Dorset Survey to study town's growth propsects

DORSET - The town of Dorset is in the process of tabulating numbers from a survey to help predict where the growth of the town may be headed in the coming years. The survey, as well as a study, are a part of the 2014 Town Plan review and re-adoption process, a process completed every five years.

The study - referred to as the Build-Out Study Survey - is made possible due to a $5,300 grant from the Vermont Department of Housing and Economic Development. The grant application was filled out by the Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) on behalf of Dorset. "[The grant] allows us to work with the BCRC as a consultant," said Town Manager Rob Gaiotti.

"It has been a joint effort with the BCRC," added Zoning Administrator Tyler Yandow.

Gaiotti said that the BCRC will be conducting the growth study, compiling two sets of data: statistical and constraint data. The statistical data will include factors like growth rates, zoning district sizes, and number of households, while the constraint will include zoning requirements, minimum lot sizes, and protected areas.

The data will then be put into a program that will analyze it and create a series of maps; the first to be produced will be what the town can be predicted to look like in 20 years if the current trends and zoning are left unchanged and the town is built to its capacity.

This map has already been drafted and is available for viewing in the town offices.

"It seemed obvious to begin with current zoning and densities," said BCRC Regional Planner Jim Henderson.

Then, multiple other maps will be made with the data collected, allowing also for alterations from community input.

"Once we have a baseline... we can change it based on input from others," said Henderson. "We can also make a demographic analysis... we can determine population growth... and from there we can calculate town expenses, too."

All maps will be made by the BCRC under guidance from the town's Planning Commission. However, the maps will not be ready in time for the next Zoning Board meeting on June 4. At that meeting, Yandow hopes to "have something for the public that is easily readable, as opposed to a set of raw data."

The second component, the survey, was sent out to residents and business owners throughout the town; any person who received a tax bill, including landlords of properties in the town as well as those who work and reside in the same house, was sent a survey according to Gaiotti.

"Approximately 400 surveys have been turned in... about 30 percent," said Gaiotti, "which is really good. It is a large enough chunk of information."

The results of the survey will be included with the results of the study to create additional maps of proposed future growth.

Residents' input concerning items such as density, mixed media usage, and available land will all factor into the different maps.

"The survey is a big component... the public input portion will really be helping shape the town plan," said Gaiotti.

"[The survey] was done to get a feeling of what the town felt about issues," said Yandow. "It's a planning tool."

Despite a high survey return rate, there are some residents of Dorset that are concerned about the entire project.

"Although we understand the necessity of reviewing the town plan periodically... We are concerned at the prospect of change to the village of Dorset," said resident Angela Arkway. "Among the options on the questionnaire are growth in terms of more commercial development, more dense residential development, light manufacturing, and industrial development. These suggestions make us shudder."

She also expressed concnern about changing the town because of the impression that Dorset is "a haven from the busy world of commerce and industry," and that it should remain as such.

The idea to create the study and survey came out of public request for changes to the language in the Town Plan during the revision process in 2009. "This is our main endeavor before 2014's review," said Gaiotti.

The next step, according to Yandow, will be another public hearing to allow more input and discussion from residents. This public hearing will most likely occur after the June 4 meeting, on July 2.


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