September 18, 2014

Should gated subdivisions be prohibited in Williston?

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Planning Commission weighs in

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Most of the suggested tweaks to the Williston Unified Development Bylaw proved to be uncontroversial at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

Item 42.3.2 (“Change required residential setbacks from 15 feet to 10 feet as in the previous bylaw”) met with little opposition.

Nor did item 13.2.6.7 (“Word ‘sing’ is supposed to be ‘sign’”) cause a stir.

The same couldn’t be said for an item marked “Gated Subdivisions: Should these be prohibited?”

“It’s one of those things where it’s just a matter of time before someone would propose one,” said Ken Belliveau, Williston Director of Planning and Zoning.

Belliveau proposed the following language: “In no case shall gates of any kind be permitted across public or private roads, or driveways serving more than one dwelling unit.”

Planning Commission Chairman Jake Mathon was against such a bylaw.

“Do I want gated communities? I don’t really care for them. I’ve been down to Florida a few times and I don’t like that type of development,” Mathon said. “But that’s my personal preference, and if somebody else wants to do that on a private road, that’s their prerogative to do so.”

Commission member Kevin Batson sat on the other side of the fence on the issue.

“It’s not just a gate, it’s a fenced-in community,” Batson said. “You build a wall around your community, and I’m really opposed to that.”

Williston Senior Planner Matt Boulanger offered an opinion regarding the practical application of the proposed bylaw.

“What this would really do is affect the roads that are constructed as part of a residential development,” Boulanger said. “In Williston, you can put up to five units on what we call a private driveway—a road that you’re not required to build to the full private road standard. So one way you (could) do it is you just attach (the proposed bylaw) to that and say public and private roads constructed as part of a subdivision will not have access control gates (and) private driveways can.”

The only consensus reached by the Planning Commission on the gate debate is that it requires further discussion.

The commission agreed to include the gated subdivision question as an agenda item at a warned public hearing to discuss all of the proposed changes to the Unified Development Bylaw.

The date of the public hearing has yet to be determined.

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