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October 31, 2012
This is a special edition of the WSBA eNewsletter devoted to the proposed Richmond Zoning & Subdivision Regulations. Below is information from different sources expressing facts and opinions on both sides (pro & con) of accepting the regulations. The final proposed regulations can be downloaded here. Zoning District Maps can be downloaded here. General Highlights of the Proposed Richmond Zoning and Subdivision Regulations can be downloaded here.
The Board of the Western Slopes Business Association wants to facilitate this discussion in the following ways:
1. strive to present balanced information & give voice to those who recommend voting yes or no;
2. urge everyone to become an informed voter; How?
Follow the questions and answers in Richmond’s Front Porch Forum. It’s FREE & easy to join Richmond’s Front Porch Forum. TIP: To catch up on the zoning conversation you can search Richmond’s FPF archive by logging into your FPF account, click on the [Archive] button and enter the word zoning. You can also enter from & to dates to limit the results. Post your questions on Richmond’s FPF.
Contact the Town Planner or a member of the Planning Commission. Cathleen Gent, 434-2430 – Gary Bressor, 434-2800 – Lou Borie, 434-4638, Mark Fausel, 434-5382 – Joe McHugh, 310-0738 – Dan Renaud, 434-6145 – Christy Witters, 505-8117
Attend the Special Information Session on Proposed Zoning Regulations – October 29, 7:00 PM, Richmond Free Library
3. urge everyone to vote 11/6/2012;
“The personality of Richmond is in part measured by whatever zoning regulations are in place. Another part is how zoning regulations are administered, the efficiency and reasonableness of the permit process AND the helpful (or not) attitude of those in positions of power while staying within the framework and intent of the regulations.” –Larry Bohen
SAVE THESE DATES:
OCTOBER 29 – Special Information Session on Proposed Zoning Regulations – 7:00 pm, Richmond Free Library NOVEMBER 6 – Vote at Camel’s Hump Middle School
Questions by Larry Bohen – Answers by Gary Bressor1. Why are the zoning regulations being updated? The proposed regulations implement the vision of Richmond residents to maintain Richmond’s vibrant village center while keeping most of the town rural in nature, a vision which is expressed in the Richmond Town Plan. The proposed zoning recognizes the need to allow for more dense development in the village zones, but protects the character of existing neighborhoods by establishing standards which apply to new development projects in each zoning district.
The last major revision to the zoning bylaws was in 1996. The changes in the new bylaws incorporate a better framework for balancing regulation with making Richmond an inviting place for people to live and work.
2. What are the major changes and why? To achieve the overall goal of retaining a compact and vibrant village center surrounded by rural countryside, minimum lot sizes have been established for each zoning district, with higher residential density in the village center and immediately surrounding neighborhoods and lower residential density in areas outside of the village. The one-acre minimum lot size in the current zoning regulations does not adequately allow for differences in rural character, land use, and desired pattern of development. The new bylaws include density-based zoning in Rural 3(R-3) and Rural 10 (R-10), which manages overall development in those districts while maintaining the same one-acre minimum lot size that exists in the current Agricultural-Residential zoning district. Within a Planned Unit Development (PUD), the lot size may be as small as one-half acre.
3. Who is affected by the changes? When individual property owners look at how the changes will affect their particular properties, the new bylaws generally have no affect on what the owner is doing now or wants to do in the future. In most zoning districts, the number of land uses will increase, not decrease.
For owners of large parcels in the R-3 or R-10 zoning district, the total number of lots that can be developed as part of a subdivision may be reduced as a result of the increased density requirements. That change is supported by the Planning Commission and the Select Board and is intended to ensure that a large subdivision at a scale with hundreds of new one-acre lots cannot be developed in rural areas of Richmond. With the current bylaws, such a subdivision is possible.
4. What impact are the new zoning regulations expected to have on life and development in Richmond?For most Richmond residents, the new Zoning & Subdivision Regulations will have very little impact. Most people who want to build or expand a home or business will not find any new requirements. In addition, there are many positive changes for business and commercial development and for home-based businesses as well as for people who live and work in the floodplain. The traditional areas for commercial development throughout Richmond have been preserved so that those uses can continue and expand. New uses in the Village Business-1 district (central business area) are exempt from parking space requirements, in recognition of the fact that much of the parking there is shared via public parking facilities and public parking spaces. In Jonesville, the integration of distinct zoning districts provides more definition to encourage village-style development in the Route 2/Cochran Road area.
The proposed regulations allow for more flexibility in meeting parking needs and business signage. Maximum trip generation standards are eliminated from every zoning district. In most zoning districts, parking to the side and rear of a building is now encouraged, not required. The size and number of allowed signs for businesses and organizations have expanded, for instance, the maximum signage area may consist of multiple types of signs of various sizes.
Home-based businesses continue to be allowed and encouraged in all residential zoning districts. The standards in the current and proposed bylaws are very similar. For instance, the amount of space that can be dedicated to a home-based occupation, the number of employees, the volume of traffic, and the restriction on retail sales of goods are all the same.
The current and proposed zoning bylaws both protect Richmond’s vulnerable floodplains from future development.However, with the new bylaws, making repairs to homes and businesses in the floodplain will be much easier through a streamlined zoning permit process with far fewer applications needing to go before the DRB. If you live within 100 feet of the FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area, permitting requirements for repairs will be eliminated.
One change that will potentially impact property owners relates to outdoor lighting standards. To help protect the night sky, whenever an outdoor lighting fixture is replaced, the new fixture must meet standards to protect the night sky from light pollution. This applies to light fixtures only: light bulbs can be replaced at any time without the new standards becoming applicable.
5. When will the proposed zoning regulations be voted on? Voting on the proposed bylaws is already taking place in conjunction with general election voting that began on September 24th. In addition to a slate of candidates on the ballot, voters will find the following item, “Shall the voters approve the Richmond Zoning and Subdivision Regulations as amended and accepted by the Richmond Selectboard on September 10, 2012?” The last day of voting will be November 6th.
Richmond Concerned Citizens Against Excessive Control Say NO! Planning Commission Chair Replies
A group called Richmond Concerned Citizens for Excessive Control / Jack Lynn has published a pink two-sided flyer urging the defeat of the proposed regulations and listing ten reasons (shown below in red) to vote no. Gary Bressor, Chair of the Planning Commission has addressed each of the ten reasons below.
1. “Will supersede and replace our existing zoning regulations.” TRUE. The proposed amendments will replace the zoning and subdivision regulations now in effect. That is the normal process for adopting new regulations.
2. “Will affect every property and property owner in town.” TRUE. The proposed regulations cover all properties in town.
3. “Will add over 100 pages of detailed regulations.” FALSE. The proposed regulations have gotten about 50 pages longer, but there are a number of reasons for that. First, the zoning and subdivision regulations will be combined into one document. Second, we have added four zoning districts, going from 8 to 12, to better reflect distinct areas for development. Third, the definitions section has grown from 9 pages to 25 pages. The level of detail in the definitions section will provide better guidance to people who want to develop or change uses on their property.
4. “Will doubtless require the addition of new town employees to administer and enforce these new rules and regulations.” FALSE. The planning commission believes that we have actually reduced the workload in some areas, for instance, no longer requiring that owners get approval from the Development Review Board for minor repairs in the floodplain). Also, new lots developed in the future will be tracked via land surveys approved by the Development Review Board.
5. “Will severely restrict your ability to subdivide your land for your family members.” PARTIALLY FALSE AND PARTIALLY TRUE. The process of subdividing a parcel for a single lot will be able to be done administratively for everyone, not just landowners with 25 acres, which will save time and money. In the two rural zoning districts (Rural-3 and Rural-10), you will have to own a minimum of six acres (Rural-3) or a minimum of twenty acres (Rural-10) to subdivide, although you can still create a one acre lot in either district. On the other hand, in the five village zoning districts, minimum lot sizes are reduced, so that it’s possible to subdivide more easily there.
6. “Will make it costly, cumbersome, and complicated to make even minor repairs to your existing house.” FALSE. There are no new requirements for making repairs to existing houses. In fact, for people who live in the FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area (floodplain), the process will be much easier. Currently, all repairs and improvements have to be approved by the DRB and get zoning permits. Under the proposed changes, ant repairs under $1,000 are exempt from needing zoning permits. For those over $1,000, Development Review Board approval is no linger required, which is a huge cost and time savings.
7. “Will limit your rights to use your property for a home business.” FALSE. The Home-Based Business section of the proposed ordinance was drawn almost word for word from the current zoning regulations. There are two types of home-based businesses: home occupations and home industries. There are no changes to what you may do with a home occupation. For home industries (called cottage industries in the current regulations), the storage of fuel for business vehicles is not allowed in the new bylaws.
8. “Will hamper the ability of small businesses to locate and/or expand in the village.” FALSE. The proposed regulations are very business-friendly and encourage business growth. In the downtown, businesses will no longer have to show they can provide parking to open a business. We have also eliminated maximum traffic generation standards in all districts. Business owners have more options for signage, as there are multiple locations for signs, up to a maximum square footage amount, depending on the zoning district.
9. “Will expressly prohibit a light rail station near the commuter parking lot.” TRUE, but we think for a good reason. Please bear in mind that there is no light rail proposed anywhere in Richmond at this point. We support the idea of light rail but do not see it happening for quite some time. Several years ago, the Select Board purchased the property where the old railroad station used to be off Bridge Street. That site and surrounding area are scheduled to be used as town parking but could be used for a light rail. Alternatively, if, in the future, the town wants to pursue light rail near the commuter parking lot, zoning can be changed to accommodate that, although considerable floodplain exists in that area.
10. “Will expressly prohibit the expansion and/or relocation of the Post Office if that becomes a necessity in the future.” FALSE. The post office could expand or relocate in three districts: Village-Business 1; Village Mixed; and Jonesville Mixed. Twenty years ago, the citizens of Richmond worked very hard to keep the post office in the village area. Having the post office right in Richmond village has proven to be a very successful model, which has been adopted by the US Postal Service on a national level. If the post office were to be moved for some reason in the future, the question of whether it is allowed in a given zoning district can be taken up at that time.
Jack Lynn, Richmond Concerned Citizens Against Excessive Control Says NO!
NOTE: You may call Jack at 434-4882.
PRESERVING THE CHARACTER OF RICHMOND
Over the past 200 years Richmond has evolved into what it is today by allowing all of its citizens, rich and poor, farmers and merchants, land owners and tenants to express their various skills and resources in the way they built their houses. Some are close to the road and some are not. Some face the street and some do not. Some are on a flat piece of land and some are not. Some are well built and some are not. But they all serve the purpose of the builder and family without any interference from the town and neighbors. For me, that is the character of Richmond.
I strongly oppose the proposed zoning document because it shows little respect for the individual judgments of the land owners. Rezoning will restrict their choices to do what they can with their property, allowing a few to dictate what can be done with it.
The character of the town is in its people and in their freedoms. Our history is reflected in the many buildings in the town that will now be out of compliance. The proposed rezoning will require many to go through the lengthy DRB hearings to do as little as to add a step to the building.
The proposed document specifically states “The zoning administration officer shall administer these regulations literally and shall not have the power to permit any land development that is not in conformance with these regulations” 4.1.1.c.
Definitions in the proposed zoning ordinance for land development and for structures will logically lead to a requirement for building permits and certificate of occupancy permits for placement of propane tanks, building of rock walls, backyard playgrounds and sand boxes, etc. If I need to change my heating system from a failed oil boiler to a propane boiler on some January morning do I have to wait the 45 days for a permit? Hence it follows that the town zoning and administration office staff will need to expand to enforce the details in the proposed zoning office. I see another tax increase coming.
Some examples of rules that are overly restrictive and leave little room for creativity by home owners or developers:
1) “No interrupted length of any façade shall be permitted to exceed 100 feet without incorporating a change of color, material or texture and an architectural projection or recess” 3.2.1.b)ii Will they tell us what color it should be 2) “Sloped roofs should use design features such as dormers and gables to give the façade more visual character” 3.2.1b)v 3) “No more than one recreational vehicle may be parked in a driveway or front yard”3.2.4f. I might want my parents and my in-laws to visit at the same time. 4) “At least one-third of the single-family dwellings shall have a covered front entry porch that is at least 8 feet deep” 3.6.8.a)viii 5) “The DRB may impose any condition to protect open space on any portion of a lot outside of the building envelope.” 3.6.7a) 6) “The final 20 feet of driveway grade…shall not exceed three(3) percent” 3.3.3h) A new house being built on Cochran Rd. becomes nonconforming before it is occupied.
As stated in the document (4.3.3a) “Richmond contains a large number of buildings” that do not conform to this document. It also has a large number of home based businesses, crafts, occupations, side offices, source of homeowners’ income that are non-conforming with this document as they grew up out of necessity and permits were never asked for or received. This document makes it very cumbersome and costly to do anything with these buildings and businesses. I believe that these buildings and people living in them are the real character of Richmond. As an example a 90 year old resident recently wanted to add a new step to the front of his house where he has lived for 60 years. The old stairs were steeper than his wife could now handle. It took him 94 days to add one step and it cost him more for the permit than the renovation cost him. Where is the common sense in this?
PRESERVE RICHMOND’S REAL CHARACTER – VOTE NO!
Rod West, owner of Blackfork Towing Says Yes!
Since moving to Richmond 28 years ago I have built houses and businesses on two different properties in town. I live in the Gateway Commercial district and because of my business and building interests, I have paid attention to our planning and zoning.
When the Planning Commission had a neighborhood meeting about the rezoning a couple of years ago, I went. When they had their first hearing this January on the new zoning, I went and made suggestions. When they had their second hearing on the new zoning I went, and much to my delight, they had incorporated all of my and my neighbor’s suggestions regarding uses and signage for our district and also a few business friendly ideas regarding parking and traffic for the town at large. When the Select Board had their own hearing on the new zoning I went, they listened, and made changes.
The current zoning document is out of date and hard to use. It is past the point of amending and needs to be replaced. Our volunteer Planning Commission has worked hard, for literally years, to construct a new document that follows the Town Plan, streamlines permit processes and will be adaptable for the future.
People participated, they were heard, and changes were made. I feel the Planning Commission and the Selectboard were very responsive to input. I urge you to vote “yes” to have an adaptable zoning document so Richmond can grow responsibly into the future. It’s not carved in stone, we can change the new zoning, but the old really needs to go.
David Raphael, Owner of the Cheese Factory / Creamery Property Representative Says….
“In our work representing the owner of the Creamery parcel in the heart of Richmond, we advanced a number of issues and concerns with regard to the proposed new zoning regulations. We appreciated the opportunity to suggest ideas and recommendations with regard to the commercial requirement in the Village Mixed Use District, as well as the need to be able to increase the allowable density for residential units on the parcel. The Planning Commission did respond positively and altered the parameters for the required commercial development component, making it easier and more realistic for potential development of the parcel for commercial uses. The portion of the VMU district standards with regard to density were not altered, as we had suggested. Our request was based on the fact that the allowable density was relatively modest for a village site, and was based on developable land only, which in essence removes 1/2 of the property for the calculation for number of units possible, even though we believe we had demonstrated that 1) the property could be developed with the number of units possible if all of the acreage was calculated and 2) that most communities do not remove the non-developable land from the calculation in higher density or village districts -allowing the number of units that would be possible based on calculation of total acreage. In this regard the proposed zoning is not as “friendly” as it could be given that this is a brownfields site with challenging topography and hydrology that will greatly increase the cost of development. Ultimately though, one must respect the wisdom of the Planning Commission in forwarding new zoning regulations that they believe are in the best interests of the community. Thus the cheese factory development plans being considered must be viable and permittable within the parameters of that new zoning. It is the intent of the cheese factory owner to see if that is possible.”