Should the Town Plan limit size and scale of development?


Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
norwichobserver

In the spirit of high school debate, I offer the following resolution to spur discussion about limits on the scale of development under the Selectboard Town Plan*: 

RESOLVED: Goal K of the Selectboard Town Plan at page 113 should be amended to read in its entirety as follows: 
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Maintain and enhance Norwich’s historic settlement pattern of compact village and rural countryside, while accommodating growth at a sustainable rate that is consistent with the existing size, scale and number of units in existing developments, the largest of which is 24 units.
The added language is: that is consistent with the existing size, scale and number of units in existing developments, the largest of which is 24 units

When you get down to it, the Town Plan is nebulous on the issue of development. Is that fuzziness good for document that represents the “long-term vision" of the Norwich?  Does that provide adequate guidance in drafting zoning regulations? Or, does it allow for 'whatever', so long as it somehow fits the definition of “sustainable” growth.^  

Indeed, the Goals and Objectives of the land use section of the Selectboard Town Plan at page 113 are in essence the same as those at page 12-11 of the 2011 Town Plan.†  Similarly, the Goals and Objectives of the housing plan at page 5-9 of the 2011 Town Plan are repeated in of the Selectboard Town Plan at page 30.

Does the public outcry about the proposed rezoning of Route 5 South warrant a change from the status quo? Even if this Town Plan is simply an update? 

Lots of questions but I have no answers. 

My suggestion is that part of the discussion on June 10 focus directly on whether the Town Plan should limit development so that it is “consistent with the existing size, scale and number of units in existing developments, the largest of which is 24 units.” That is the verbiage peppered through out “A Better Town Plan.” See Group Proposes ‘A Better Town Plan’. Maybe there are better ways to limit development but that is the only suggestion on the table for the public.  

I encourage the Selectboard to address head-on limits to the size and scale of development in Norwich. I am mindful that limits on size and scale might exclude dense development and eliminate motivation of developers to dedicate a specified number of units to affordable housing. That needs to be part of the discussion.

Some residents may be properly concerned that we do not have time to modify the current draft of the Town Plan. My response is that the modification is small in terms of verbiage. Plus, the Selectboard anticipated further changes and scheduled the final hearing for June 28.

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* The “Selectboard Town Plan” is the version to be discussed on June 10 and is available here

^ For example, under the Selectboard Town Plan at page 112, the overarching goal regarding land use is to:   “Maintain and enhance Norwich’s historic settlement pattern … while accommodating growth at a sustainable rate.” 

†  The 2011 Town Plan at page 12-11 says: Goal K Maintain and enhance Norwich’s historic settlement pattern of compact village and hamlet centers separated by rural countryside while accommodating growth at a sustainable rate.  The Selectboard Town Plan says: Goal K Maintain and enhance Norwich’s historic settlement pattern of compact village and rural countryside while accommodating growth at a sustainable rate.
The second objective of the Selectboard Town Plan at page 113 says: “Direct new development to those locations best suited to accommodate it ….”  The quoted language is identical to the 2011 Town Plan. 

POSTED: 06.07.2018 

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