Thursday, March 06, 2014

Vermont town votes to leave zoning changes up to the old-fashioned town meeting

Residents in a small town in Vermont have spoken loud and clear that they want to be classified as rural so they can retain direct control over land-use planning. The state allows towns with populations between 2,500 to 5,000 to choose whether they want to be designated as urban or rural, and residents in Shaftsbury (right) voted down an amendment from "the planning commission and select board that the town switch to an urban designation," which would leave zoning decisions up to the Board of Selectmen rather than meetings open to all town residents, in the New England tradition. Derek Carson reports for the Bennington Banner. The amendment failed 493-242.

"The issue of rural versus urban designation came up when Town Administrator Margy Becker discovered that the town had been adopting zoning bylaws incorrectly," Carson writes. "In 1987, Shaftsbury voted to switch from an urban to a rural town. At some point in the late 2000s, Shaftsbury had begun adopted bylaws by select board vote rather than by town vote." Board members argued that leaving the town's designation as rural would mean residents could be voting on issues they don't understand, but residents argued that remaining rural means the townspeople have the final say on issues concerning Shaftsbury. (Read more)

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