Morristown town offices, Tegu Building, Portland Street

The Morristown Select Board is mulling the idea of fast-tracking some zoning changes on Oct. 21.

The key change would involve a waiver developers can apply for. The waiver currently allows the town development review board to reduce the minimum requirement for certain aspects of a project — such as building setbacks, lot sizes and lot area per unit — by up to 15 percent, provided certain criteria are met. The change would boost that to 25 percent.

The proposed change was being considering for next spring, as part of the town’s annual review and update of town zoning laws.

But some developers would rather see the change made now, rather than in six months.

“It’s about when it will happen, not if it will happen,” Dan Lindley, the town administrator, said after the board discussion Sept. 16.

“We’re just talking about timeline,” Todd Thomas, Morristown’s planning director and zoning administrator, told the board. “If you direct me to make the change, I’ll do it. We normally warn it in April; we can do it now, though.”

Even if the board votes Oct. 21 to direct Thomas and the town planning council to begin making the changes, they won’t go into effect for several months.

“It still would have to go through the statutory warning process,” Lindley said. The process for changing zoning laws requires public hearings for community comment and final approval by the select board and village trustees, with required time intervals between steps.

“January,” Thomas told the board, when asked how quickly the change could kick in. “That’s as fast as you can go.”

Ron Stancliffe, a conservation commission member, doesn’t oppose the density waiver in the village, but thinks it’s a step backward in zoning for the rest of the town.

“My board is opposed to it,” Thomas said, referring to the planning council, mainly because of procedure. It wants to keep zoning updates on a regular schedule, Thomas said.

Select board member Eric Dodge said “knee-jerk” reactions to zoning issues probably aren’t the best way to do business.

“If we do this now, we create a precedent that will come back and bite us,” Dodge said. “Any change in how we do business sets us up for failure.”

Board chair Bob Beeman doesn’t see the proposed change in the same light.

“If it’s a change we’re going to make anyway, why not do it now? Why drag it out?” Beeman said. The regular statutory process will be followed, he said, so it’s not like the town is trying to rush or push something through illegally.

“Time is money,” he said.

The change would allow more subdivisions, which could spur further development, said Denise Trombley, a resident who’s been pushing for the change. She’s also the owner-broker at Century 21 Jack Associates.

Thomas said the change could hurt some projects already in the works, such as a housing development planned by the Lamoille Housing Partnership.

“That will be restricted by the changes,” Thomas said, and will likely need to add parking spaces unless the developers “beat the clock” so they won’t be affected by upcoming changes.

Beeman wants the whole select board to decide the issue — only three of the five board members were present on Sept. 16 — so the question will be on a future board agenda.

“I don’t see how it’s rushed, if we’re going to do it anyway, but I’d like a full board” to decide , he said.

Other business

• The board discussed the layout for Upper Munson Avenue, a new road being built now that will intersect Route 15 across from Munson Avenue and run behind Tractor Supply to Trombley Hill and Center roads.

Developer Chris Chauvin is required to build the new road as part of the development of the land. After visiting the site, the board decided against making the upper intersection a four-way stop.

Instead, drivers coming off Trombley Hill Road and the new Upper Munson Avenue will have a stop sign, but Center Road traffic won’t have to stop.

The board will reassess the intersection after a year, and decide if it needs to be realigned.

• The board again tabled a vote on accepting Belanger Lane as a town highway. It still needs more work, said highway foreman Kevin Barrows.

• The board approved street closures to make Halloween trick-or-treating safer. Roads that will be closed for a few hours include Court, East Olive, Maple, Olive, Summer and Union streets, along with Cherry and Harrison avenues.

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