The Charlotte Planning Commission dribbled closer to the goal of creating an East Charlotte Village commercial district, but it’s still a long-range shot.
However, the commissioners appeared to agree that, even with a lot of pieces to still be hammered out – many minor, maybe nitpicky, but necessary – they think they can have the proposal ready in time for their original deadline for a public vote – in November of this year.
Selectboard member Carrie Spear, the lone audience member aside from media during the Thursday, Jan. 2, planning commission meeting, thanked the commission members for their work on the proposal.
“I feel like we’re going in the right direction without hurting too many feelings,” she said.
The commissioners realized at this meeting that the boundaries of the proposed East Village Commercial District had been drawn inconsistently. Where the boundaries followed either Hinesburg Road or Spear Street, in some places the boundaries had been drawn as the centerlines of the roads and in other places they were drawn as the edge of the right of way.
The commissioners agreed the issue was primarly “cosmetic,” but that the boundaries should be consistent. After some discussion, they settled upon using the road centerlines as the boundary where the borders follow a road.
The commission appears to have reached an agreement on the map and reducing the required lot size for homes in the East Charlotte Village Commercial District to 1 acre.
Commissioner Marty Illich argued for the reduction to 1-acre lots to increase the availability of more affordable homes. “That’s my one and only objective in this. We have failed in the last 20 years, not to be too harsh, but we’ve really not succeeded in achieving the affordable homes that we wanted to.”
Requiring large lots for each home is one of the reasons, although not the only reason, for the scarcity of affordable housing, she said. “We are falling behind in our numbers and East Charlotte has the capacity.”
Gerald Bouchard was concerned that on some 1-acre lots it may not be possible to fit both a well and a septic system.
“You’ve got to have so much area around the well and that limits your septic area to the point that you may not be able to do it,” said Bouchard. “And if you can do it on your lot, your neighbor may not be able to do it and you’re infringing on his rights.”
Chair Peter Joslin disagreed: “Just like any other parcel, you may have a lot of septic; you may not. It’s what’s inherent in the land.”
Having decided on proposing to reduce the required lot size to an acre, the planning commissioners discussed whether this will impact some of the existing land-use regulations.
“We need to go through the regs to see what all pieces that triggers,” said Charlie Pughe. He mentioned road frontage and setbacks as examples of regulations that might be impacted.
“What remains is to see how that density may change things elsewhere and then the utilities,” Joslin said.
He suggested that each of the commissioners go through the land-use regulations before their next meeting to search for those regulations the changes might affect.
The planning commissioners appeared to have reached a consensus agreement that they would like to have the regulations changed to clarify that septic lines would be allowed to run under roads from the rural zoned district to the proposed East Charlotte Village Commercial District.
Pughe said, “I think this sewer piece is going to take some time.”
And Illich agreed.