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Hunter: Planning And Zoning History

02/17/10 5:55PM By Edith Hunter
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(HOST) Commentator Edith Hunter and her husband Armstrong moved to Weathersfield in the late 1960s, just as Land Use Planning was beginning to take hold in Vermont. As a concept that's still a source of debate today, Hunter thinks it's useful to remember the early days.    

(HUNTER) When Gov. Dean Davis discovered in 1969 what was happening to southern Vermont as a result of uncontrolled growth caused by the opening up of the state by I-91, he was instrumental in the passage of Act 250 to begin to control and direct that growth. Local Town Plans and Zoning bylaws soon followed.

In Weathersfield, a movement to develop a Town Plan got underway in March 1971. In April 1971, Armstrong and son William, decided to start a newspaper just for Weathersfield - The Weathersfield Weekly - to keep the people of the town informed.

We were fortunate in the people who stepped forward to facilitate the effort to develop a Town Plan, people like Rolly Cann and Peter Daniels, and the late Dave Keniston and Muriel Follett, to name just a few. I remember so well when Dave Keniston turned to me at a meeting and said, "You won't find any boiler plate, in the Weathersfield town plan." He meant that our plan was written with the specific needs and desires of Weathersfield foremost in the minds of the planners.

According to law, the Town Plan is adopted by the selectmen. They held hearings and through the pages of The Weathersfield Weekly, people were kept informed of developments. Hearings were well attended. As is required by law, that Plan, following its initial adoption by the selectmen in August, 1973, has been reviewed, rewritten, and readopted every 5 years.

Even before the Town Plan was adopted, Interim Zoning regulations were adopted in January, 1971, by the selectmen until permanent zoning could be developed which our town decided should be voted in by the people. The Zoning Bylaws implement the ideas and goals presented in the Town Plan. Again, the various versions of the bylaws were published, hearings were held, and finally in 1974 were voted in by the people. These bylaws have been amended again and again over the years. Sub-division regulations were adopted some years later.

The town has grown in a responsible and attractive way. One desire of the people, stated consistently over the years in the Town Plan is that Weathersfield should remain a rural community, and this has been accomplished.

The experience of Weathersfield, I am sure, has been that of the many towns in Vermont that also have Town Plans, Zoning Bylaws, and Subdivision regulations. It is thanks to these that Vermont continues to be the lovely place that it is.
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