September 30, 2014

Selectboard plans special meeting to discuss subdivision rules

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Proposed changes could raise legal questions

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Selectboard must wrestle with the legal issues surrounding a potential transition from its current subdivision regulations to an interim set before approving the change.

Many of the residential developers currently waiting in line for a phasing allocation for their projects might find the proposed interim regulations more favorable. However, typically, projects are considered under the regulations in place when an application was first submitted.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the Selectboard will need to consider whether it wants to provide developers with the option of being reviewed under either the current regulations or the new ones.

The legal questions surrounding such a consideration are substantial, McGuire said, and most directly applicable in the pending lawsuit of Village Associates against the town. The company wants to build a 110-unit subdivision near Taft Corners.

The board will hold a special meeting with an attorney present sometime this month to weigh the transition issues. McGuire said the meeting could be scheduled as early as this Monday.

A portion of the meeting will likely be held in executive session, because the discussion will involve the Village Associates’ suit. Village Associates sued the town when it could not secure a sewer allocation for the project.

“A large part of the transition discussion will probably involve strategies related to the lawsuit and we’ll need to have those in executive session,” McGuire said. “The discussion about the other developers might be in open session.”

The Selectboard continued to discuss the proposed interim subdivision regulations Monday night. The regulations have appeared regularly on the board’s agenda in various forms for several months. As part of the discussion, the board reviewed with Town Planner Lee Nellis how the town’s growth management works now and how it would work under the proposed interim regulations.

The Development Review Board sent a letter to the Selectboard last week, detailing the difficulties it is having distributing phasing to proposed projects.

Nellis said the DRB was attempting to make equitable decisions while lining up a small subdivision against a massive housing development.

“The situation in which they find themselves is juggling apples and oranges,” Nellis said.

Nellis said the current subdivision regulations make it difficult for large and small residential projects to receive the phasing allocation they need to build. Mid-sized developments make out much better.

The proposed interim regulations would change that, Nellis said. In fact, Selectboard member Andy Mikell asked Nellis whether the new regulations would reverse the bias, “shutting down the guy with 10, 20, 30 units.”

“That’s a possible result, not a guaranteed result, but a possible result,” Nellis said.

The proposed interim subdivision regulations have been on Selectboard agendas since late last year, but have been the subject of heavy tinkering. McGuire said the board would need to make a decision eventually.

“This is a constantly evolving document and at some time you have to say enough,” McGuire said.

The Selectboard is also weighing proposed changes to the town’s sewer allocation ordinance that would support the proposed interim subdivision regulations. The board voted to warn a public hearing on the sewer ordinance revisions, though a date has not yet been set.

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