Selectboard to consider new zoning rules

March 20, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Another round of revisions to Williston's zoning ordinance will be discussed during a public hearing next week.

The Selectboard hosts the meeting at Town Hall on Monday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. The session will cover 13 newly drafted chapters of the town's unified development bylaw.

The chapters address mostly routine administrative matters such as ensuring there is the proper parking and infrastructure for new development.

David Yandell is chairman of the Williston Planning Commission, which makes recommendations for zoning revisions to be adopted by the Selectboard. He said it is important for the public to pay attention to zoning changes, but acknowledged that most of the revisions involve rules that are as "dry as dust."

The new rules address two pairs of zoning districts. One is around the Interstate 89 interchange. The second includes Williston's aging industrial areas.

Development pressures have mounted in recent years near I-89. The new ordinance breaks the area down into two districts, gateway south and gateway north.

The Planning Commission tried to balance travelers' desire for amenities near interstates — hotels and gas stations, for example —
with homeowners' preference to restrict development, Yandell said.

The new rules attempt to limit the visual impact of proposed projects while still allowing development, Yandell said. Among the changes is a requirement that only 35 percent of vegetation can be cut on wooded sites.

Zoning revisions also involve Williston's industrial districts, which are along Industrial Avenue and Redmond Road.

Businesses and landowners have urged the town to be more flexible in the types of uses permitted to accommodate changes in the economy, Yandell said.

"We struggled with the boundaries and the types of uses that should be allowed as manufacturing leaves the U.S," he said.

The new zoning eases restrictions on the kinds of uses while trying to avoid conflicts, Yandell said. The idea is to maintain a healthy industrial base while ensuring neighboring businesses are compatible.

This group of zoning revisions is the second of three. The Selectboard previously passed altered rules governing big-box stores off Marshall Avenue and streamlined the permitting process.

The last group will include more controversial rules, such as those regarding outdoor lighting and signs.

Yandell said he is unsure when the final zoning revisions will be completed.