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Dorset Select Board to consider revised town plan

2019-10-07

By Luke Nathan, as seen in the Bennington Banner: https://www.benningtonbanner.com/stories/dorset-select-board-to-consider...

DORSET — The Select Board will hold a public hearing next month to consider a suite of amendments to the Dorset Town Plan, a document intended to guide the municipality's growth and development.

The revised plan "still holds the previous goal of advancing Dorset as a bucolic rural community with historic village centers that are home to mixed use developments that host a vibrant local economy," but now reflects an increased focus on infill development in those centers and contains a new section related to promoting renewable energy, according to a town-compiled report on the plan's changes.

The town's Planning Commission overhauled the plan, last updated in 2014, with assistance from Catherine Bryars, a senior planner with the Bennington County Regional Commission. Under state law, town plans expire after eight years unless they are reviewed and readopted.

"The most significant update throughout the plan was to focus more on a positive future for Dorset — to celebrate and grow what residents enjoy and want to see more of in the town," Bryars said in an email. "Some existing plan language regarding land use, economic development, and housing focused on what residents want to prohibit, prevent or limit."

This tonal shift represents "a subtle but powerful adjustment to place emphasis on what types of amenities, employment opportunities, and neighborhoods residents desire and wish to develop in the coming years," she added.

The new plan, which calls for the revision of allowable densities, setbacks and minimum lot sizes in mixed-use areas of town, may inform a future review of the town's zoning bylaws, Town Manager Rob Gaiotti said.

Some of the revised plan's newly added objectives — like promoting the use of electric-powered vehicles and expanding access to public transit — are at least thematically linked to other initiatives already underway or eyed for the future in Dorset. The Dorset Tomorrow program, overseen by the nonprofit Vermont Council on Rural Development, recently saw the formation of four task forces composed of residents who will advise the town on topics that include affordable housing construction and transforming the town's energy usage.

The Select Board also recently authorized the town's participation in a potential region-wide study of housing regulations by BCRC, pending the success of an application to the state for funding.

A copy of the plan, with proposed changes marked in red, is available on the town's website, https://dorsetvt.org. The Select Board's public hearing on the matter is expected to be held during its meeting scheduled for Nov. 19.