March 1, 2023 PC Minutes

SOUTH HERO PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES                                       March 1, 2023


Members Present: Sandy Gregg (Chair); Michele Gammal (Vice-Chair); Don Bedard; George Harwood (via Zoom).

Member Absent: David Roy

Others Present: Tim Maxham; Joan Falcao, Bob Fireovid; Anne Zolotas; Martha Taylor-Varney (ZA)


6:02 PM – S. Gregg called the meeting to order.  M. Taylor-Varney was assigned minute taker for this meeting.


Changes to the Agenda

Chair S. Gregg added “review of Town Plan Timeline” to the agenda as new item #3a under Town Plan.


Public Comment

There was none.


Town Plan

Town Plan timeline – the current Plan expires on August 10, 2023.  Does this mean that the 2023 Plan must be approved by the voters on or before August 10, or by the end of the month of August?  S. Gregg will check with NRPC.  The first PC public hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 17.  The first drafts of the final 3 chapters of the Plan will be presented by NRPC at the March 15 meeting.  The Commission discussed how to motivate people to encourage more public input, including noting the quick link to the Town Plan page on the Town website showing draft updates and review:

  1. Public comments are encouraged. Additional discussion included when to schedule the vote for the Town Plan – August 1st? Earlier? This will be confirmed at the March 15 meeting.  Joan Falco asked what the consequences would be if the Plan were to lapse.  Would it affect any existing grants? M. Taylor-Varney said that the existing sidewalk scoping grant and wastewater grant could be affected.  She will check with NRPC.
  2. Continued Discussion on Shoreland Buffers — Shoreland Zoning District is currently all lands within 500 feet of the mean level of the lake. Discussion included reducing the depth of the district to 350 or 250 feet.  The State’s Shoreland Protection Act has jurisdiction over development within 250 feet from the lake.  There was concern that a 250-ft. buffer would bisect too many pre-existing, non-conforming small lots.  Should this be the same for village adjacent shoreline areas only or for all the lakefront properties in South Hero?  After much discussion, the Commission members decided to recommend remaining with the current 500-ft. distance but to add, under Goals and Strategies in the 2023 Town Plan, a recommendation to reevaluate the Shoreland zoning districts as the villages evolve.  All Commission members agreed.
  3. Assign Maps for Editing: [Maps added as attachments to the minutes on the Town website. Some are updated; some are from the 2015 Town Plan and need to be reviewed and updated, if necessary.  Individual map titles included below].

Community Assets Map – Need to make corrections/additions to the 2015 map (FD/Rescue/Library/Community Lane, etc.).  D. Bedard suggested adding a grid to the map with a legend to help readers find locations.  There was discussion on identified lake accesses in the 2015  Plan, and whether those on private property or only Town accesses or rights-of-way should be identified.  Anne Zolotas asked  whether these accesses are boats or people, and if they were seasonal. Include State Fish and Wildlife boat launch and fishing accesses?  G. Harwood will talk with Ron Phelps about historical references on the map. M. Gammal will talk with Andy Julow for additional information; D. Bedard will talk to VT F&W.

Current Land Use Map – no discussion

Current Zoning Map – no discussion

Facilities and Utilities MapS. Gregg recommended there be a pullout map of Community Lane added here.  Also add Whites Beach and Tracy Woods.

Habitat and Natural Areas Map – What is meant by ‘Block Acreage’?

South Hero and Keeler Bay Village Center Designations Maps – no discussion.  These maps have already been updated from 2015.

Primary Agricultural Soils Map – no discussion.

Proposed Land Use Map – check the scale.  Correct ‘Residential’ zoning district to ‘Rural Residential’ zoning district.

Proposed Land Use Village Insets Map – no discussion.

Septic Suitability MapG. Harwood will ask Otter Creek Associates (consultants to the Town’s Wastewater Committee) to provide an updated map.

Steep Slopes Map – needs a legend and a key.

Topography – the maps need more contrast in color to make them easier to read.

Transportation SystemS. Gregg will update unpaved roads and correct total miles of Town Rds. shown on the 2015 map.

Water Resources – no discussion.


Old Business

  1. ARPA Committee update – no update available.
  2. Wastewater Planning and Assessment Committee update – G. Harwood reported that the committee has identified 11 properties that may have appropriate spoils for a wastewater system.  Four to five of the property owners have responded positively and will allow test pits to be dug.  Allenholm appears to be the best site and the committee there are ongoing discussions there.   Test pits will not begin until spring.
  3. Finalize Rules of Procedure – this item will be moved to the March 15 agenda due to time restraints.


M. Gammal moved to add discussion on 1st drafts of the Town Plan Housing, Transportation, and Municipal/Community Facilities chapters to tonight’s agenda, as item 3d; These had not been on the agenda. D. Bedard seconded. All in favor.

-Transportation and Complete Streets — Discussion and edits.

-Housing — Brief discussion included adding Goal of creating a Housing Assessment Committee.  Ran out of time for further discussion; will continue at the next meeting.


Town Plan discussion, con’t.

3(d). Transportation and Complete Streets:  S. Gregg proposed to separate ‘Transportation’ and ‘Complete Streets’ into separate headings in the report.  A conversation with road supervisor John Beaulac helped her correct the combined mileage for Town roads.  There were some minor formatting corrections and clarifications to the Goals and Strategies section.  S. Gregg will check notes from the CIDER stakeholder meeting and add language from that.  The drafts for Housing and Municipal/Community Facilities will be on the website.  There were no recommended changes at the meeting.  It was suggested to move a statement about airports and helipads to the Land Use section.  The PC will craft language that states the Town does not support including these facilities at this time.  Additional discussion included scenic byways and the meaning of signage indicating these.


New Business

  1. Gregg noted that the meeting at Worthen Library on February 23, hosted by in reference to Articles 6 and 7 on the March 7 Town Meeting ballot, was recorded. Contact the library for a copy of the recording.


Meeting Minutes

Don Bedard moved to approve the minutes from February 15, 2023; G. Harwood second.  All in favor.


Administrator’s Report

  1. ZA Martha Taylor-Varney attended a ZA’s Roundtable on March 1st, hosted by Northwest Regional Planning. The discussion was held via Zoom.  Agenda items included the new Permit Navigator on the ANR/DEC website which allows ZA’s and project applicants to determine what State permits they may need; a discussion on bylaw enforcement and procedures for notices of violation; and information on the new digital FEMA maps of northwest Vermont that will be available this spring for review at County Work Plan meetings.  It is hoped that the final maps will be available by the end of 2025.
  2. Martha reported that longtime surveyor Warren Robenstein died on February 26. Warren did a lot of work in the Islands.  He was 87 years old and still working as a surveyor.
  3. Because of frequent comments from residents that they do not understand the proposed Articles on the ballot this year related to the village zoning districts, in addition to the approved ballots last year that require Development Regulations and Town Plan to be approved by the voters, Martha proposed offering a series of discussions and presentations on Zoning for the public. Plans are in an early stage but she suggested monthly evening meetings, either in-person, over Zoom, and filmed/recorded, that could cover individual areas related to zoning. Each meeting would have its own subject.  The Commission members supported the idea.  Discussion on this will continue at the next meeting.  Martha will present the idea to the Selectboard at their next meeting (March 13).


Next Meeting

The next PC meeting will be March 15, 2023 at 6PM.  NRPC will be representing the first drafts of the last required chapters for the Town Plan.



7:59PM – D. Bedard moved to adjourn; M. Gammal second.  All in favor.


Respectfully submitted,

Martha Taylor-Varney, ZA



Signed: _________________________________________ Date: _______________________

For the Planning Commission


These minutes are unofficial until approved at the next regularly scheduled meeting.  All motions were unanimous unless otherwise indicated.

All Maps