Proposed zoning change stokes concerns
By SANDI SWITZER
Correspondent | September 12,2012
CLARENDON — A proposed zoning amendment that would alert developers of an airport located in the community has critics concerned about a new layer of federal regulations.
The Clarendon Planning Commission wants to add language to zoning regulations requiring construction in town to comply with a federal regulation requiring landowners to notify the Federal Aviation Administration of any construction projects over 200 feet high.
Commissioners held a public hearing on Monday to give citizens the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment.
Planning chairwoman Gale LiCausi emphasized federal laws were already in place requiring landowners to notify the FAA of such projects and the proposed zoning would not place additional burdens on property owners.
“Whether or not this is included in our zoning, it’s a federal regulation and it’s in effect,” she explained to a small group of citizens attending the hearing.
LiCausi said the amended language would alert a developer of the airport when considering a project featuring structures such as cell towers or wind turbines over 200 feet high.
Such a project would require an obstructional analysis to determine if mitigation such as lights on the structure would be needed, according to LiCausi.
She said the town’s Select Board requested commissioners incorporate language in zoning to protect the local airport.
Vermont Community Wind considered a few years ago the construction of several 500-foot wind turbines on Susie’s Peak and nearby ridgelines, according to LiCausi.
The FAA could have increased aircraft landing minimums at the airport had the turbines been constructed, forcing larger planes to land elsewhere, she said. “And we would lose an economic impact in this area,” LiCausi said.
Some landowners expressed concern the proposed zoning would change land designations, restrict local development and allow the federal government to curb activities on private property.
“I don’t want the federal government regulating my land,” resident Marjorie Southard said.
Another citizen, Doris Roach, questioned why the amendment was needed if federal laws were already in place.
“It’s an existing federal regulation and it’s referenced in the bylaw we are adding,” commissioner John McKenna responded. “It’s not adding anything to it. It’s calling attention to something that’s already in existence.”
Marion Pratico questioned what restrictions would be placed on land near the airport if the zoning amendments were approved.
Commissioner Carol Geery responded there would be no impact on building homes or businesses and, she said, no zoning districts would change. “If you could do it before, you can do it after,” Geery said.
At the conclusion of the hour long hearing, LiCausi indicated commissioners may simplify the proposed language before forwarding the matter to the town’s Select Board for consideration.
“I really think less is more,” she said.