PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES March 2, 2022
Members Present: Sandy Gregg (Chair); Michele Gammal (Vice-Chair); David Roy; Fred Bartle; George Harwood (via Zoom).
Others Present: Martha Taylor-Varney (ZA); Emily Klofft (NRPC); Greta Brunswick (NRPC); Jessica Hyman (Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity), Bob Buermann (via Zoom); Robin Way (CIDER – via Zoom); Kathy Magill (vial Zoom); Joan Falcao (via Zoom).
6:00pm — Chair S. Gregg opened the meeting.
Changes to the Agenda
There were none.
There was none.
Continue 2023 Town Plan Discussion
Emily Klofft of NRPC explained that the initial phase of the 2023 Town Plan planning is to consult with Town stakeholders to inform the development of the Plan and to continue public outreach. Tonight’s discussion will center on Housing and Transportation, both of which include Complete Streets, are key parts of the Plan.
Housing: Greta Brunswick (NRPC) explained that Housing is considered a basic human need. The shortage of access to available, safe, and affordable housing is critical to the success of a community. The State is also placing an emphasis on this. Greta stated that the Town Plan needs to address the question “What are South Hero’s housing needs?” South Hero’s high median income and high rental costs create limited access to affordable housing. The town’s remote location from available work areas and limited access to the Islands increases that need. The State also recognized this need by enacting Act 34, requiring the state and all municipalities to consider the needs of all users in all projects and all phases, regardless of funding sources. As part of Act 34, Complete streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. Complete Streets allow for safe travel by those walking, cycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods. The complete streets guide will be added to the Town Plan website. Robin Way, executive director of CIDER, added that the Sr. Housing – Bayview Crossing – will help people remain on the islands, but only addresses a small percentage of those who need this type of housing. Too many people are in unsafe or inaccessible housing. Housing needs to be more accessible and there needs to be more opportunity to improve current housing. Jessica Hyman, Asst. Director of Housing Advocacy at CVOEO, agreed that there is a housing crisis in VT. This includes opportunities to rehab current housing in addition to the need for more housing. She stated that many people have been excluded from housing as a result of how communities design for housing – minimum lot sizes, etc. She suggested that the Town Plan should include a discussion on housing equity. M. Gammal stated that the State doesn’t make it easy to develop additional affordable housing. Jessica said that the State is starting to streamline the process (changes to what is allowed for accessory dwellings) with less permitting required. There was additional discussion on wastewater, financial incentives for builders, grants, different kinds of housing alternatives, and combatting the stigma of affordable housing.
Transportation: Bob Buermann, representing the Grand Isle County Transit Board, is also South Hero’s representative to NRPC. Bob stressed that transportation is necessary to have a healthy community. With 10,000 cars crossing the Sandbar each day, there is a need for intra-Island transportation. As community members age, there is more demand. He said that planning should encourage development of transit to enable people to remain in their homes. A Complete Streets goal is to allow access for all models of travel – motor vehicles, bikes, walking, etc. Robin Way, Executive Director of CIDER, suggested staying away from the term “Public Transportation” and instead say “Community Transportation.” CIDER provides a large proportion of transportation needs, what he called a ‘micro-paratransit’ program. CIDER is a Green Mountain Transit partner. Bob stressed a need to plan accessibility for community transit, such as requiring driveway standards. He also encouraged equity and fairness throughout the Town Plan.
The March 16 meeting will focus on water quality. The April 6 meeting will be a debrief of all the stakeholders’ meetings. The Commission will also discuss initial community engagement for this summer. Emily Klofft told the meeting that the comment box is now open on NRPC’s South Hero Town Plan website. D. Roy will put a link on Front Porch Forum. Greta Brunswick will coordinate upcoming meeting schedules for the Town Plan with Martha and Sandy. She anticipates that NRPC will attend one PC meeting a month after the initial planning meetings.
ARPA Committee Update
- Roy reported that the next meeting of the ARPA committee is on March 3, 2022.
Wastewater Planning and Assessment Committee Update
PC member G. Harwood had left the meeting earlier. Martha reported that the WW Committee accepted Otter Creek Associates’ bid for a wastewater feasibility study. Their next meeting will be March 14, 2022 at 4:30pm.
- Roy moved to accept the minutes of February 16, 2022, with corrections; F. Bartle second. All in favor.
The Commission members briefly discussed Articles 8 and 9, which were both approved by the voters at Town Meeting on March 1st.
- Gammal moved to adjourn; D. Roy second. All in favor.
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.