Woodstock’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved comprehensive changes to the town’s zoning regulations, as well as approving an updated zoning district map, at a special meeting on July 25th. The Commission had met the week prior to hold public hearings and decided to hold the special meeting in order to take extra time to review the public comments.
According to Commission Chair, Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, the work done on the zoning regulations was a long-standing project, culminating in the Commission’s vote to adopt the updated zoning regulations. “We deliberately took the time needed to be very thorough, thoughtful and careful in what we did,” said Gordon. He noted that during the Commission’s work on the zoning regulations, it received input from members of the public, all of which was reviewed as the Commission updated the regulations. “I appreciate the help the Commission got from the public, be it by attending our meetings and talking with us or sending in letters and emails”, Gordon said. “The Commission really set out to advocate for Woodstock and to get people involved in what we were doing. The final product benefited because of it all.”
Zoning regulations encompass all aspects of land use development and activities, such as residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, municipal, recreational and conservational. Authorized by state statutes, each municipality’s planning and zoning commission creates regulations for land use activities and then administers them through land use application (permitting) processes. Additionally, these commissions have oversight and enforcement responsibilities. Gordon noted that, “Woodstock’s Planning and Zoning Commission is an independently elected municipal authority, but we don’t act in isolation. We work with the public. We work with professional and legal staffs.” Woodstock’s Town Planner/Zoning Enforcement Officer is Delia Fey, AICP and the Commission’s Clerk is Tina Lajoie.
Complementing the zoning regulations, the Commission uses a zoning map, which identifies the different zoning districts that allow and prohibit different types of land uses. Woodstock has two zoning districts, a Community District, which encompasses nearly the entire town, and an Industrial District, which is located in South Woodstock. The majority of the Woodstock is residential, which is in the Community District. According to Fey, “I think it is great to finally have an official Zoning Map that illustrates the Zoning that we have had in place for over twenty years and will help people to understand land use in Woodstock better”. Woodstock has not had an official Zoning Map, so the Commission approved one for use, but did not make any changes in the current geographic layout of the existing two zoning districts.
Gordon noted a number of important aspects of the new zoning regulations, which include clarifying cumbersome and ambiguous wording; resequencing related sections to be more consistent with and in proximity with each other in the document; updating text to account for new state laws; closing loopholes; adding in important definitions; and streamlining text for easier understanding and use. “This represents a comprehensive and concise ordering and wording of the regulations,” said Gordon. “We did not go crazy creating unneeded or burdensome rules. On the other hand, we improved the town’s existing regulations, using a dose of common sense, to keep things working in a positive way for everyone who lives and works in, travels to and runs or conducts business in Woodstock. It moves things forward in a proactive, productive way.” According to Gordon, updating Woodstock’s zoning regulations incorporated what the Commission learned from past experiences and events, and what other communities have dealt with.
When the Commission approved the updated regulations, it set a date of August 24th as the day the regulations would take effect. Copies of the new Zoning Regulations and the Zoning Map will be available on the Woodstock website and at the office of the Woodstock Town Planner/Zoning Enforcement Officer.
The next projects for Woodstock’s Planning and Zoning Commission are an update of the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) and a focused review of the Subdivision Regulations to bring those regulations into concordance with the newly updated Zoning Regulations. “The POCD is something the Commission worked on several years ago, but we took a break to finish the Zoning Regulations,” said Gordon. “Now, we will pivot back to the POCD. We have until July 2015 to update the current POCD, which was last updated in 2002. It is a great foundation for us to work upon. We look forward to wearing our ‘municipal planning hats’, thinking about things, hearing what people have to say, and presenting a revised POCD for public review. Good planning documents are the roadmap for how best to wisely use regulations to achieve community-wide goals on a range of important issues, while respecting individual property owners and businesses. ”
The following people are members of Woodstock’s Planning and Zoning Commission: Joesph Adiletta, John Anastasi, Syd Bodgett, Gail Dickinson, Dorothy Durst, David Fortin, Ken Goldsmith, Jeffrey Gordon, Fred Rich, Travis Sirrine, Dexter Young and Lynne White. According to Gordon, the Commission’s work involves no politics, just public policy. “We all roll up our sleeves, see what needs to be done and work well as a team,” he said. “Each Commissioner deserves credit and thanks. It is not just what is done, but how it is done that matters.”