From a citizens petition, to street acceptances, to bylaw amendments and a look towards Easton's long-term future, Planning and Zoning will be the focus of 10 warrant articles at Annual Town Meeting on May 21.
Planning Director Brad Washburn and Planning and Zoning Board Chair Gregory Strange appeared before the Board of Selectmen Monday night to discuss the articles up for vote.
Article 42 Funding For Master Plan asks Town Meeting voters to approve funding to update the Town's Master Plan, which hasn't been revised since 1971.
The Selectmen and Finance Committee recommended the $50,000 that would fund consultants to facilitate the first half of a two-year project. Washburn said the additional $50,000 would likely be in next year's Town Meeting Warrant.
"I think we'll get a program where we meet with every town board on a regular basis," Strange said. "I would really like to see all 23,000 residents have a crack at participating in this. There’s a lot of good models out there; a lot of towns similar to Easton."
Washburn said the Town has already made steps toward developing the Master Plan, including the Affordable Housing Production Plan, Land Use Open Space Plan and the Historical Commission.
"The town collectively has done a lot that will contribute to this master plan," he said.
Washburn said consultants would be necessary to accomplish the detailed work that such a process requires, but the Planning and Zoning Board would be facilitators.
"With data collection, consultants really comes in handy," he said. "We need that extra help gathering the data and facilitating the meetings and putting together those extra maps."
Article 48 Signs would further elaborate on a sign bylaw that has been an issue of contention of the last few years. Selectmen voted to recommend the article.
After a Warrant Article causing problems for many local businesses, residents at last year's Town Meeting under the discretion of the Planning and Zoning Board.
This year's warrant article further specifies guidelines for the Planning and Zoning Board and residents to follow. Signs will still be approved by the Planning and Zoning Board, however guidelines are given for certain zoning districts including business, residential, industrial and historical.
According to Strange and Washburn, other proposed zoning amendments at Town Meeting involve planned business development, home occupation, farmers markets, administrative updates, and extension and altercation to buildings.
Selectmen recommended Article 49 Planned Business Development, which is intended to create "more flexibility" for landowners by reducing the land area required for a Planned Business Development from five to two acres.
"It allows you to site buildings where it makes sense rather than a strict kind of zoning," Washburn said.
The amendment would also enable the Planning and Zoning Board to allow special permits for even smaller restrictions in certain cases.
"The town can have more of a say and get a better looking building," Strange added.
Selectmen also recommended Article 50 Home Occupation, which is intended to allow "greater diversity of home occupations."
Under the amendment, home occupations would be split into two categories: minor and major. Major Home Occupations would require a special permit from the planning and zoning board.
Article 47 Farmer's Market would amend zoning bylaws to allow Farmer's Markets in most zoning districts with a special permit from the Planning and Zoning Board.
Articles 37, 46 and 51 all deal with administrative updates to the town's current bylaws and zoning maps. Selectmen recommended all three.
Article 37 Zoning Map Changes would update the zoning map to change certain parcels. The biggest change would be at 51 Chestnut Street where 14.3 acres will change from residential to Open Space to reflect the Chestnut Street Edwin A. Keach recreational complex,
Article 46 Street Acceptances would formalize the development of Tanglewood Estates off Foundry Street to accept Concerto Court, Serenade Park and Tanglewood Drive as Public Ways.
Article 51 Administrative Updates deals with updates to Easton's Table of Use Regulations, which clarifies where and what builders can build and which permitting authority offers special permits.
Article 52 Extension and Alteration is a reaction to the recent court case Gale vs. Glouster.
The case set a precedent that eliminated a variance requirement for changes to pre-exsisting nonconforming residential structures. Instead it places such applications in a special permit context for builders.
A final zoning amendment up for vote is a citizen petition brought forth by the owner of 120 Poquanticut Avenue (Clover Valley Farm), who is requesting to expand the Solar Photovoltaic Installation Overlay District onto approximately 15 acres of his property.
The construction would require the clearing of a "lightly wooded" area behind Target on Robert Drive.
Citing unknown environmental impacts, easement locations and financial impacts, Selectmen have not taken a vote on whether or not to recommend the project.
"There’s a lot of steps involved with this," Town Administrator David Colton said.
For a more detailed look at all of the articles, click on the attached Town Meeting Warrant draft.