Dorset opts for village center designation


DORSET -- The Dorset Planning Commission has voted to accept a resolution to apply for a village center designation.

Tyler Yandow, zoning administrator, said this designation, approved during the planning commission meeting Tuesday night, would put the town in a better position to apply for different types of grants from the state. While the specific area that would fall in the village center has not yet been decided, there would be two locations; one in Dorset and one in East Dorset, he said.

"The maps are a work in progress at this point, but basically you can sort of see where I felt the boundaries of the Village Center should be and where Jim [Henderson, Bennington County Regional Commission] thought it should be," Yandow said.

Henderson said there are other towns in the area that have designation villages, like Manchester and Bennington. Pownal has three.

Danny Pinsonault, a planning commission member, said it seems to him that it’s not that so much that they should or should not apply for the designation, but rather that the area of the map makes sense.

For example, in the Dorset Village, Henderson said due to parcel size, he would exclude the Barrow’s House.

"What we’re really after, number one, the board will pass this resolution should you chose too, and then we’ll talk about the nuts and bolts of the actual boundary," he said.

After a map is finalized and placed in the application, the state may want to change the boundaries. Henderson said what they want to see include what is quintessential to a village: Churches, post offices, town offices, retail stores, public open spaces.

Brooks Addington, a planning commission member, read from the official guidelines as to what the state would like to see in the district.

"A traditional center of socio-economic activity ... town green, development densities should be uninterrupted ... pedestrian oriented rather than auto oriented, commercial activity ... unique character," he read.

Henderson pointed out that due to a change in Vermont law, mention of applying for a village designation and how it would benefit the town should be in the town plan. Along with a change to the town plan, Henderson said the regional plan will also be changed to reflect the change to the land use. He said there is no regulation by the state, just potential benefits.

"It’s really an incentive based program to try to maintain and enhance the quintessential Vermont village," he said.

One woman at the meeting was concerned with a reference in the Vermont statutes about how the state has ability to review application every year. The phrase "require corrective action" made her particularly nervous.

Addington said what he believes the statute was referring to was if a town were trying to get benefits for locations outside the designation or trying to grow their village designation without approval.

Henderson told the concerned woman their has been changes to legislation and he was not sure she had the most up to date version.

After some more discussion, the planning commission voted unanimously to approve the resolution. Now a more specific map will be drawn and the select board will have to vote to move forward with the process.


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