Proposed amendments to  the Woodford Town Plan and zoning bylaws include  the creation of two new Rural Residential/Roadside Commercial districts along
Proposed amendments to the Woodford Town Plan and zoning bylaws include the creation of two new Rural Residential/Roadside Commercial districts along Route 9. The areas appear on the map as narrow pink bands bordering Route 9, one near the Bennington border and the other just east of the Woodford State Park. (Supplied image)

WOODFORD -- After months of hard work, the Woodford Planning Commission has released its proposed amendments to the Woodford Town Plan and zoning bylaws.

The most significant change made to the town plan would be creating two new Rural Residential/Roadside Commercial districts along Route 9. The first would be created by "redistricting the area East of Woodford State Park to the [Green Mountain National Forest] boundary East of the Red Mill Pond," according to the revised plan. The second proposed RR/RC district would begin at the Bennington town line and proceed with frontage along Route 9 until the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail parking lot. RR properties in this zoning designation would have a one-acre minimum, and RC properties would have a two acre minimum.

According to the description given in the proposed bylaw changes, the purpose of the RR/RC district is "To allow as permitted and as conditionally permitted, and as conditionally permitted compatible uses ... to provide for a mix of low density commercial uses which are comparable with the rural residential uses in the district. A careful balance of mixed uses to retain the rural character and compatibility of such uses needs to be maintained."

The proposed changes stress maintaining Woodford's "rural character," and maintain that any uses, "shall not create a nuisance or alter the essential character of the property or the surrounding area."

"This area has been mainly oriented for seasonal business use," reads the proposed bylaw amendment, "However, winter seasons have become unpredictable and therefore other desirable seasonal business uses should be considered, provided they are maintained compatible with the predominantly rural residential character of the area."

The planning commission is made up of chairwoman Susan Wright, vice-chairman Chuck Suss, Ed Shea, John Dovitski, and Susan Armstrong.

The commission approved the changes during a special meeting on Feb. 24. They met again on Monday to discuss the process for approving the proposed changed to the plan. Shea read a statement from H. Gwynn Zakov, staff attorney for the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which read, "If the town plan hasn't expired I would point out that (in my opinion) there is an abbreviated process for readopting the town plan that does not require the Planning Commission to hold a hearing." According to Zakov, the planning commission would have to hold a meeting, at which it is required by Vermont statute to "review and update the information on which the plan is based, and shall consider this information in evaluating the continuing applicability of the plan."

After either that meeting or a public hearing, depending on which route the planning commission chooses, the revised town plan will go to the select board, who will hold at least one public hearing before either voting on the measure or putting it before the town to vote on by Australian ballot, depending on the method Woodford has chosen for adopting its town plan, said Zakov. The commission decided that Shea should speak with Jim Henderson of the Bennington County Regional Commission to determine the most expeditious lawful method of proceeding.

The planning commission has encouraged residents to submit questions and concerns about the revised plan. "This has been a monumental task and we hope an appreciated positive step forward. To that end, please read and express your thoughts via info@woodfordvt.org prior to the public hearing so that the Planning Commission can share your input with an answer to all questions, comments, and concerns," read a statement from the planning commission.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB