered to the City Council. Cheryl noted there was a duplicated paragraph in the energy section and it should be removed.
Jason moved to submit the proposed amendments to the municipal development plan to the City Council as presented with the inclusion of the updated overlay district map replacing the solar energy overlay map and the deletion of the duplicated paragraph. The motion was seconded by Mike Winslow with all voting in favor.
Next the Planning Commission discussed the proposed Neighborhood Development Area. Mel explained the concern expressed at earlier meetings surrounding the program’s stated benefit of “limited appeal” had been allayed. The limited appeal means a project could not be appealed based on the use, which is standard procedure for the Development Review Board already, thus feeling that no rights are being infringed upon. With that clarification, everyone agreed it would be worth pursuing the designation. Mel pointed out the application should have approval from the City Council prior to submission and it was on the agenda for their next meeting. Robert Feuerstein requested the Northern Gateway District be included in the map accompanying the application as it was not included in the draft map. Jason asked why not include the entire city? Mel responded that certain districts would not qualify based on not being able to meet the density requirement of four units per acre for multiple-family dwellings. Shannon said he would provide a new base map from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s website so a new map including the Northern Gateway District could be supplied with the application.
The group next began to discuss the process for updating the zoning and subdivision regulations. Shannon provided a process flow document to show how the proposed amendments to the municipal development plan would necessitate changes in the regulations. He also provided a list of “parking lot” items collected since the last regulation update. Tim asked if something could be added to the list regarding destruction of buildings in the Historic Neighborhood District. He suggested that new rooflines should match the rooflines of a demolished building being replaced. Robert Feuerstein said he thought this was a bad idea since in-line rooftop solar energy generation should be encouraged and that may require an altered roof line or pitch. Jason asked if we were planning to do a complete rewrite of the regulations or just updates required by the proposed plan changes. Mike responded there are items we must change and items we may change and we can prioritize them in the coming months. Shannon asked if the process of preparing updates for the zoning and subdivision regulations should be delayed until the next meeting. Morgan responded we should begin the process at the June meeting.
Shannon reported Mel’s appointment as Zoning Administrator will expire on June 30, 2017 and the Planning Commission should consider providing a recommendation to the City Council prior to that date. Shannon asked Mel if he would consider a reappointment to the position. Mel responded he would like to be reappointed as Zoning Administrator. Morgan moved to recommend to the City Council Mel Hawley for a three-year term as Zoning Administrator. The motion was seconded by Cheryl with all voting in favor.
Next the Planning Commission heard items of interest updates:
Transportation items update – Mel reported the sidewalk extension project at the north end of Main Street is moving forward. The City applied for a grant in July 2015 for the first phase of the project and received a $274,500 grant from VTrans. The $30,500 local match from the Water Tower Reserve Fund was authorized by the City Council at the time of the application. He advised in March 2016 a grant agreement was signed with VTrans for this estimated $305,000 project which is required to be completed by October 15, 2020. He reported the City Council authorized him to hire David Crawford on a part-time basis to be the project manager; there is $27,000 included in the project budget to fund this position. He advised the grant requires there be a project engineer, project manager and project compliance officer. Shannon reported the Addison County Transportation Summit on Thursday, May 11th was well-attended and great information was presented.
Stormwater items update – Mel reported the project to digitally map our sewer mains and stormwater system is underway. The project is a result of a grant awarded from the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
Materials Management items update – Cheryl reported the state legislature pushed back the deadline for the next phase of food scrap collection from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018. She added the Addison County Solid Waste Management District and some area haulers are ready for collection now. ACSWMD will stay with the 2018 state deadline, but will encourage and support collection efforts earlier than that. ACSWMD has been coordinating a public engagement effort in the county surrounding food scrap collection and will continue with their outreach efforts. Joe Fortune and Cristy Goyette – operators of C & J Haulers said they were ready to collect food scraps at the mobile drop-off facility on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
Under new business Mel reported he has volunteered to have the City’s parcel maps updated and digitized through a project with the Vermont Center for Geographic Information. He added having the parcel maps and the sewer mains and stormwater system updated and digitized would be a long-term benefit for the City.
The meeting adjourned at 9:09 p.m.
Mel Hawley, Clerk