Planning Commission endorses new lakeshore zoning

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By JASON STARR

New zoning regulations for the Malletts Bay shoreline are under consideration by the Colchester Selectboard this week after the planning commission finalized a proposal last week.

“This [represents] 18 months of work and a lot of discussion,” planning commission chairwoman Pam Loranger said before the group unanimously endorsed the proposal. “We have worked through this conscientiously and diligently, looking at all sides with the understanding that you can’t please all the people.”

The new regulations are designed to hold developers accountable for the water on their properties to keep contaminated runoff from entering the lake.

They also aim to prioritize pedestrian, bicycle and boater traffic over automobile traffic; to preserve and expand public access to the lake and to maintain or improve views of the lake, planning and zoning director Sarah Hadd said.

The proposal would create two new zoning districts — a Lakeshore 1 District for properties on the lake side of Lakeshore Drive and a Lakeshore 2 District for properties on the non-lake side.

The regulations provide incentives for stormwater-friendly infrastructure such as rain barrels and non-impervious pavement that, if employed, would allow a developer to go from an existing 40 percent lot coverage cap to potentially 100 percent lot coverage. The regulations also allow for currently forbidden construction of stormwater infrastructure in the Lake Champlain floodplain.

Both new zoning districts come with more allowed and conditional uses than the current zoning but also prescribe new building design standards aimed at improved aesthetics for the area.

“We are not telling you what your building needs to look like, we’re just telling you to try and design it so it’s attractive,” Hadd told a crowd of about 30 lakefront landowners at a public hearing last Tuesday.

The selectboard was due for a first reading of the new regulations at its meeting this Tuesday, after The Sun’s deadline.

If the regulations are approved after a second reading, they would take effect 21 days later, according to Hadd. Existing structures that don’t conform to the new standards would be grandfathered in.

“Existing structures can stay as they are unless they are going to be replaced or something significant of that nature,” Hadd said.

She referred to Hazelett Strip-Casting, a longstanding industrial manufacturer on West Lakeshore Drive, saying it would be grandfathered and could expand. But any new industrial use in the area would need conditional use approval, she said.