Public Hearing on Draft Land Development Regulations Prompts Master Planning Tool Discussion

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Thursday November 19, 2015

Developers provided the planning commission with input regarding the draft Land Development Regulations on Tuesday, November 10. As a result, commissioners are working with staff on crafting a master planning tool for large projects in the City Center Form Based Code District.

The Land Development Regulations (LDRs) are the city’s zoning and subdivision regulations. The South Burlington Planning Commission is charged with updating these regulations, and the city’s Development Review Board is charged with mandating them while reviewing development applications.

Thanks to the help of the public, city committees like the Form Based Code Committee, the business community, and staff, the draft Land Development Regulations have been vetted with a critical eye and are ready for a formal public hearing review. Over the years, there have been a number of public input sessions to get to where the regulations are now.

The new City Center Form Based Code and Street Types, which will replace the Central Districts and Design Overlay Districts, is one of the proposed amendments. Other amendments include: an updated city-wide low impact development stormwater standard; a new Southeast Quadrant Neighborhood-Residential- North subdistrict to replace a portion of the Park & Recreation District; an addition to the Southeast Quadrant Neighborhood Residential subdistrict from Industrial-Open Space District; new stretch residential and commercial building energy standards; changes to development review process, administrative authority, and the applicability of review standards; accommodation to ensure reasonable access to housing, and group homes; and changes to the Definitions, the Table of Uses, Technical Corrections sections and smaller amendments.
In terms of process, the planning commission must hold at least one public hearing for the LDRs. Once the planning commission digests the information and makes its changes, commissioners can vote to send it to the city council; council must review the document and hold a public hearing. Once the hearing has been warned, the regulations go into effect, explained Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner.

The commission ended up voting 6-0 to close the hearing the night of November 10. The revisions were presented to council at the November 12 city council/planning commission joint meeting, where council also received an overview of the Comprehensive Plan.

Even with the LDRs in the council's hands now, the planning commission and staff are working on a revision that will be included as an add-on to the LDRs: a master planning tool.

The decision to work on this tool for the next few months comes from developer feedback, including Ken Braverman, who is working with a group in pursuing a project in city center. "Has the board given any consideration to a master planning provision?" he asked. "When you're looking at multiple buildings on multiple lots, you have the ability to become much more creative and potentially pursue some things that are a little less prescriptive while maintaining the intent of the design guidelines."

Tim McKenzie of South Burlington Realty and former member of the Form Based Code Committee, also shared his concerns.

"Some of the things we discovered, we were really unaware of them until we went through the master planning process," he said.
McKenzie addressed Form Based Code's requirement of density (required number of stories in the T4 and T5 zones), which can potentially make development unachievable. His concern is that in some cases there won’t be enough parking to meet the level of required development. McKenzie said the 70 percent frontage requirement could also pose issues but could be resolved if the code allowed for credits to use toward private plazas, stormwater, private drives, or other features.

Developer Chris Snyder, along those lines, was concerned that there was no process in place to “work out the tweaks,” to the document and encouraged the commissioners to create an opportunity that would allow for those tweaks to be fixed.

After Commissioner Bernie Gagnon closed the hearing, Ted Riehle seconded, and the commission voted 6-0 in favor, commissioners discussed the possibility of a master planning tool to allow for more flexibility and creativity.

Conner said that the LDRs could be forwarded to the city council and that staff and commissioners could work on this piece separately in order to provide adequate time and resources into structuring it. With time and funding available, this could be made a priority, he said.

Commissioners decided to go this route, and, in order to provide transparency, they included two pieces: (1) there will be a letter of intent explaining that this process is taking place, and (2) they agreed to reserve a subsection, "City Center FBC Master Plan Review Approval reserved," in the document to act as an alert of what's to come.

City council received the Land Development Regulation amendments on November 12. The commission mentioned the master planning tool as well as a legal recommendation commissioners approved to remove the “parkland and open space” designation on Wheeler Park where the J.M. Golf property is on the Official Map since a zoning change is taking place.

The draft regulations, both redline (outlining changes) and a clean version, are available on the city website. Printed copies are also available in the Planning and Zoning office at City Hall and at the Community Library.

Comments are welcome up to and including the public hearing dates: December 7, 2015 for article 9 SEQ, December 21, 2015 for all else. Via email, send comments to, and in printed form, send comments to the City of South Burlington, Department of Planning & Zoning, 575 Dorset Street, South Burlington, 05403. The Planning and Zoning department can also be reached at 802- 846-4106.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent