The planning commission stayed the course with all things Interim Zoning at its April 9 meeting. Members also had the opportunity to discuss short-term amendments being made to the Transfer Development Rights (TDR) program, as well as a myriad of updates happening around the city.

Interim Zoning Application

On Feb. 19, the city council received an interim zoning application (#IZ-19-01) from Donald and Lois Kerwin to subdivide a two-acre parcel developed with a single-family dwelling into four lots ranging in size from 0.27 acres to 1.18 acres. Plans include construction of a single-family dwelling on each of the resulting undeveloped lots at 1420 Hinesburg Road, between Hinesburg Road and Highland Terrace. The application, presented by David Marshall of Civil Engineering, is an infill project with minimal impact – although a couple of abutting neighbors have stated their concerns regarding impacts to their property.

Council’s direction was to have the planning commission to assess whether this would be affected by the planned unit development (PUD) project overhaul of the regulations. Present commissioners (two were absent) reviewed the application on Feb. 26 and determined that it may be in the best interest of all parties to wait until the PUD rework is completed. The applicant then met with the city council on March 6, and Marshall asked if the applicant could meet with the commission directly to receive a sense of direction and understanding of the PUD project goals.

There were some differences in opinion on whether the applicant should be able to proceed. Commissioner Monica Ostby reiterated her stance that delaying the application and finishing the PUD project could potentially provide the applicant more opportunities than what’s currently realized. Commissioners Michael Mittag and Bernie Gagnon concurred. On the other hand, commissioner Art Klugo said that the project is consistent with the pattern of development happening on the west side and did not think that the PUD work would affect this type of development. Pat Trutor of 152 Highland Terrance also expressed her concern regarding lack of facilities for future development, particularly around water resources. 

The applicant will meet with the city council — the body that will make the final decision of how to proceed — for its continued hearing. 

PUD/Master Plan, Subdivision Project Update

The commission reviewed a draft earlier this year of the PUD working outline. Staff brought it before commissioners and asked if there was anything else missing before the consultants proceed with their work.

The draft outline consists of the following pieces, each with its own list of subcategories (not listed): purpose, PUD types, applicability, review procedures, general standards (applicable to all PUDs), legal documentation and PUD table(s)/graphics. 

At a previous meeting, Ostby asked if energy efficiency could be incorporated, a change that staff has made. Waste management was also noted. 

The commission also acknowledged work done around natural resources over the past several months. Staff asked if there were any questions around definitions, functionality, or the regulatory environment; staff additionally mentioned that the city is continuing its work with partners such as the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Jens Hawkins-Hilke, a conservation planner with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. The commission will have a policy discussion around this at the next meeting.

Following this, staff reviewed the planning commission’s general working schedule around the PUD/master plan/subdivision project. The commission has recently completed work around establishing street types, housing and building types, and open space. Staff has been working on aligning and consolidating underlying zoning districts, and – although not directly related to PUDs – the commission can expect Form Based Code amendments down the line, as well. The complete schedule shows what tasks fall under the planning commission, staff/consultant work, or are under review by a city committee. It also outlines what has been completed, what has been provided to a committee, what will be a coordination meeting of the city council/commission/IZ committees, as well as a planning commission public outreach on a full draft. 

Rounding out the conversation, staff walked the commission through an exercise of reviewing underlying zoning districts that they were looking to align or consolidate. These adjustments are also necessary to have the districts properly line up with where different PUD types apply under the PUD project.

Complete details regarding this project can be found on the city’s site,, under the “projects” tab under the planning and zoning space.

Transfer Development Rights

At the end of February, the Environmental Court handed down a decision on the Snyder Group Inc. planned unit development project on Spear Street known as Spear Meadows. The Judge found that two of the five parts of the City’s Transfer Development Rights (TDR) regulations did not comply with state statue; it also ruled that it was “unconstitutionally vague.”

At the March 18 city council meeting, the council agreed to have the city attorney draft language to address the court’s ruling and bring those items back into compliance.

Daniel Seff, an attorney representing the residents who appealed the case, asked the commission to share its stance on why these specific items are being addressed when the bigger picture of how TDRs should be restructured is being discussed under an interim zoning TDR committee. 

“Rather than trying to fix a bylaw, while there’s an appeal pending – which could impact the legality of that bylaw –- why not take the court’s direction as to what needs to be a valid bylaw, give that to the IZ TDR committee, and let them use that to come up with a new bylaw that makes sense from a policy perspective?” he asked.

Conner explained that the fundamental underlying statement from the council was make those corrections and have all parts of the bylaw be valid. The policy discussion will still take place under the TDR Committee in the interim zoning timeframe. Ostby said that those changes from the attorney will provide needed clarity. 

The decision is ultimately the council’s, but the comments expressed would be shared with council chair Helen Riehle, commission Chair Jessica Louisos explained.

Other announcements

The planning commission voted to consider approval of an Electric Vehicle Charging Station Grant application. This is the second round of funding through the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Grant Program, a partnership between the Agency of the Department of Transportation as well as the departments of Environmental Conservation, Housing and Community Development, Health, and Public Service. The city did not receive funding in the first round but are trying a second time.

The city will be asking for grant funding to install electric vehicle chargers in the new community center’s parking lot (library, city hall, and senior center) at 180 Market Street. 

Gagnon, a commission liaison and member of the Interim Zoning Open Space Committee, said that the committee has been using evaluation criteria on open parcels of land and reviewing the criteria performance. The committee is still in preliminary stages of its work. The committee’s asked Conner to share a map of available open space in the city as well as properties conserved through a variety of mechanisms. 

Ostby, commissioner liaison on the city’s Affordable Housing Committee, is working on Inclusionary Zoning and had session with Regina Mahoney of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. There will be a CCRPC-convened meeting of municipal housing committees in Chittenden County on April 30.

Commissioner Ted Riehle attended the South Burlington Land Trust annual meeting and noted two presentations: one from the Nature Conservancy regarding land being preserved around Shelburne Pond, and the other was from Burlington Tracking Project. The latter identified wildlife throughout the city and tracked their migration patterns. 

Green Up Day is on May 4 this year, Mittag announced as well. From staff’s report, The Other Paper has reported on the multi-community conservation district as well as the E-Bicycle and E-Scooter share from the April 1 city council meeting. The Other Paper has also reported on the Ewing family’s conservation effort by allowing the Nature Conservancy to acquire 45 acres of land on the north side of Shelburne Pond for permanent conservation. The city council agreed to have the city contribute $20,000; Shelburne has contributed $80,000.

The next planning commission meeting is Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. at city hall.

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