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Town plans amendments not okay with Select Board

October 10, 2012

http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20121010/NEWS01/710109877

By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | October 10,2012
CASTLETON — Some of the proposed amendments to the town plan did not sit well with officials at the first of two public hearings Monday night.

What brought the most contention among Select Board members was the planning commission’s proposal to list the 20 peaks in town above 500 feet in elevation and group them as part of a Ridgeline Protection Overlay zoning district. The purpose of the new district would be to prevent any development “that impacts the pristine and unbroken viewscape of the ridgelines.”

Selectman Edward O’Shea said it was not right to include all the peaks in the new zoning district as he believes it would be overstepping bounds. He said residents who own property on the peaks under 1,500 feet in elevation will not take kindly to be part of a new restrictive zoning district. 

“(It would be) taking away some of my rights by changing the zoning region,” O’Shea said. “As far as I am reading it, you have identified too many (peaks).”

Planning Commission Chairman John Hale said they identified all of the peaks in town with the forethought of tackling the specifics of the ridgeline protection overlay zoning district in the town’s zoning ordinance.

“We are keeping it to the three peaks (above 1,500 feet),” Hale said. “Zoning is the nuts and bolts of this.”

He said the planning commission voted unanimously to approve the amendments, but planning commissioner Joe Bruno said several of the members were under the impression they were discussing only the three peaks above 1,500 feet.

“By establishing the overlay district, we need to identified that we are talking about 1,500 feet (only),” Bruno said. “Reading this as regular Joe, it’s very confusing.”

Several members of the Select Board agreed with Bruno, stating that it would be a contradiction between the town plan and the zoning ordinance.

The three peaks above 1,500 feet are Bird’s Eye Mountain at 2,210 feet, Grandpa’s Knob at 1,976 feet and Hanley Mountain at 1,918 feet.

Hale said specifying that the protection zoning district to only include peaks above 1,500 feet in elevation could be constituted as a major change to the amendments and may push the planning commission back to square one. He said he would consult with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission before the next public hearing.

“This is not law,” he said. “This is our philosophy.”

Other points of contention included laying out the particulars of noise control and its possible affects on health which Selectwoman Cristine Smith said “was a dangerous couple of sentences” that could backfire. Select Board members were also unsure about identifying specific renewable energy sources that the town would be in favor of such as solar, wood and small wind energy systems.

“We can’t say we are for some things just because we are going against something else,” said town manager Charles Jacien.

Select Board Chairman Thomas Ettori asked Hale to investigate if any changes to the proposed amendments, specifically on the three peaks, will push them back further on the approval of the town plan.

“The board will not let it fly as it stands,” he said.

The amendments to the town plan are in response to the proposal by Reunion Power to construct a 20-turbine wind project on the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline in Castleton, West Rutland, Hubbardton and Pittsford. The other towns in the project are also working on amending portions of their town plans.

The second public hearing in Castleton is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 22 at the town offices.

lucia.suarez@ rutlandherald.com

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