In a 4-0 vote, Hinesburg selecboard members approved revisions to the town’s official map and zoning regulations on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Director of Planning and Zoning Alex Weinhagen introduced the discussion about the revisions, pointing out that this public hearing was required by state law because the selectboard had changed the planning commission’s proposal after a public hearing that had been warned.
At their Dec. 4 meeting, the selectboard had voted to approve the planning commission’s proposed changes to the map and zoning regulations, after removing the lot designated as “community facility #34” on the official map and from the zoning regulations.
Community facility #34 is on Lot 15, the property where Hannaford had proposed building a grocery store. The original proposals for the revised town map and zoning regulations had envisioned a green space to be included as part of commercial development on the lot.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Weinhagen said the planning commission had reviewed the selectboard’s changes and, although they supported their original version, felt the amended proposed restrictions should go forward.
The planning commission memo says: “Given that community facility #34 was removed, we feel this should be balanced by adding a comparable area for such community facilities elsewhere. The Commission will likely take this up in a future Official Map update.”
More than a “One road town”
Responding to concerns that selectboard member Merrily Lovell had raised about a proposed future road that would cross Patrick Brook and which would encourage development in a flood hazard area, Weinhagen said the planning commission thinks the road “would allow us to be more than a one-road town.”
“They pointed out that, when the flood hazard regs were updated several years back, this was a discussion item. It was decided at that time if things were properly engineered and modeled, there could be some limited development in that area that wouldn’t adversely impact surrounding properties or be at risk,” Weinhagen said. “They feel like that element is an important piece to the overall development plan.”
He said the planning commission finds that the revised proposals still conform to the Town Plan, but they would like for there to be a “a substantial conversation” in the future, with more public input about whether the town wants to see the west side of Highway 116 developed and, if so, “how it would be connected to the rest of the village.”
“I wish I had your confidence in the ability of engineers to overcome flood events,” said Lovell.
By phone selectboard member Phil Pouech said, “I agree with you Merrily, but this is about a couple of minutes to midnight, saying this would significantly change the Town Plan and you’ve got a lot of people with development plans.”
Lovell replied: “I’m not going to stand in the way of the official map. I feel like a lot of work has gone into it, and I’m in favor of adopting it. But I’d be more comfortable if the planning commission had said that they recognize it’s a flood zone, that they recognize that it’s a threat.”
Development in flood hazard area concerns
Board member Jeff French asked if either Blackrock’s Haystack Crossing or the Hinesburg Center 2, two development projects which are going through the Development and Review process now and are on the westside of Highway 116, reach into that flood hazard area.
Weinhagen answered that Haystack Crossing doesn’t, although it does anticipate having a road and sidewalk connection that reach across the area, but the rest of that development is completely out of the flood hazard area.
“A good chunk” of Hinesburg Center 2, a 46-acre subdivision proposed for west of Kinney Drugs and north of Farmall Drive, would be in the flood hazard area, he said.
Weinhagen said this is the project that former member of the selectboard Andrea Morgante was referring to when she said, “‘You’re planning infrastructure and development is going to follow it.’ That development has followed it.”
Weinhagen said, “the horse is already out of the gate,” because Kinney Drugs was built in the flood hazard area.
Because the developer has already taken the necessary preliminary development stages such as going through the sketch plan process, there’s little the planning commission can do at this point. The development and review board might affect it through the town’s existing rules, Weinhagen said.
In Pouech’s absence, Tom Ayer performed as chair for this meeting. As the board approved the minutes from the previous meeting, he reflected on the previous meeting, the last of three meetings in January on the issue of ambulance service for Hinesburg. Those meetings had been held upstairs to accommodate the large audiences that attended.
“That meeting, as controversial as the issue was, was very well done. I thought everybody in attendance was well-behaved, respectful to everybody. There were some excellent points made on both sides and I thought those three meetings could not have gone more smoothly,” Ayer said, just before this meeting was adjourned.