Weston considers replacing Zoning Board with Development Review Board

By Mallory Hopkins
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

During the Weston Select Board meeting on Tuesday, June 22, members began discussing replacing the Zoning Board of Adjustment with a Development Review Board, which would allow landowner to have a “one-stop shop” when it comes to seeking decisions on land-use issues.

Board vice chair Jim Linville said the action would be more friendly and the Planning Commission “becomes a legislative body” and the DRB “becomes a judicial body, which is to say they rule on stuff.”

Board member Ann Fuji’i’, who also sits on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, said one of the “main reasons” for the change is “that the Planning Commission doesn’t have time for planning because they are constantly involved in these quasi-judiciary issues,” and that there is overlap of duties with the ZBA. “It just makes sense that the Planning Commission should do planning and that there should be the quasi-judiciary” body, Fuji’i’ said, adding that the zoning bylaws were also out of date and need to be revised.

ZBA chair Deborah Granquist said moving to a DRB structure isn’t a new idea, but that the reason it never went anywhere was a “concern over finding enough people to do all the work,” and especially those who are suited to the different boards.

Fuji’i’ suggested that going forward, the Select Board get input from members of both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Adjustment on the possible changes.  Nicki Pfister of the Planning Commission said the idea was new to PC members and it may be premature to include them in the discussion at this time, although it would be good for someone to present the idea to them.

The board suggested that someone attend the next Planning Commission meeting on July 12 to present the idea.

Future of Wilder Memorial Library

Resident Donald Hart questioned a vote that the board took on June 8 to appropriate $50,000 to go to the purchase of property adjacent to the Wilder Memorial Library.

The money would aid a new initiative by private citizens to enhance the library by purchasing the property, razing the house and using its water and septic to install a bathroom in the library, said board vice chair Jim Linville.  The acreage could then also be used for additional library parking. Both the lack of a bathroom and parking have been problematic for the library for years. Once these projects are completed Linville said the intention is to donate the land back to the town.

Hart was concerned that this issue wasn’t mentioned in the Weston Town Meeting that took place on May 25, just over a month ago, and the amount is set to be in the town’s budget for 2021. “You sent Mrs. Downer through the hurdles for $2,500 — the friends of Weston should have done the same thing,” said Hart.

Select Board chair Denis Benson said that the only reason he was in favor of the project is because there is a wall on that land that will be in need of repairs, and if the town owns the land, that would minimize the risk of any legal battles.

“The ground is literally shifting—we’re bumping around doing the best we can,” said Linville of the wall on the property. Selectboard member Ann Fuji’i agreed that the project was intended to protect the town.

Linville also reassured the board, “It looks like we’re going to have a budget surplus this year, even with the $50,000.”

Creating a ‘little free library’

Wilder Memorial Library Trustee Joanne Prouty asked the board for  permission to set up a “little free library” in front of Town Office at the bulletin board, to be maintained by the library. These roadside “libraries” are roughly the size of a large bird house, typically two shelves with a glass front door, and allow visitors to pick up or donate free books any time of the day or night.

“It’s a sweet little thing to do,” said Prouty.  The library will be built by her husband Ron to look like the Town Office. The board approved the Little Free Library unanimously with no further discussion.

Speed sign letter to be revised, sent to all residents

Linville presented a draft letter that would go out to downtown Weston residents seeking their opinion on having a lighted speed sign in town. Board members have received many complaints about speeding in the downtown area.

“I’m kinda disappointed in your letter, Jim,” said Benson. Benson said he believes the letter should go to all residents, not just those who live in the downtown area. He added, “There’s no mention of the survey, which we spent taxpayer money on.” The letter will be revised to include the results of the survey and will be sent to all residents when it’s ready.

In other news, Park Street will be closed from 12:30  to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 31 to allow the Vermont Country Store to host a free comedy show featuring Rusty DeWees in front of the Weston Playhouse.

— Cynthia Prairie contributed to this article.

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About the Author: Mallory Hopkins, a native of Londonderry, is a marketing professional with experience in documentary film production and video editing. In 2018, she earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Flagler College of St. Augustine, Fla. She produced 'The Oldest City Underwater' about sea level rise in St. Augustine, a short video that has been shown in several in-person and online film festivals and a national conference on sea level rise. After living in Florida for seven years, Hopkins recently returned to the Green Mountain State.

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