Planners vote no on petition

Dueling zoning amendments go on ballot

PETERBOROUGH — Voters in May will see two zoning amendments on the ballot that will appear almost identical. Both will call for what’s known as an Innovative Subdivision Design approach to be used when planning development on lots of more than 10 acres in the Rural District. They both would allow the Planning Board to reduce lot sizes, frontage and setback requirements to provide flexibility in site design. They both call for houses to be built in a clustered fashion, with 50 percent of the land to be preserved as open space. And they both allow developers to earn density bonus points, which would allow a greater number of units in exchange for providing more open space or using a variety of sustainable development practices.

The only difference between the two proposals: One would be mandatory, the other voluntary.

The Planning Board placed its version of the Innovative Subdivision Design ordinance on the ballot in November 2013, following lengthy public hearings where a number of residents said the proposal would reduce the value of land in the Rural District.

That decision prompted a petition article calling for an alternative version of the proposal, which will be identified on the ballot as the Voluntary Innovative Subdivision Design ordinance. In the petition article, all instances of the word “required” in the original proposal have been replaced with the word “voluntary.”

At the Planning Board’s public hearing Monday on the Voluntary Innovative Subdivision Design petition, resident Jim Stewart said 94 people had signed the petition article. Stewart, who serves as chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, said the petition was supported by several members of the ZBA.

“We felt it would deprive property owners of their rights,” Stewart told the Planning Board. “This will give voters a choice.”

He said signers of the petition were not necessarily opposed to the guidelines of the ordinance; the only change they are asking for is to make it a voluntary option rather than a requirement.

Planning Board members had to decide, following the public hearing, whether or not they would indicate their support of the voluntary version.

“We have already put the mandatory one on the ballot,” said Planning Board Chair Ivy Vann. “Having made our decision, we should hand it over to the voters.”

Board member Rich Clark, who had voted against the mandatory version last fall, disagreed.

“I think we should support this,” Clark said. “It should be voluntary.”

Board member Alan Zeller said if voters don’t want the provision to be mandatory, they can vote down the Planning Board’s version.

The board voted, 3-2, not to support passage of the petition amendment, with Vann, Zeller and Jerry Galus against it and Clark and Tom Weeks in favor.

Both versions of the amendment will appear on the May ballot.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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