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Town and Village

Selectboard approves new zoning plan

Land-use regulations last updated 30 years ago

BRATTLEBORO—After years of public comment and revisions, Brattleboro’s new zoning plan is ready for prime time.

These new land-use regulations, approved by the Selectboard Nov. 17, take their lead from intentions and goals set forward in the Town Plan around land use and development. The Planning Department worked throughout 2014 revising the town’s zoning and holding multiple public meetings.

At these meetings, the department staff collected public comment and answered questions regarding the rezoning proposal.

The department has collected and responded to more than 200 comments — enough to fill a binder.

Reworking the current zoning into 12 new districts is the most obvious revision. These districts — Urban Center, Village Center, Service Center, Neighborhood Center, Mixed Use Neighborhood, Residential Neighborhood, Rural Residential, Rural Business, Rural, Waterfront, Institutional, and Industrial — also have slightly shifted what type of development, designs, housing, or industry are permitted.

Broadly speaking, greater emphasis has been placed on mixed-use development and supporting neighborhoods’ walkability.

Because Brattleboro has limited land available for large industrial development, the new zoning sought to set aside areas such as near Exit 1 and Exit 3 for such development. Rural areas have new guidelines aimed at protecting environmental features.

Increasing the town’s resilience in the face of environmental challenges, such as flooding during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, also factored into some of the new regulations around development near flood zones in the creation of the Waterfront District.

Public comments at the public hearings leading up to the board’s Nov. 17 approval included concerns around whether the new regulations would stifle business growth. Multiple local business owners expressed worry that the revised zoning would make doing business in Brattleboro more difficult.

A few residents in the new Rural zone had concerns about their ability to subdivide property. Also topping the list of questions were signage in general and constraints on how much signage marketing tobacco and alcohol can fill window space.

After some discussion and requests by the board for the planning department to amend some areas of the land-use regulations, the board passed the new regulations.

According to Planning Director Rod Francis, the town had not substantially revised these regulations in 30 years. James Valente, chair of the Development Review Board, commented that the zoning existed in the land of out-of-date and caused the DRB much hair pulling.

How residents and the town operate no longer matched the old zoning, he added.

The new regulations were a product of many years of reviews and revisions conducted by the Planning Commission and Planning Department with the help of consultant Brandy Saxton, AICP of PlaceSense.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #333 (Wednesday, November 25, 2015). This story appeared on page D2.

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