Ideas abound in village planning discussions

Staff Reporter

A discussion by the Charlotte Planning Commission about changing the plan for East Charlotte Village is ongoing. The commission with take up the issue again at a meeting on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Charlotte Town Hall.

At the Jan. 29 planning commission meeting, Vice Chair Charlie Pughe presented a concept drawing he’d created with the goal “to get the village to be more of a village.” He said one aim of his drawing is to increase pedestrian walkways and to find ways to slow down traffic, to do some “traffic calming” that would make the area safer for pedestrians.

Pughe’s drawing has setbacks for 400 feet along either side of Spear Street and Hinesburg Road that would extend about 2,400 feet in all four directions from the intersection, a sort of cross-shaped “village housing” district where a higher density of buildings might be allowed.

Indicating the boundaries on his drawing, Pughe said, “On the east this is the stream just east of Stony Loam Farm, on the west it’s to the western edge of where the solar farm is, to the north this boundary is where the Cemetery and Cemetery Road is, the southern boundary is Morningside Drive.”

He said expects that the boundaries he drew might be amended by typography, for example where the land is too steep for building.

Pughe proposed having the speed limit reduced within those boundaries, and he talked about the possibility of narrowing the road to help slow down traffic and to create 7-foot-wide bike and walking paths on one side of the road.

Town Planner Daryl Benoit said that a good way to start looking for traffic calming strategies is to go to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission for a study. He mentioned several techniques including rumble stripes, painting, signs, speed humps and decreasing setbacks to allow buildings that are closer to the road.

“There’s a number of treatments that you could do to traffic calm the approaches into the village,” Benoit said.

Pughe said that a residential lot requires five acres in the current village district, however a modified approach might be to allow smaller lots. His also suggested lowering the restriction from the current one acre to a third of an acre in the village commercial district.

Pughe said he produced the drawing at the Planning Commission meeting as “a conversation starter.”

Based on 2010 study

Much of that conversation is based on a 2010 study called the East Charlotte Village Planning Project, which was prepared for the town by David Raphael of LandWorks. No regulations came out of that study, and adopting regulations is part of the current conversation.

Over 100 residents participated in the workshops and the survey for that study, which concluded that East Charlotte is “a quintessential Vermont hamlet” with a quality of life that has drawn residents to “this village area.”

Another of the study’s conclusions was that a majority of residents would like to have an “eating/drinking establishment.” The idea of having a coffee shop or a restaurant near the intersection was discussed at the most recent meeting.

Pughe said that although there’s strong support for a restaurant, he wonders if there’s enough business for it. But he said, these plans are market driven.

He thinks that the goal of the plan that is eventually adopted should be “to create the opportunity for someone to put a business there. I don’t think we can legislate it.”

Landowner Clark Hinsdale would like to develop senior housing in the area of the intersection, maybe south on Spear Street, near the Catholic Church.

“I would like to develop some senior housing and it would not be a mini-Wake Robin,” said Clark Hinsdale in a phone conversation. “It would be intended for people who are either completely independent or independent with a little bit of help.”

Hinsdale said his mother moved to Shelburne 10 years ago, but if there had been something in the area for her age, she’d still be in East Charlotte.

Hinsdale is considering the possibility of a one-story senior living development, adding that Charlotte allows four-unit dwellings, and he wonders about the possibility of a “mixed project” for seniors from “a range of economic situations.

Clark Hinsdale’s drawing

Hinsdale has also drawn a plan with a larger area that would allow more density of buildings in the vicinity of the intersection. His plan adapted the 2010 study proposal by adding an extension designated as “village residential,” which would run about 2,400 feet west of the intersection with a setback of roughly 400 feet along the north side and about 600 to 800 feet along the south side of Hinesburg Road.

Hinsdale was surprised by how similar he and Pughe’s drawings were, except he did not draw extensions of his higher density commercial district to the north and south along Spear Street.

Carrie Spear said that she thought a bed and breakfast, a teen center and a children’s center that complemented the Charlotte Children’s Center would do very well.

“We do want to have more affordable homes,” said Planning Commissioner Marty Illick.

Illick wants the commission and people involved in future plans for East Charlotte to keep this in the calculations.

Peter Walker questioned how much many more buildings the area will support because there’s so much surface water.

“It’s inevitable that Charlotters are going to encounter water,” he said.

Several people discussed homes that were dealing with too much water, particularly in the Sheehan Green area.

In a phone conversation, Pughe said he thinks that the planning process will be a long but productive process.

It takes a village to make a village more of a village.

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