ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Tuesday, May 3, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed the Town Plan with Planning Commissioner Deborah Wright and Town Planner Chuck Wise.
Municipal Manager Scott Pickup started by saying that the detailed Town Plan helps keep decisions relevant as conditions change for changes in development and larger land-use decisions. Wright said the plan was about 80% complete, but that they continue to polish the finished chapters. She explained that recent ARPA submissions, as highlighted by Camoin Associates as top community-supported projects, have been submitted to the planners. “Those projects, based upon grading, can strengthen the language in the chapters they pertain to…for easier access for funding,” explained Wright. She continued by saying that each chapter starts with the actions and steps of where the town is going. She said they want to “make sure it’s an active plan…[they] want everyone to use this and look at it, not just Development.”
Chair Peter Golec was concerned about housing density, mentioning that many houses have vehicles parked in the yard or on the sidewalk.
Cowan thanked Wise for being receptive to the contribution of an arts chapter, and that “acknowledging it in the Town Plan” will assist with funding.
When asked about changing zoning regulations, Wise explained that the Town Plan came first. He said, “We can’t change zoning unless it’s mentioned and supported in the Town Plan.”
Elijah Zimmer commented on the potential for mixed-use businesses on Atkinson Street and agreed there was an opportunity for certain trades, but did not agree with commercial box stores or drive-thru’s.
Cowan asked about the approach to parking requirements for apartments. Wise explained that, “Our minimum parking standards date back to the 1980s.” He said there were conditional use reviews, but for now, it was one space per unit.
Pickup said the new hazard mitigation, area-wide, and stormwater plans could be included “as an annex to a larger document.” He said these issues overlap and this would be useful information.
North asked about short-term rentals and said, “It’s very challenging to promote the town as a destination when there’s no place to spend the night.” In response, Wise said that people are concerned about losing housing stock, but that “right now, our plan, our zoning, does not even acknowledge that this industry exists…we are doing everyone a disservice [by not adding the language].”
Pickup mentioned churches are closing and becoming condos. He said that should be acknowledged and addressed.
North mentioned prior discussions that involved condo conversions but that she did not see that language in the Town Plan. She mentioned there was interest in owning a home that was not necessarily a single-family house. Wise thought it was presented as owner-occupied, but that he would review the chapter.
Cowan mentioned that the reopening of the Vilas Bridge and connection to the Cheshire Rail Trail would bring bicycles into the square. Wright said there was an ordinance for that.
Pickup asked about another public process with the board. Wise expected more in the next couple of months. Pickup suggested they schedule them after Labor Day due to the shortened summer schedule.
Zimmer announced that on Saturday, May 14, BFDDA, the Chamber, and Rotary Club are hosting a Keep Bellows Falls Beautiful volunteer event at the Waypoint Center with coffee and pastries at 9 a.m. and a potluck lunch at noon.
The selectboard meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month in the Lower Theatre of the Bellows Falls Opera House at 6 p.m.