I have been following the east side zoning discussions since the beginning and would like to express some of my concerns about the current proposal and some of the comments I heard from the Select Board at their last meeting.
My primary concern is that the proposed changes don’t really go far enough to encourage meaningful development on the east side. The 75-foot setback and the 20 percent lot coverage requirement could be extremely restrictive, depending on how the Planning Board enforces them. In addition, given the sloping nature of the property in the new Limited Commercial/Maritime district, calculating height from the average elevation of the downhill side (the new method) will result in significantly lower heights than the calculation using the average finished grade across all sides (the current method), in some cases even lower than the current height of buildings in this zone, further restricting development. Finally, it was mentioned at the last Select Board meeting that the 20-foot view corridor might not be large enough. Again, such an increase would be more restrictive and discourage development on the east side.
As we watch nonprofits continue to take properties off the tax rolls we have to ask ourselves how those tax dollars will be replaced. In a town that is aging, I can’t imagine that increasing the tax burden on our senior residents would be seen as a good idea. Our schools already have $10 million in deferred maintenance – how will we pay for that? If we continue to restrict development and see its consequence of negatively impacting business then the burden of raising revenue will clearly land in the laps of the taxpayers. More than 70 businesses supported a petition for responsible development; we need the Select Board to take that endorsement to heart and ensure that the new zoning proposal provides the opportunity for growth and development in the community we all love. Our children and grandchildren will appreciate it.