Zoning Recodification Working Group - May 23rd, 2017

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This morning, we discussed and provided feedback on the ZBL's first reading draft.

Section 8.2.2 (Setback from Open Stream) overlaps with Conservation Commission jurisdiction. Conservation Commission regulations are more stringent than what's in the ZBL. The Special Flood Plain district also overlaps with Conservation Commission jurisdiction.

Perhaps fines and fees should be moved out of the ZBL and into departmental regulations?

Some terms in the ZBL are vague. For example, what does it mean when the ZBL says that something "must be in harmony with surrounding structures"? There's not a set definition for "in harmony with". Likewise for the phrase "preserves the character of a neighborhood".

The ZBL doesn't reference historic districts. It's not always clear what's on a historic registry. For example, the UU church is a modern looking building, but it's on the historic registry.

The ZBL never states how it applies to the town itself, and some things get tricky when viewed in that context. For example, does the town have to come before the historic districts commission in order to rehabilitate a historic building that it owns? Or, what about snow storage? The town often needs to store snow during the winter, but snow storage isn't listed as a permitted land use. Or, the Thompson school expansion was done in the lot setback, because that's was the only space available. The town shouldn't be able to completely ignore land use regulations, but space is getting tighter and the town may need some leeway. We should ask RKG about best practices in this area, and what other communities do.

What about changing EDR to site plan review? We could change the name, but we probably won't be changing the process. The Redevelopment Board should weigh in here.

What about reducing the number of zoning districts? We probably need an updated table of uses first. If two zones have identical (or nearly-identical) uses, then we'd have a good case for merging them.

Next, we discuss the July 13th public meeting (where we'll present the second reading draft).

What outreach has been done so far? The public meeting was announced during town meeting. It would definitely worth having a dedicated planning meeting. We want to make sure the public understands the long-term process; recodification is the first phase, and not the final product. Significant policy changes won't happen until later phases. We should have a summary document that outlines the changes in this recodification.

We have the town website and email notification lists. We could also use the automated phone system to inform people of the July 13th meeting. We could also insert an announcement into water bills, and put the meeting on the sign board in front of town hall. Perhaps we could have a booth at town day, or another segment on ACMI.

We also have to set expectations regarding what's in scope for this phase. There are things we'd like to change, and we're intentionally not addressing them now.

We should expect people to find things that we've missed, and we'll need to take their feedback into account.

Is the sign section coming out or not? Some of the sign bylaws are on tenuous legal ground. We can't change the sign section of the ZBL in isolation, because it's referenced several times in the town's general bylaws. We're going to need a separate process for dealing with sign regulations.

DPCD will compile and forward comments to RKG by May 31st. RKG will produce the second reading draft by the middle of June (two weeks after receiving our comments).

Our next meeting is scheduled for June 7th. We'll focus on the public outreach process.

Here are my comments on the first reading draft.