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Public hearing set for multiple bylaw changes

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

A public hearing for proposed changes to town bylaws in four areas is set for later this month. The Selectboard has been discussing the changes, which were put forward by the Planning Commission, since the fall. It is scheduled to vote on their adoption after the hearing, set for Jan. 26.

Bylaw changes would go into effect 21 days after the Selectboard approves them, unless an appeal is filed.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT

A proposed renewal of the town’s growth management bylaw would extend the system to fiscal year 2025. The Planning Commission suggested some changes, including provisions to help the town encourage the development of affordable housing.

The new system would allow 80 new dwelling units per year, and would stipulate that 25 percent of available units in each zoning district be affordable.

The system would also address some issues raised by developers, including lengthening extension periods and ensuring allocation is spread more evenly over the 10-year period.

OUTDOOR LIGHTING

The town is looking to adjust its lighting bylaws, adding a provision than prohibits bands of light.

“Lighting fixtures containing lighting elements that form a band of light are not allowed,” the addition reads. “The use of internally illuminated bands of color and/or light on building exteriors is prohibited.”

It also restricts building façade lighting and requires that light fixtures be shielded so the light is directed downward and not onto adjacent roads, sidewalks or properties. Light fixtures cannot be mounted more than 15 feet above average finished grade.

SIGNS

The Selectboard is also set to approve changes to sign bylaws intended to remove inconsistencies and provide some flexibility for offsite agricultural signs.

A new town bylaw would allow offsite agricultural signs for farms, farmstands and farmers’ markets to be placed in the agricultural-rural, village and residential zoning areas advertising farm products in those zones. The state’s anti-billboard law allows these uses, but the town’s bylaws currently do not provide the same exceptions.

One sign can be placed on any one parcel of land, with owner permission, and must be temporary and no larger than six square feet and four feet in height. No permit for such signs would be required.

Changes would also be made to ways in which some nonconforming signs can be altered. Under the proposed bylaw, any sign that is nonconforming due to internal illumination—no longer allowed by the town—must be brought into full compliance with the sign illumination requirements if they are changed in any way that requires a permit. In addition, all internally illuminated signs must be brought into compliance by Jan. 1, 2025. Signs may be illuminated by downward facing lights or “halo” lighting.

LAKE IROQUOIS

A new bylaw would establish the Lake Iroquois Shoreland Protection Area 250 feet from the mean water level of the lake.

The measures are intended to protect the lake and character of the neighborhood while allowing some limited development. Lake Iroquois residents and town staff have been meeting to discuss development standards for more than a year.

In addition to meeting the requirements of the Vermont Lake Shoreland Protection Standards, new structures in the protection area must be set back a minimum of 100 feet from the mean water level of the lake—less than the 150-foot buffer zone on ponds and lakes in the rest of town. In the protection area, building height can be no more than 30 feet.

Existing nonconforming structures may be expanded under limited circumstances. Owners can expand structures by no more than 20 percent of the footprint over a five-year period of time. Expansion must take place away from the lake and conform with the state’s wastewater regulations. Non-conforming structures can also be moved back from the lake.

To see the proposed changes to the bylaws, visit the town website, http://www.town.williston.vt.us