By JOHN FLOWERS
SHOREHAM — Shoreham residents on Wednesday, Dec. 3, will cast ballots on a the first comprehensive rewrite of the community’s zoning regulations in two decades.
Shoreham Planning Commission member Glenn Symon said the new rules place the community in compliance with Chapter 117, the state law that governs Vermont’s planning and zoning enabling statutes. But the proposed rules also, according to Symon, give landowners more flexibility in developing property in the village area while promoting more clustering of homes and retention of agriculture land in the more rural sections of town.
“A lot of people have participated in the process,” Symon said of the work in revising the zoning regulations, which he noted has gone on for the better part of the last 10 years.
What the commission ended up with is a 70-page document that outlines priorities for community growth. Those priorities include “promoting the general health, safety and welfare of Shoreham’s residents”; “Encouraging Shoreham’s rural, agricultural character and quality of life”; “Respecting the property rights of individuals, within a framework that recognizes and balances the needs of the community at large“; “Managing change in such a way that the ability of the town to provide services to its residents will not be compromised”; and “Developing an environment for new job opportunities, such as agriculturally related businesses or cottage industries, which are compatible with the other goals of the plan.”
It’s a plan that divides the town into seven zoning districts: Agricultural, medium-density residential, lakeshore residential, village commercial, village residential, flood hazard area overlay, and conservation overlay.
Symon said the commission, in proposing the zoning revisions, took into account some significant changes that have occurred in Shoreham since the last time then rules were updated.
One of the biggest changes is that Shoreham now has a wastewater treatment system for the village area. This, in turn, means that property in the village can handle more development than prior to the system being put in place. With that in mind, the proposed rules permit building on lots as small as a half-acre (instead of the previous 1-acre minimums) in the village residential district.
“The hope is that we will be able to provide for some additional areas in town for residential growth, perhaps taking a little pressure off the agricultural region,” Symon said.
And when it comes to the agricultural region, the commission tried to better define farm housing — and in the process, make allowances for farmers to establish homes for workers in a way that would not require them to subdivide their property, according to Symon.
The commission also placed an emphasis on preserving working farmland by encouraging planned unit developments (PUDs). The PUD process can grant a density bonus to landowners who agree to cluster homes on their property, thereby leaving more of the acreage open.
Symon said the commission also expanded the list of permitted uses and conditional uses in Shoreham’s zoning districts. For example, “group homes (for up to eight residents)” and “home occupations” and “day care (fewer than six children)” are permitted virtually throughout the town, while “office,” “religious institution,” “club” and “government facility” projects can qualify for conditional use permits in most sectors.
“The lists are quite a bit more extensive than what was permitted,” said Symon.
While the proposed zoning revisions have received some positive feedback, they have also drawn some opposition.
For example, former Shoreham Selectman Art Remick, in the “letters” section of this issue of the Addison Independent, takes issue with — among other things — new sign regulations.
“Vote ‘no’ on these proposed zoning regulations so that the selectboard and the planning commission rewrite these zoning regulations into something that Shoreham can live with,” Remick wrote.
Resident Edwin James, in a recent letter of his own, called the re-write “nearly 60 pages of don’ts and maybe can does, if you can get permission. It doesn’t seem right that these so-called bylaws have to be so restrictive as to nearly stop any development at all in town. Shoreham didn’t get beautiful because of zoning.”
Symon said he is aware of the concerns, but believes the package that voters will field on Dec. 3 is a good compromise.
“There has been opposition along the way I think we have listen to,” Symon said.
Residents can vote by Australian ballot on the new zoning regulations from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Shoreham town offices.