Thursday, December 19, 2013

PC to SB Presentation Dissection

The 2014 proposed zoning amendments -- ballot article 10 -- would make the Underhill planning and zoning mess even messier. Vote NO on article 10.

It would take a lot of time to detail the snowball of problems with the planning and zoning of the past few years, but we don't need to reach that far, and we don't need to uncover every problem in order to see that these zoning amendments should not be approved.

Let's just dissect the best record we have of the Planning Commission's proposal, Cliff Peterson's presentation to the Selectboard, 19 December 2013:

Underhill Selectboard Mtg. 12-19-13 from Mt. Mansfield Community TV on Vimeo.
(MMCTV's video recording, Cliff's presentation starts at 30:59 and lasts 16 minutes.)

The updated slide deck is available at:

Some key moments from the presentation:

At 00:31:42. Cliff starts by mentioning that "Pat Lamphere attended not as a member of the Planning Commission but as a member the public." I point this out to remind you that the move-along-nothing-to-see-here-just-fixin-an-error spin on these amendments is not quite right. There is more here, and there are more interested parties here, than a first glance would indicate. Although commissioners would quickly dismiss a concern that their opinions are  influenced by Pat, it's important to realize that Pat is the beneficiary of the announced and intended change in zoning. At 00:36:43, I'll explain how it won't quite work out the way that they expect.

At 00:33:09 Cliff makes the claim that there is no 'Town of Underhill Zoning Map.' This not accurate. The 2003 Zoning Regulations (at p.23), in effect until 2010, explicitly cite the May 1984 zoning map (not a June 1985 map). A reference print of the GIS map layer is included in the 2010 zoning regulations.   The Town has a letter from Paul Gillies, Assistant Secretary of State, which explains that the de facto map -- used for years -- controls. A mountain is being made out of a molehill.

At 00:36:43 Cliff makes the claim that the Selectboard moved the boundary of the zones in question to match the Range boundary. But a closer inspection of the text shows that Selectboard adopted the map, and provided the text description only for reference. Here is the text, with no change in punctuation, but indented to emphasize the correct interpretation:

"III. The proposed Land Use Map of Appendiz[sic] C is modified by transfer of the more or less triangular area (shown on the map with red circles) from the Soil and Water Conservation Area to the Water Conservation Area.

This area is roughly bounded by
  Clay Brook to the north,
  the Underhill Range to the south and
  a portion of the Soil and Water Conservation Area boundary to the west. "

The second sentence merely provides a general location for the "triangular area" shown on the map. The adverb 'roughly' applies to the verb 'bounded.' All of the bounding description is approximate. The actual boundary is defined by the map, and a strict reading of this section only reaffirms that.

00:37:20 Cliff presents the '72 Land Use Map with "red circles." This is where the argument falls apart. The red circles don't actually meet the boundary as Cliff describes. It is wishful thinking.

00:38:04 Cliff makes the claim that the Selectboard adopted this zoning revision in Sept and Oct 1972 and that it should apply ever after. Not so fast.  It's important to mention that since 1972 the Selectboard has approved entire zoning ordinances with maps -- several times, including the 2010 Unified Land Use Regulations.

00:46:08 Dave Rogers says,"It's kind of scary that we don't have a map." But we do have a map, Pat just wants to have a different zoning boundary drawn around parcel BE108. RaMona chimes in with a comment about how much Planning Commission work underlies Cliff's presentation. Powerpoint slides are not rigorous documentation. Cliff didn't bother to write a legal opinion letter, nor request one from the town attorney. The town has mapped itself for many years. A lot of maps were glossed over by Cliff's presentation. We do have a current map and it is valid, the proponents of the proposal are ignoring that fact to create a false sense of crisis.

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