After a public hearing, the Planning board voted to deny its support at Town Meeting for two citizen-generated petitions aimed at restricting town growth.
Both of these proposed amendments were discussed at the Planning Board public hearing on March 25.
While there was acknowledgement among board members and residents at the hearing that growth is straining some town services, including schools and the fire department, the general consensus was that the proposed growth restrictions would be too much, too soon.
Planning Board member Gary Trendel shared an opinion that was later echoed by others present at the hearing.
“I love where this is headed, but I really do think it needs to go through the appropriate processes,” he said.
Normally zoning amendments are generated by the Zoning Advisory Committee or the Planning Board.
However, this year Planning Board members Amy Ritterbusch, Deborah Fein-Brug and Mary Larson-Marlowe chose to circumvent that process with two proposed zoning amendments generated by citizen petitions. Larson-Marlowe also is chairman of the Zoning Advisory Committee.
One amendment would impose a “One-Year Growth Restriction, as follows:
“The purpose of this section is to implement a reasonable and temporary cap, until July 1, 2020, on construction of new dwelling units in the Town.”
Specific details of the restrictions include the following.
“A. A town-wide total of not more than twelve (12) building permits for new dwelling units shall be authorized by the Town during the period that this Section is in effect.
“B. General Applicants. Not more than two (2) dwelling units shall be authorized via a Building Permit(s) for any one applicant during the period that this Section is in effect. Pass any vote or take any action relative thereto.”
The other proposed zoning amendment, entitled “Subdivision, Garden Apartments, and Village Housing Phasing,” would impose a three-year moratorium on larger developments and requires, among other restrictions:
“No more than 10 building permits for the construction of new residential dwelling units which are situated within any subdivision, Garden Apartment development or Village Housing development as referred to above or which obtain their legal frontage on streets shown on any of the subdivision plans as defined above, shall be issued in any twelve-month period.”
Speaking as a resident, and not a selectman, Brian Herr expressed the opinion that the most recent spike in town growth was an anomaly, resulting from the national economic crisis that began in 2008 immediately after which many construction projects were put on hold until recently.
Also speaking as a resident and not as chair of the Board of Selectmen, Claire Wright expressed her concerns about the scope of the proposed growth restriction articles.
“Nothing this sweeping has come forward before, I think partly because there’s always been a very realistic acknowledgement that the rights of private property are very strong,” Wright said. “If the problem were as easily solved as such a sweeping piece of legislation, we would have figured that out a long time ago.”