County's regional plan to be decided Nov. 9

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) board on Nov. 9 will vote on an updated regional plan that includes a complete re-write of the natural resources section.

The county’s regional plan is designed to be a forward thinking document charting transportation, housing, natural resources, economic, land use and utilities/facilities priorities. By state statute, the document must be revised every eight years. Until recently, it was every five years.

Adam Lougee, executive director of the ACRPC, said his board and staff have spent the past three years revising the regional plan section by section. The natural resources section is the last one to have been updated. It covers management goals and strategies for agriculture, forestland, groundwater, wildlife and scenic resources.

“The committee did a thoughtful job on it,” Lougee said of the natural resources plan, which grew from 38 pages to 109 pages during the re-write, overseen by an ACRPC subcommittee chaired by Orwell representative Andrea Ochs.

“We added a lot of elements that were missing but are now required,’ Ochs said of the expanded document. “There was no air quality section in (the old plan). We upgraded and updated the water quality sand forestry sections. We took some archaeological and historic and cultural information that was in that section and moved it to another section that had more (information) on that.”

Ochs said the section also includes more land use maps.

“We want people to see this as a resource to look at when they are considering doing something with natural resources,” Ochs said. “It also helps clarify the regional planning commission’s standing in Act 250 issues, when it comes to water quality.”

Lougee said the subcommittee was free to do as much, or as little, as it believed was necessary in updating the natural resources section.

“One of the debates they had was, ‘Do we keep it short and try and make it so people can go through it quickly, or do we use it as an educational tool?’” Lougee said.

The subcommittee chose to do the latter.

“We’ve tended to include a lot more depth and a lot more analysis, both physical analysis and more community-based analysis,” Lougee said of the ACRPC’s recent tack in completing regional plan updates.

“If you read the Addison County regional plan, you are going to learn a lot about Addison County,” Lougee said. “You will learn a lot about anything from wildlife to air pollution, from rivers and streams to wetlands and agriculture.”

Lougee said the plan should be considered an inventory of county resources as well as an action plan for managing and safeguarding those resources. The plan also offers a lot of analysis, according to Lougee, which he called the “meat” of the plan.

The ACRPC has help two public meetings on the plan, one in July and another last month. Those meetings did not draw citizen feedback. But that’s not to say everyone agrees with the new plan as drafted. James Maroney, an ACRPC representative from Leicester, has voiced concerns about water quality provisions set forth in the natural resources section.

Maroney said that while the section states clearly that water quality is a high priority in Addison County, “it does not prescribe any action to arrest pollution from conventional dairy farms, which is the vector by which 50 percent to 60 percent, or the majority of the pollution — mostly phosphorus and nitrogen — enters the lake.”

He said the plan suggests only that farmers continue to comply with state and federal regulations that were written to reduce farm pollution “but that in spite of the expenditure of $50 million of state and $50 million more of federal taxpayers’ money, have not had any measurable effect.

“Consequently, while the plan acknowledges that conventional dairy farming is a major cause of lake pollution, it does not propose that the modality might itself need critical review,” he added.

Maroney proposed a series of amendments to the section to address is stated concerns. Ochs said her subcommittee agreed to some of the 16 pages of amendments she said Maroney submitted.

“What we didn’t add in dealt with economics, not natural resources,” Ochs said.

Maroney and other members of the ACRPC board are hoping for a good turnout at the Nov. 9 meeting, slated for 7:30 p.m. at the organization’s headquarters at 14 Seminary St. in Middlebury.

Plan amendment and re-adoption requires a 60-percent vote of the commissioners. The plan then gets sent to the member towns and takes effect within 35 days, unless there a majority of the region’s municipal legislative bodies veto it.

A copy of the proposed regional plan and its individual sections can be found at http://www.acrpc.org/pages/publications/Reg_Plan/NR_TOC.htm.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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