March 31, 2011By Tim Simard Observer staff
The Williston Selectboard received its first look at a draft of Williston’s Comprehensive Plan Monday night, readying itself to review the document and ask pointed questions. Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau, along with Planning Commission Chairman David Yandell, presented the Town Plan to the board, highlighting revisions and explaining details.
“We’re not changing much,” Yandell told the board. “This is the direction for Williston over the next five years. We see it as a good direction.”
Williston must update its Town Plan every five years, like all communities in Vermont, in accordance with state law. The Selectboard last ratified a Town Plan in February 2006, which represented a substantial rewrite of previous documents.
Beginning in late 2009, the Planning Commission worked with community members and identified areas of the current Town Plan that could use improvements. Some of the changes included expounding on an energy conservation section and making Williston a leader in green living, Yandell said.
The Town Plan draft also recommends zoning changes in the South Brownell Road neighborhoods, as well as creating zoning exceptions for the Porterwood Drive neighborhood and Lake Iroquois homesteads, both located in the rural and agricultural sections of town.
The draft also urges the protection of working landscapes and open spaces by recommending tax abatements to certain landowners. Planning Commission member Kevin Batson told the board this abatement would help certain property owners keep their lands and not be forced to subdivide due to rising taxes.
The Selectboard didn’t ask specific questions about the Town Plan, and intend to review it chapter by chapter throughout April. The board will also take public testimony on the plan, hoping to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Since the current Town Plan expired in February, the board stated its intent to approve the plan in a timely manner. Belliveau said according to state law, the town can’t make any zoning changes or alterations to the bylaws this year until it approves a new Town Plan.
“I’d say the month of April will be a big month,” Town Manager Rick McGuire said.
Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig added: “Yes, we certainly have our work cut out for us.”