BCRC to seek state funds for housing regs study

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The Bennington County Regional Commission will seek state funds for a region-wide study of development regulations in a dozen towns and villages.

If funded, the study would identify possible barriers to housing development in dense, mixed-use areas of participating localities and recommend corresponding changes to town plans and land-use rules. It would also document common themes observed across the region.

Potential recommendations could include raising allowable housing unit densities and reducing setback requirements and minimum lot sizes, Catherine Bryars, a senior planner at BCRC, told the Dorset Select Board at its Sept. 17 meeting, according to GNAT-TV footage. The board unanimously approved the town's participation.

Dorset and Arlington will serve as the grant applicants. The two towns were chosen because of Dorset's pending update to its town plan and the Arlington Area Renewal Project's focus on housing, Bryars said. Ten other towns and villages are also expected to participate in the study.

BCRC would present preliminary recommendations to towns' planning commissions for feedback before compiling them in a final report, which would not bind the municipalities to any course of action. The final report "should help municipal planning commissions identify ways that they can revise their regulations to improve opportunities to enhance the quantity and quality of housing in their communities," according to information provided by BCRC.

In sections pertaining to towns that have recently overhauled their bylaws — Manchester, for instance, adopted a revised land-use and development ordinance last year — the report might highlight rules that could benefit other towns, Bryars said.

Funding for the project — expected to cost about $13,000 to $15,000, according to Bryars — will be sought through the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development's Municipal Planning Grant program. The grant requires a 10 percent local match, which will be shared among the participating towns and villages. The application deadline is Oct. 1.

BCRC will learn if the project will receive state funding in December, Bryars said.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.

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