Selectboard Candidates on Development: Three-Year Seat

This post sets forth the responses of the Selectboard candidates running for for the  three-year seat on the topic of Development. See this post for the responses of candidates for the two-year seat . [The five-question Questionnaire is here.] 

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Development. The Planning Commission is working on a new Town Plan, which may be sent to the Selectboard for public hearings and approval within the next 12 months. It seems inevitable that the topic will arise regarding the creation of a mixed use zoning district in the Route 5 South area. What are your views regarding the possible establishment of a new mixed use zoning district in the Route 5 South area? 

Roger Arnold:
I think zoning decisions must be considered and thoughtful. Community leaders must be actively engaged in listening to town-wide concerns and work hard to see the present in the future. I believe that by making the Selectboard more engaging and accessible, as I outlined above, we’ll be in a better position to enable participation.

A rezoning of Route 5 South to mixed use brings up complex issues around regional housing problems, infrastructure capacity, and land-use values. Like most of our community, I need more information. Here is what I think right now:

  1. There may or may not be a tendency for business leaders and community influencers to think of Norwich and the Upper Valley as Burlington and Chittenden County. I do not believe it honors our collective small-town histories to be matched to the needs of our state’s largest metropolitan area, and our community should not be expected to be receptive to any explicit or implicit comparison.  
  2. I believe that smart rezoning can be an opportunity to encourage and develop small, locally-owned business and generate tax revenue, while also keeping out big box retailers, as has been done in Brattleboro and elsewhere.
  3. We should give ourselves space to imagine what kind of vitality a purposefully planned housing community with school-aged children could contribute to Norwich, including lowering the per-pupil spending rate, which in turn contributes to lower property taxes and may create a cycle of making Norwich more affordable for all residents. 
  4. We must also acknowledge that our municipal services, including a lack of our own wastewater treatment, are not currently established to provide long-term care for the people who would live on Route 5 South.
Finally, whether we are talking about a parcel on Route 5 or not, citizens and Selectboard members should always respectfully ask each other questions that deepen our understanding of our individual relationships to land. It is tempting to divide our community based on who wants land use to support agriculture and open space, and who wants the land to be altered for housing development, but the reality may be that nearly every citizen wants the same thing: to make Norwich affordable and accessible, without altering our town’s unique qualities. 

Linda Cook: 
The Planning Commission is working on a new Town Plan which will come to the Select Board for pubic hearings in the next 12 months. I voted no on the Town Plan. I would like to see the Planning Commission establish new mixed use zoning districts else where that do no harm to our residents or our environment.

POSTED: 02.20.2019 

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