With the Malletts Bay Initiative on the backburner at the moment, the town Planning Commission’s next project will be to tackle rezoning of East Lakeshore Drive.

As part of the town plan, the planning commission must revisit East Lakeshore Drive within two years of adoption of the Town Plan to reexamine zoning and different projects. Following the failed sewer line vote in March 2019, the commission spent the summer looking for solutions to the town’s wastewater problems, pushing their rezoning task until now.

“It sounds like East Lakeshore Drive is going to be our big item,” confirmed planning commission member Rebecca Arnold at a meeting on Jan. 7. The board will present their final wastewater solutions report to the selectboard at a regular meeting on Jan. 14 and hope to make headway on rezoning in February.

The neighborhood along inner Malletts Bay is currently zoned as purely residential, with mid-sized houses and seasonal camps lining the water. Board Chair Richard Paquette raised questions at the meeting about the extent to which potentially altered zoning would cover. Director of Planning and Zoning Sarah Hadd suggested taking a “virtual tour,” diving into the Town Plan and maps of the area to get a “lay of the land,” and deciding from there to what extent zoning should cover.

She also noted as an example that when the commission rezoned the West Lakeshore Drive neighborhood, they covered “one house deep” from the road.

“Part of defining area is to go through the map and see how far back we want to zone,” said Hadd.

Member Sarita Austin raised concerns about public outreach and a desire to hear from all different sides of Colchester. Austin said that she’s heard passionate opposition from some residents, “who want to limit growth,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve heard from the rest of the community, the rest of Colchester, what they want in terms of growth.”

Austin wondered if considering economic development data when considering rezoning of the Inner Bay neighborhood would be useful. However, considering the purely residential zoning in the area, Hadd argued that the tie-in would be feeble. “It is not as relevant or as timely to think about economic development when considering these regulations,” she said.

In terms of public outreach, Hadd and Austin agreed that they would like to hear more from residents.

“I’m trying to think of a way to get some more input because there is an economic component for limiting growth. And I think that needs to be part of the formula when making decisions,” said Austin.

Hadd agreed, saying that additional public outreach should be conducted before the commission proceeds with drafting anything. “While it’s fresh and topical, I think it’s something that’s very timely to address,” she said. Hadd also noted the struggle in getting folks to participate, attend meetings and submit feedback. This is in part due to the seasonality of some residents—those who live in the target area are often elsewhere for a majority of the year.

“How do we get people out on an issue? I’m open to ideas. If we want to get innovative, lets get innovative,” Hadd said.

“If we start rezoning, people are going to come out because they’ll be concerned,” Arnold suggested.

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