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Greenwich Zoning
Closing In on the Final Proposal

by Tracy Frisch

At its regular March 1 meeting, the Greenwich Zoning Commission met for three hours in order to bring closure to the remaining undecided and disputed issues. Five of these questions were specifically put forth to the public for their comments at the public hearing or in writing. An audience of more than 30 people watched silently as members of the public were not allowed to speak.

Many held their breath as the store-size cap was addressed. As with each issue, all zoning commission members took their turn stating their views and position, and then the vote was tallied. The 60,000-square-foot, store-size cap was reaffirmed 7 to 3, with several members reminding the others that this limit had been a compromise. (Hannaford is 48,000 square feet, and the 60,000-square-foot maximum was intended to keep out big-box stores.)

The area that comprises the commercial zone had been expanded by the commission at its January meeting. The additions were two small parcels in Middle Falls owned by Kyle MacPhail and the much larger Facin property, which has road frontage on Route 40 and extends behind Hannaford. The March commission vote keeps these parcels in the commercial zone. Six members voted to retain the January boundaries, another two wished to further expand this zone, and two wanted to reduce the zone size by removing the added parcels. It was noted that ads for the Facin parcel say it has two entrances on Route 40, though the zoning commission had hoped that this parcel would be linked to public roads via an internal road to Hannaford.

Next on the agenda was the question of how to zone the Hollingsworth & Vose property on Route 29. At the December public meeting, Richie and Lynne Bittner objected to it being zoned industrial. It has considerable river frontage on the Battenkill and has been a cornfield. The commission decided to zone it rural agricultural, rather than industrial, again with a 7 to 3 vote.

While creating a Bald Mountain overlay district to protect some of the town's best farmland was defeated, a majority said they support the idea in principle. Most said they felt establishing such a district would be premature, as incentives or other mechanisms for protecting this land and the funding stream to do so still need to be worked out. In addition, the landowners have not yet been consulted. On the other hand, several commission members underlined the urgent need to protect farmland. It was noted that the Greenwich Comprehensive Plan strongly supports preserving agriculture, yet the plan's recommendations to accomplish this goal have not yet been acted on.

On February 28, the day before the commission meeting, several Greenwich town officials, including Supervisor Don Wilbur, held a preliminary meeting with Agricultural Stewardship Association and American Farmland Trust representatives to explore ways that Bald Mountain farmland could be preserved.

Most commission members agreed to designate a hamlet in Bald Mountain. More generally on the subject of hamlets, commission member Tammara Van Ryn made a case for inserting language into the zoning ordinance from the comprehensive plan stating that the scale and type of growth in the hamlets should be compatible with these existing neighborhoods and their historic character. It appears that this will be considered.

The Stream Overlay District was defeated after a long discussion. A majority of commission members voted to add language to the zoning ordinance on stream protection. They decided not to create a stream overlay map that may have provided more comprehensive protection.

Prior to the vote, commission member Jeff Duxbury had argued that through floodplain and wetland standards, the planning board already protects the watershed - at least when an applicant asks for a special use permit or needs site plan review. But some questioned the extent of overlap between the major streams and the mapped floodplains and covered wetlands. It was noted that many actions that could impact a stream buffer zone do not come before the planning board. A plea was made to identify and protect the most important streams which serve as habitat for fish spawning, with a subcommittee visiting the streams to 'ground truth' the proposed map.

Toward the end of the meeting, individual commission members raised a variety of other unrelated topics. The commission voted to allow landing strips with Site Plan Review. The question of solid and hazardous waste facilities including consistency with the town's existing law was put on the next meeting's agenda. A sentence will be added to clarify that the 300-foot road frontage requirement applies to all house lots on new roads in the rural agricultural zone. Rewording for the river buffer zone provisions was also discussed.

A joint meeting of the zoning commission and town board was set for 6:00 p.m. on Monday, March 12 in the town offices. The main purpose of this meeting will be to get responses from the town board to the latest draft and to wrap up the few remaining loose ends in the zoning ordinance.