Zoning rewrite to proceed piecemeal

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The daunting task of revising hundreds of pages of zoning rules will be divided into more manageable pieces, the Williston Planning Commission decided last week.

At its Aug. 7 session, the commission elected to break the work into three parts and discussed which sections would come first, said Chairman David Yandell. Separate public hearings will be held on each group of revisions by both the commission and the Selectboard, which has the final say on the new rules.

The town passed a new Comprehensive Plan, which sets broad policy goals, early in 2006. But the zoning ordinances are still needed to provide legally enforceable rules that carry out the plan’s goals. So there is some urgency to finish the revision, which will make ordinances consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

“This is a major change, a major update to the zoning ordinance that is long overdue,” Yandell said. “But we’re not rushing anything on this. We’re trying to get it right.”

The first round of revisions will likely include administrative procedures and growth management rules, Yandell said. Others getting priority will be ordinances already in effect on an interim basis or sections of the code where a revision is nearly complete.

The last round of revisions will involve ordinances that depend of the rest of the rules or are particularly complex, Yandell said.

The ordinances will collectively be called the unified development bylaw. When completed, the rules will run more than 200 pages and contain about 40 chapters, Town Planner Lee Nellis said earlier this month.

With much of the rewrite still in progress, it is difficult to determine exactly which rules will change. But among the proposed alternations are regulations governing signs and parking as well as permitting for new development and guidelines for home additions.

Specific dates for public hearings had not been finalized as of last week. Yandell said the commission will likely discuss the zoning ordinances at its next two meetings and hold a public hearing in mid-September.