LYNDONVILLE — A process to re-write the town’s bylaws governing development in the Special Flood Hazard Area is nearing the public hearing process. On Wednesday evening, the Planning Commission agreed to the final language for changes to the bylaws after months of work to reach that point.
A tentative date for a public hearing of Feb. 3 was set, but that will depend on when the final draft is in hand.
A petition brought to officials by businessman Joe Buzzi - owner of the half-demolished Lynburke Motel at the junction of Routes 5, 122 and 114 - led to the appointment of the workgroup, which State Rep. Marty Feltus, a former longtime select board member as well as town planning commissioner, also served on.
Buzzi had asked for a rollback to the pre-2016 bylaws. Concern over making changes has been guided by the community’s need to remain under the National Flood Insurance Program’s parameters to protect the town and property owners.
Experts including municipal planners, engineers and staff from the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation have assisted the town in the process to draft changes to the regulations.
The final ‘wordsmithing’ as Planning Commission Chairman Sean McFeeley referred to the final language agreements on Wednesday, took less time than anticipated. The commission has been meeting weekly for some time to try to complete its review of the proposal brought forward by the workgroup.
After some final language changes and a discussion of a handful of proposals that came before the workgroup and then the Planning Commission, group chair Ken Mason said about a half-hour into the discussion, “So I guess to get things off dead center I would make a motion that we approve this version … and move it forward with our proposed Flood Hazard regulations.”
Only one member of the public was on the Zoom meeting. A total of 25 people were on the line when the board approved the final changes and began discussing when to set a public hearing. Two public hearings must be held, one before the Planning Commission and a second by the Select Board.
Select Board Chair Chris Thompson said, “The hearing can’t be legally warned until the final draft is available to the public just don’t put any ad in the paper yet; before the draft is to the public you can’t even warn it legally.”
Mason said he would work on creating the final draft with the changes agreed to on Wednesday and would work on that with Municipal Administrator Justin Smith; the town recently lost its Planning Director and Zoning Administrator, Annie McLean, who left to take another position.
L. Brooke Dingledine, the attorney for businessman Mark Bean, who owns property in the zone, cautioned against the word ‘negative,’ and said she would like to see that word be adverse instead.
She urged that the town hire an attorney to look over the proposed language aimed at striking a balance between the hoped for protection of properties within the flood-prone zone while allowing for some easing for re-development of properties in the town’s commercial corridor.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate that any increase in the Base Flood Elevation or flood velocities from a proposed project will not cause negative impacts on neighboring properties, according to the language the commissioners and those on the meeting agreed to during the meeting.
There were thanks all around for the progress made to get to the point of public hearings being on the horizon.
McFeeley expressed gratitude to Mason and to Planning Commission Vice-Chair Sylvia Dodge for their work with the final language proposals getting reviewed for the consensus to be reached this week, and Thompson thanked all those involved for their work in bringing about the proposal, now nearly ready to go to the public hearing process.
He said, “I know the Select Board is anxious to receive the proposal.”
There was an overall celebratory tone to the meeting’s close, and Mason said if they had been at a bar, “I’d be buying you all drinks” he said he would propose a toast at Powers Park’s pavilion, “But I’m not sure they allow alcohol.”
Editor’s Note: A full report on the proposal will be in the newspaper later this week when a copy of the final draft language is received by the paper.