Selectboard Candidates on Development: Two-Year Seat
This post sets forth the responses of the Selectboard candidates running for for the two-year seat on the topic of Development. See this post for the responses of candidates for the three-year seat. [The five-question Questionnaire is here.]
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?
The Norwich Planning Commission should not be working on an entirely new Town Plan. They should be revising the existing Town Plan and focus on the sections that need re-working.
I met one-on-one with Peter Gregory, TRORC Executive Director, on January 31 to learn, from the source, what happened with Norwich’s Town Plan. According to Peter, three (3) sections failed to meet approval:
1) Clearly defined area(s) for commercial development (primarily multi-family housing) were not stated in the Town Plan;
2) The Village of Norwich lost its designation impacting its ability to apply for Historic Tax Credits for work on its buildings; and
3) The section on energy lacked sufficient detail.
I am against large-scale development in Norwich and especially on the Route 5 South parcel. I support prudent, conservative development that can be absorbed by the Town and that is sensitive to Act 250. This can easily be highlighted in a revised Town Plan. The previous Town Plan failed because there was NO specific area or detailed concept for commercial development. But, the Town Plan could get approved with a small scale development area. At a time when so many people shop online and local retailers are closing, adding significant retail space in a mixed use development project would be a mistake for Norwich.
I am hopeful that these discussions can be more fruitful this year by taking place in a broader context of what we want Norwich to be generally. I am part of a group of residents who have worked to get three ballot questions on the Town ballot this year. One of them calls for making a coordinated response to the challenge of global warming a central guiding principle of the new Town Plan. I think this would help us to have more effectively the specific discussions regarding affordable housing, economic development, land use and transportation.