MANCHESTER — The Manchester Select Board held a public hearing Tuesday to take comments on the proposed revisions to the Manchester Land Use and Development Ordinance.
The changes are those things discovered since the ordinance was first approved in 2018. The changes were supposed to be adopted a year ago and the process began but was interrupted by the pandemic.
The Select Board chose to accept the changes as proposed but on an interim basis. Now the changes are being considered for final adoption.
Tuesday’s hearing was the first of two public hearings that will take place with the second slated for July.
Most of the changes relate to the Aquifer Protection Overlay, which is an area identified with more restrictive surface uses to protect the aquifer.
Most of the meeting Tuesday was routine with very few comments or questions from residents but a Benson Road resident accused the town of proposing a change to benefit a development at the end of Benson Road.
Brian Benson, whose family is the name behind the road name, has strongly opposed the eco-resort.
Benson told the board he believes one change to the APO that was proposed by the Planning Commission was intended to ensure that the proposed resort will be able to be built, even if it loses one of several appeals it currently faces.
Benson said that a proposed subzone C of the APO, with less restrictions, was built into the plan to ensure wastewater permits would be approved.
The subzone C area was proposed because, according to Greg Boshart of the Planning Commission, the area east of Route 7 has a soil type that is less permeable and creates less of a risk to the aquifer.
Benson said he had the results of soil tests and said the tests show loamy soil with granular topsoil.
He said he believes the new subzone was added to make sure the resort’s applications were approved.
“I think the board members should understand that we are very fortunate that we have such a large aquifer that provides pure drinking water to the town of Manchester,” Benson said.
Select Board chair Ivan Beattie told Benson that what he said was “a pretty strong allegation.”
Board member Greg Cutler asked for clarification about the amount of wastewater Benson claimed would be pumped into the aquifer.
Beattie pointed out that no wastewater would be pumped directly into the aquifer and that there were strict regulations regarding that.
Manchester Planning & Zoning Director Janet Hurley clarified the issue and said the state of Vermont permits wastewater not the town. She said the same state agency that would consider the application is also in charge of making sure the town of Manchester is protecting its aquifer.
“It’s not the town’s jurisdiction to permit that,” Hurley said. “It’s the state of Vermont that would permit that.”
Beattie defended the Planning Commission’s work and said the revision to the ordinance should not get bogged down based on one development application.
“Zoning often gets changed based on one application,” Beattie said. “This isn’t the case here. I don’t think there was any influence on the discussion by the proposed resort.”
At one point, Boshart said that if there was concern that the proposed changes were intended to benefit one development, the board could delay approval of those proposed changes until after the eco-resort issues are dealt with.
Local resident Michael Nawrath thought that was a great idea.
“I suggest you take him up on it,” Nawrath said. “Eliminate from consideration amendments that have to do with this application. They’re under appeal and being considered.”
Plus Nawrath said, it would prove advantageous to the town to know how the court ruled on various aspects of the challenges.
Another public hearing will be held July 13. It is expected that the meeting will be the first under new guidelines allowing for in-person and remote hybrid attendance.
Technology is expected to allow people to continue to log in remotely similar to a Zoom meeting and participate in a regular meeting.
The second part of the public hearing will be held on that date.