By Gareth Henderson
The East End, ridgeline and riparian buffers are several main topics that have surfaced during the Woodstock Planning Commission’s 2010 village zoning review thus far.
The discussions have been quiet, in contrast with a controversy earlier this year about signage in the village. The debate resulted in some changes to the signage ordinance, but no major additions are expected in the village zoning at this stage. Nonetheless, there is plenty of time left in the commission’s review, and plenty of opportunity for public comment.
“We welcome people to come to our planning commission meetings and any of our meetings, to bring up issues,” said Commission Chair Sally Miller.
Recent discussions have covered a lot of ground. One important topic has been the idea of doing away with ridgeline zoning in the village. Miller explained that the majority of Woodstock’s ridgeline is in the town, with a much smaller amount in the village. The village ridgeline extends along the ridge of Mount Peg and also comes up to Route 106. Miller said very few residences exist in those ridgeline areas, adding that over half of the ridgeline is in the town.
The East End has been a topic lately as well. This year, the development of the East End has sparked discussion with a plan for a Riverfront Park at the Jungle, proposed by the Sustainable Woodstock East End Action Group. The group will attend the next planning commission meeting. There has been some previous mention of including mixed-use development at the East End in the future.
According to Miller, the commission is mulling potential uses for the East End area, which might result in some zoning changes. Some recent planning commission minutes from Oct. 6 suggests the possibility of changing setbacks, “so that they are equal for all East End properties.” A major part of the discussion has been the tour busses, which now park at the East End after dropping passengers off in the village. It’s unclear where the buses would park if the East End was developed and started to attract much more traffic.
The planning commission members have also talked about riparian buffers, which are meant to protect waterways. These are common in the town, since it town parcels are much larger. However, Miller said the commission is nonetheless discussing the matter, with the goal of protecting waterways like the Kedron Brook and the Ottauquechee River for the future. The question is how to preserve the environment, without imposing buffers that are too large for the village.
“We’re not trying to stop development, but we’re trying to make [the zoning] in a way that protects certain areas,” Miller said.
Another key topic has been the village zoning map and whether to adjust the commercial zones. Miller said there has been discussion of expanding the retail zones. However, the challenge would be maintaining the character of the residential neighborhoods, Miller added.
Thus far, the Economic Development Commission has also been involved with the discussions. Also, the planning commission will get feedback from the Village Development Review Board in the coming weeks.
By state law, the village is required to review the town and village plan once every five years. With the current village zoning review, the planning commission wants to make sure the zoning complies with the town and village plan. The planning commission hopes to bring the village zoning re-write to public hearing in the spring, Miller said.
By Gareth Henderson
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