January 23, 2008

Approved March 12, 2008


Commission Members Present:  Jean Isham, Kay Ballard, George Bedard, Rodman Cory, Carrie Fenn, Fred Haulenbeek, Joe Iadanza, Will Patten, Johanna White.


Commission Members Absent: none.


Also Present: Alex Weinhagen (Director of Planning and Zoning), Karen Cornish (Recording Secretary), Marie and Lyn Gardner, Michael Wedge, Martin and Donna Ballargeon, Leon Lestage, Tim Casey, Beth Cota, Helen Nagel, Trina Hikel, Cam Breck, Daniel Opton, Paul Casey, Dennis Casey.


A Public Form is planned for February 13 to discuss Rural Area Development Density.

The meeting began at approximately 7:35 p.m.  Alex introduced Rodman Cory and Will Patten as new commission members, replacing Joe Donegan and Nancy Norris.


South Hinesburg Neighborhood Forum - Route 116, Hollow Road Intersection area - Rezoning for additional commercial/industrial area near Hinesburg General Store

Alex provided background on the proposal.  He said Rob Frost, owner of Vermont Well and Pump and the Hinesburg General Store, is looking for a place to relocate the Well and Pump business, currently located on Gardner Circle.  He has not been able to find a viable plot of industrial-zoned land to purchase.  He has an option for a lot within Commerce Park but does not think that location is the best fit for his business.  He met with the Planning Commission on January 9 to request a re-zoning of the area that includes the General Store and land south of it.  Alex noted the PC is not allowed to do “spot-zoning” (re-zone an area expressly for an individual or business).  They instead discussed whether there was enough land available for heavy-use industrial business in Hinesburg.  He said the Commission generally thought the request was reasonable and agreed to consider it.  Alex said he talked to the Casey family (landowners with industrial-zoned property on both sides of Rte. 116 near the area), then planned this forum.


Alex reviewed a zoning map of the entire town.  He explained that zoning is meant to break up a town by defining land uses for different areas.  He said there are currently five industrial districts in Hinesburg, most designed around a specific existing business or use, for example, Saputo, Iroquois Mfg., the Giroux metal/body shop.  The Industrial I district, zoned for heavy industrial uses, is across from the General Store and encompasses a large area that includes Hinesburg Sand and Gravel, Gardner Circle and also residences.  Alex specified the area under discussion as across the street from Industrial Zone 1, the General Store, the home to the south of it, and a meadow to the south and west.  He said the PC has not talked about how much land would be re-zoned, nor have exact boundaries been discussed.


Alex defined permitted and conditional uses: Permitted uses do not need a special permit and are generally easier to implement; Conditional use requests are reviewed by the Development Review Board; they are allowed but only as variables for the area are taken into consideration, such as the neighborhood character, traffic, etc.  He gave the following examples:


Permitted Uses:  Warehousing and distributing; truck terminals and repair shops; trailer and equipment sales; contractor yards; lumber mills; manufacturing; excavation; the processing of sand and gravel; auto and truck services, repair and body shop work and other uses.


Conditional Uses: Solid waste management facilities, utility generating plants, bottled petroleum and gas sales, veterinarian office, kennels, motor vehicle sales, manufactured home and recreational vehicles sales and repair and other uses.


Alex said the Town Plan serves as a guiding document to understand what the community wants for the town.  The Plan lays out objectives for industrial and commercial areas; Alex listed a few, for example, “analyze existing commercial and industrial areas for availability”.


Lynn Gardener asked if the PC is going to consider expanding permitted and conditional uses in the area under discussion.  He gave the example of office space, an office may exist currently only if it is associated with a business, but not as a stand-alone business.  Alex said the Commission has not considered anything at this point.  Marie Gardner asked if the parcel occupied by the General Store would be changed to light industrial, if so, the store would not fit the criteria (as it is a commercial operation.)  Alex explained the store is currently in the agricultural district.  It was there before the current zoning went into effect and is thus a non-complying use.


Trina Hikel asked if residences were allowed in the agricultural district.  Alex said allowed uses for the ag district include residential, although not at a high density.  Carrie added residential lots are all created through a subdivision process.  Dan Opton asked how this request differed from doing spot-zoning.  Alex agreed that Rob Frost’s request was specific but said the PC is responsible to the community.  He said they understood his need and also understand the desire to hold on to a local employment base.  He said Rob’s problem of relocating is not unique to him, that a new area would not just serve him but other businesses as well.  Alex said other contractors are looking for a place to relocate.  The idea is to not rezone a one-acre lot specifically for the Frost business but re-zone a swath for multiple business on the west side of the road.


Jean said our Town Plan contained the direction to analyze the existing districts to see if they were meeting the needs of the community.  She said this is not the first time the issue has been raised.  Trina Hikel asked if there were any covenants or regulations on the developers about the appearance of facilities, environmental issues, etc.  Jean said if an area were to be re-zoned, the Commission would not know specifically who would locate there but would designate allowed uses that conformed to restrictions and regulations.


Trina asked about this particular business.  Alex described the DRB site plan review process, a required step when any business wants to expand or locate.  He said the DRB looks at issues such as traffic flow, safety, screening and landscaping, outdoor lighting and stormwater discharge.


Holly Beth Cota, an adjacent landowner, said she can see the area under discussion from her home during three seasons.  She said she is opposed to anything specifically industrial there, citing mainly aesthetic concerns.  Leon Lestage said he thinks aesthetic concerns have been over-emphasized in Hinesburg, particularly when there is an attempt to increase business.  Helen Nagel asked how large the area could become.  Jean said the Commission was at the beginning of the process, that there has been no proposal.  Helen asked if Route 116 was a scenic highway.  Alex said no, it is not a formally designated highway.  He emphasized that residents’ feedback is important to this process.


Lyn Gardner asked Tim Casey about land on the west side of Route 116.  Tim said he was generally in favor of an expansion of the industrial district but deferred the question to Dennis Casey.  Dennis asked about residential densities in the ag district; Alex said minimum lot size for that district is 2 acres and noted the PC was currently working on densities as part of another discussion.  Dennis asked if the PC would consider a mixed-use district, residential and businesses.  Jean said anything was possible.  Dennis said his mother owned the land on the west side of the store where his brother’s home is.  George Bedard described the general area under discussion.  Dennis thought there were residential possibilities, perhaps for family members.  Alex said the current industrial district does not anticipate residential use due to the types of uses, that in order to have a residential mix, a different set of uses would likely be proposed.  He thought neighbors might not want to live that close to industries.


Trina asked about the sand and gravel operation, whether the depleted part(s) of the gravel pit could be considered as additional, available industrial-zoned land.  Tim Casey described the operation, stating once the gravel is removed, the land is used for other purposes within the business.  Marie Gardner asked about property purchased by the Casey’s (the Purrinton’s).  Paul Casey said the reason that was purchased was to keep housing developments from being next to their industrial land.  Paul said chances are lot sizes are going to be increased and gave comments about population and development trends.


Marie Gardner said they own Clifford Lumber and also rent some land zoned for industrial.  She said it was difficult for businesses to be close to residences as some allowed uses, permitted in industrial areas, are simply not compatible with residential areas.  She said they have not experienced complaints from new development near them but think over time there will be.  She thinks there should not be a mixed-use industrial zone.  She noted a recent fire, that a neighbor’s house was close, and she was glad the fire did not affect him.  Carrie noted that a deed was drafted specifically for a new subdivision in the area that described the industrial uses next door, to prevent complaints later from residents.


Dan Opton noted a common assumption that more businesses bring more tax revenue.  He asked if there was a direct correlation with development and an increased tax base.  Jean said businesses did increase the tax base for the municipal portion, but not the school portion.  Carrie said business development is encouraged so that people can live here and work here.  Trina Hikel spoke to the visual impact of an industrial area in a community. She thought the Brownell Road industrial park in Williston seemed thoughtfully planned and was not an eye sore.  She suggested pursuing a larger plan for Hinesburg modeled after that park, instead of piecemeal development.  She questioned whether the area under discussion was the best location for industrial uses.  She expressed concern about the potential for affordable housing to be impacted by industrial development.


Dan Opton said this should not be a discussion about the Frost business.  Jean said that the re-zoning would cover more than just one business.  Lynn said specialized zoning was done for NRG.  Jean said zoning was not changed specifically for NRG, that much research was put into that re-zoning effort, extending an existing district.  Joe Iadanza said when zoning bylaws are written, the PC thinks generally, for example, what is the scope for the businesses there, how they might relate to what is already there.  He said the PC defines the businesses they want and also others they might accept with some constraints.  Any business proposal must then go through the DRB who looks at a site plan; at that point specifics are laid out.


Trina suggested NRG should have been made larger.  Joe gave some history on that process, how NRG came to locate where they did, mainly due to soil types.  The area was zoned in part for NRG but it is a bigger piece of land, an extension of the village district with mixed uses planned (residential and industrial).  Trina asked why that mixed use is permitted.  Joe said it is a evolving process, that land owners have the prerogative to direct the development of their property.  Alex said uses permitted in the area under discussion would be different from the village industrial area where NRG is located, which is not designed for heavy industrial uses.


Paul Casey said the gravel is at that location naturally, that is why the area is zoned for industrial.  He gave some insight into personal experiences with development.  Leon Lestage asked if the Lyman property (off Route 116 north of Creekside) was zoned agricultural.  Alex said it was mostly village, with some ag land to the west.  Alex gave some information about development possibilities there.


George Bedard suggested the area under discussion was appropriate because it is directly across from existing industrial, does not have heavy soils and has access off Route 116, a state highway that allows industrial vehicles year-round.  Dan Opton asked if an area already zoned industrial (on the east side) could be considered for another use, that it seemed like that could be profitable too.  He thought creating an industrial area around the General Store may compromise its historical setting.


Carrie said the PC has just begun to discuss the area and issue of available industrial land. She said the area next to the gravel pit could be developed as an attractive executive industrial park that provided good employment for people.  It had potential, and would be enough to draw 3-phase electrical power to the area.  George thinks the Casey family has had a chance to hear a lot tonight.  He said as they own the property, the first thing the PC should hear is whether that family wants any change on the west side of the road.  He would like to understand their thoughts before anything was considered.


Will Patton said the decision in front of the Planning Commission was to see if there is enough industrial zoning in the town to achieve the growth we desire.    Jean thinks that question has been answered, that there is not enough industrial zoning.  She suggested a sub-committee work on it. 


Donna Ballargeon said she was considering moving within a year and wondered if her land was an option for the Frosts.  Alex suggested they speak with Rob directly, that the PC cannot be involved in that.


The open forum was closed.  The group continued to discuss the issue.  The question was raised as to whether property should be available that businesses can own, rather than lease.  Rodman Cory asked if Hinesburg Sand and Gravel used their property north of the Hollow Road.  George said it is a future gravel pit.


Rural Area Development Density - Preparation for 2/13 public forum

The group went over what questions would be posed at the February forum, taken from a list of possible questions discussed at the November 28th meeting:


1.     Should dense development in the village be tied to a restriction of development in the town’s rural areas?

2.     Should the transfer of development rights (from property in one district to another) be allowed?

3.     Should cluster patterns of development (parcels divided into small clusters of house sites with shared open spaces) be encouraged in the rural areas, as opposed to traditional patterns (parcels divided evenly by larger house sites)? 

4.     How can/should zoning density language be clarified for landowners/developers and neighbors/other interested parties?

5.     How will intense rural development affect the town’s dirt roads?

6.     What steps should be taken to determine the majority interest(s) of the community?

7.     Should energy efficiency requirements be included in the rural zoning?

8.     Should the official map concept be carried over to the rural areas of Hinesburg?

9.     How does the village water and sewer expansion affect development in the rural areas?


Jo thought #1 and 5 were closely related.  She said rural dirt roads that see a lot of development will be a huge drain on the town’s highway department.  Fred thought 5 was a given; Jean said increasing dirt road traffic increases expenses.  George disagreed, noting it was not proven.  Joe thought #4 was not necessarily for public discussion, that crafting clear language was part of their responsibility.


Joe sought clarification on #1 as he thinks there are two distinct, opposing viewpoints: “more rural if more village” or “less rural if more village”.  He wants clarification one way or another.  Will asked if it would be helpful to review the process used to review the village district rezoning.  Alex thinks this discussion is more focused with fewer objectives, for example, it is not a discussion of mixed uses as it was in the village project.  He said the main question is what development density should be in the rural part of town.  Jean asked if area-based densities should be discussed as an alternative to conventional.  Fred thinks we need to start the discussion regarding cluster development, that it is related to #3.  He said defining the densities will come at the end of that discussion (if an area-based density formula is utilized).


Will asked if it would be clear to everyone that zoning regulations will be modified.  Alex said that would be part of the introduction, that these changes are being adopted in order to clarify existing language.  He said clarifying that what we have now is appropriate is an option, but doing nothing is not.  Will suggested rewording#1, for example, “Now that we’ve provided for dense development in the village, do you feel we should provide a balancing open space in the rural area?”


George thought #2 should be dropped.  He suggested adding the following question: “When you moved to Hinesburg, what attracted you to where you ended up, i.e. why did you move there?”  Rodman said he thought there was nothing in the language that gets at people’s feelings.  Alex suggested it’s not necessarily what attracted you to the setting you are in (as many variables come into play when choosing a house), more “what keeps you there”.  George suggested adding “Would you be inclined to share you neighborhood with anyone else?”


Will thought it would be good to have people leave the meeting with an understanding of the bigger picture of the Town Plan.


The group discussed #9.  Joe thought it was meant to address the idea that as the village becomes more attractive with more possibilities for employment, your community as a whole becomes more attractive and rural development is encouraged, not discouraged.  #3 addresses “good planning” as part of that rural development.  Alex thought Joe’s comments might be a good introduction.  Will suggested opening the forum with a description of what Hinesburg might be like in 10-15 years, how development might affect the outlying areas.  He then suggested the ordering of questions was important.


George suggested making #5 a more general question, ex. “How will rural development affect the town”, instead of focusing on roads.  Alex thought specificity was good, that it gave people something to talk about.  How to word a question about dirt roads, their maintenance and costs, was discussed.  The group agreed to leave #5 as is.


The group settled on these questions: 1 3 5 7 8 + one new question regarding personal motivations, ex. “If you were moving to Hinesburg, what would you be looking for?”


Fred thought it would be effective to find out from owners of large plots what they felt the unit capacity could be on their own land. He thinks most landowners would consider a reasonable density, that they would make a reasonable assessment of their land, take into consideration limitations.  Fred questioned why the PC should ask small land owners what they think the large landowners should do.  He thought a public meeting setting was not necessarily the place for feedback from landowners.


Dennis Casey commented about the different opinions of development people carry.  Alex said many homeowners that previously purchased and built on farmland are not necessarily reacting to development on the same scale that there own was.  Fred thought it was ironic that farmers who stayed with their land (kept it open and/or farmed) are now having more restrictions placed on them as a result. Fred thought people also needed to look at a larger scale than just Hinesburg.  He said most commerce (across the State) is done in Chittenden County, which means we have to plan here differently than someone outside this county.  If we make our community more exclusive (less development), it pushes growth out.  Alex gave some background on regional planning, but said that even with that in mind, it does not designate Hinesburg a metro area in 25 years.  Will thought the question is how development should happen so that a lifestyle that is according to the wishes of the town is maintained.  He said he hoped rural development would not be about keeping farmers from developing, but about planned development.  George said we could dramatically change the perceived abilities of landowners with new regulations, or we could leave density alone and instead provide tools to get clustering.  He said he thought landowners would feel robbed if densities changed from 2 to 20, whether they would have ever gotten anything more than that in the first place.  He said it is a perception of value that everyone has, that perception should be left alone.


Fred MOVED to approve the January 9, 2007 minutes as written.  George SECONDED the motion.  The motion PASSED 8-0.


A Public Form is planned for February 13 to discuss Rural Area Development Density.


The meeting adjourned at approximately 10:30 p.m.


Respectfully Submitted:

Karen Cornish