By Scooter MacMillan, Editor
Charlotte will not only hold a primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 9; the planning commission will also hold a public hearing that evening about proposed amendments to the town’s land-use regulations.
This meeting will take place at the Charlotte Library at 7 p.m. and online via Zoom.
The planning commission is involved in the complex, often tedious but critically important process of crafting amendments to the town plan. The land-use regulations guide how the town will develop.
These amendments will be presented for voters to approve or reject at the statewide general election on Nov. 8.
So, the Aug. 9 hearing will be a chance to get into the process early and share your hopes and concerns about the guidelines that in large part determine the future of Charlotte.
There will be another round of land-use regulation amendments presented to voters on Town Meeting Day.
Although many of the amendments to be voted on in the first vote in November are clearing up language in the land-use regulations, there are some meaty issues on the table for this vote, said town planner Larry Lewack.
Among those issues is an amendment that will increase the size limit for accessory dwelling units from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. An accessory dwelling unit has often been referred to as a mother-in-law unit because traditionally such a dwelling has been built as a separate building where family members live.
Contrary to what some people might think, owners are not now prohibited from renting an accessory dwelling, Lewack said. Such a unit can be rented but the owner must live in the primary residence or in the accessory dwelling unit.
The proposed increase in the allowable size of such units is something that some people in town are concerned about. One of those is Christina Asquith, a member of the development review board.
“If you allow someone to build a house and then you say also you can build a 1,500 square foot accessory in-law suite next to it, you’re kind of allowing two houses,” Asquith said.
The maximum size for accessory dwelling units is 900 square feet in Ferrisburgh, Essex, Huntington, South Burlington and Burlington. It’s 1,200 square feet in Hinesburg, so this is a big deal for Charlotte, said Asquith.
She said if the town starts allowing two houses on every lot, it could become like Burlington, crowded with so many two-house properties.
Planning commission chair Charlie Pughe said the intention of the proposed change to the accessory dwelling units is to increase the amount of housing in Charlotte because there are so few places for people to live. And the few available places are so expensive.
Two positive outcomes he hopes to see from this change are for homes to become more affordable and for older residents to be able to age in place, meaning an older couple, who may not require as much space as they once did, could move into their accessory dwelling unit. They could rent the primary house and help pay their mortgage.
Pughe also likes the idea of making it easier for multiple generations of a family to live together.
There are 27 proposed amendments that will be presented at the upcoming meeting, covering several areas of the town land-use regulations, including changes required by the legislature, clarifying the standards, minor technical updates, revised definitions and updates that are needed now that Charlotte has switched from a zoning board to a development review board.
Some of the proposed changes are obvious, Lewack said, like including a definition of a building footprint, a term town officials use all the time but which wasn’t explained in the land-use regulations.
He expects the planning commission will tackle proposing land-use regulation amendments like a substantial redo of Thompson’s Point standards, opportunities for people to get waivers for nonconforming structures and lowering the property size requirement for new homes constructed in the village districts at March’s Town Meeting Day vote. Those discussions should begin in early September, last through the fall and wrap up in early winter to be ready for town voters at the spring vote.
Those who can’t attend the upcoming meeting at the library are encouraged to participate via Zoom. After the official warning of the meeting has been posted, Lewack said people can get the Zoom link on the town website calendar by clicking on the link for Aug. 9.
This will not be the last chance to hear about the amendments or express an opinion. The planning commission will incorporate the feedback from this meeting into its proposals for these land-use regulation amendments. These will then be submitted to the selectboard.
The selectboard will hold a publicly warned meeting about its version of these amendments before crafting the actual wording of the amendments that will go before the voters.
And, there is also the opportunity to express your feelings by voting on Nov. 8.