Rutland town considers zoning regulations

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(Host)  A lot of new development has gone up on Route 7 in Rutland Town, south of Rutland City.  

There’s a Bed Bath and Beyond, a larger Hannaford’s, a Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Taco Bell.  

Regulation of that development has fallen to the state, under Act 250, because Rutland Town has no zoning.  

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, planning officials in Rutland Town want to change that.

(Keck)   Most communities the size of Rutland Town have zoning regulations.   Bill Matteson, Chairman of Rutland Town’s Planning Commission, says they’re long overdue.   He says the town had interim zoning back in the 1970s.  But it expired after residents failed to enact their own local ordinances.

(Matteson) "The adoption of zoning in Rutland Town is an effort to establish some regulations for controlled growth in the town.    The focal point is not to get us out of Act 250." 

(Keck)  Act  250 has its strengths, says Matteson.  But he admits he’s been disappointed recently with how certain businesses have been treated and he thinks the town could do a better job.  He’s quick to point out that any commercial or residential development in Rutland Town that has already begun the Act 250 process would be exempt from any new local rules.  And any commercial development larger than 10 acres would also fall under Act 250.   Noelle MacKay, executive director of Smart Growth Vermont, says local officials take on a tremendous amount of responsibility when they oversee their own zoning regulations.  Bill Matteson says town officials understand that.

(Matteson) "We take issue with the idea that we don’t know what we’re doing.   Our commission is very active in education. We go to no less than two or three educational sessions put on the by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns every year. We’re very familiar with zoning and the way it works."

(Keck)  Still, voters will have the final say.  Matteson says Rutland Town residents voted down a zoning proposal ten years ago.   Noelle MacKay says the issue often stirs up strong emotions.  But she says if locals get involved early on, they can play an important role in shaping their town’s future.

(MacKay) "So often people wait to get involved until there is a development right next to them and they’re so reactive in how they look at the future of their communities.  But town planning and zoning and bylaw regulations are really an opportunity to be proactive.   `This is where I want business to go.’ `This is the mixture of uses that I want.’ `We’ve got some interesting development on Route 7. How do we make that more pedestrian friendly?’    And this is the time to do it."

(Keck)   The planning commission already held one public hearing.    At least two more public meetings will be held by the select board to gather public input. No dates have been set. 

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland Town.

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