Overview

After the adoption in 2018 of the updated Richmond Town Plan, the Planning Commission turned its attention to updating the Zoning Regulations to bring this document into alignment with the Plan. Many of the goals identified in the current Richmond Zoning Regulations (RZR) and the new Town Plan are the same as they have always been: to maintain Richmond’s rural character by supporting small-scale development, agricultural and forested lands; to preserve historic and iconic features of the town; to respect the floodplain of the Winooski River; to “grandfather” existing uses and structures, and to provide safety and secure property value for residents.

New challenges will require new thinking in some areas. The housing crisis in Chittenden County requires us to think hard about how we can develop additional dwellings to house all current and would-be Vermonters. The recognition of the importance of large areas of contiguous forest land require that we develop ways of protecting “forest blocks.” The economic threats to traditional dairy farming in Vermont require that we consider how best to encourage and preserve the open agricultural lands that we prize as a feature of rural character. The increasing importance of Richmond as an outdoor recreation hub will require consideration of our trail and path network. Climate change is forcing us with great urgency to consider how we can use our regulations to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the transportation and home heating sectors.

In addition, it is not clear what commerce will look like over the next 20 years. Even before COVID-19 brought new meaning to the phrase “work from home,” commercial real estate was undergoing a radical transformation as retail moved online. Re-envisioning downtowns as service-oriented and gathering spaces rather than purveyors of merchandise; as areas where live/work opportunities and flexibility of building use are required; as spaces where car-oriented facilities yield to pedestrian- and public-transit-oriented facilities as we learn to drive less – this re-envisioning will take an awareness of what others have done and what is possible, massaged with local input and creativity.

Discussion Questions

For December 2nd Planning Commission Meeting, the commission would like to address the following discussion topics and questions for the public

  1. Permitting Process
    1. What has been your experience in the zoning permitting process?
    2. Have you faced any significant hurdles in the permitting process?
    3. What are some ways the permitting process could be more accessible to you?
    4. Are there any projects you are looking to do but have been discouraged from doing due to zoning and permitting process?
  2. Appearance and aesthetics of the village
    1. What aspects of the Richmond Village do you like in terms of appearance and form?
    2. What aspects do you dislike about the village in terms of appearance and form?
    3. What elements would you say makes village look distinct from other Vermont towns and cities?
    4. What aspects do you like about other towns and villages in Vermont?
    5. What aspects from other towns and villages in Vermont would you like to see more of in Richmond Village?
  3. Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities
    1. Do you bike or walk within the village and/or to the village?
    2. How accessible do you find the village in terms of walking and biking, and why?
    3. How safe do you find the village in terms of walking and biking, and why?
    4. Can the accessibility and safety of the village be improved for pedestrians and bicyclists? If yes, how so?
  4. Housing Density and Diversity
    1. Are you or anyone you know looking for housing in Richmond? If so, what kind of housing are they looking for (rental or ownership; single-family home, townhome, apartment unit, etc)?
    2. Have you or anyone you know faced difficulties in finding housing in Richmond? If so, what difficulties did you or they face?
  5. Effects of building form and uses
    1. If, say, the Planning Commission were to increase the density allowances in the village, by allowing more units per acre than what is currently allowed:
      1. How would this impact you? (Positively? Negatively?)
      2. Do you have a preference on how this looks? If so, what is your preference? (regarding “looks”, some examples: single-family home on a lot, a duplex on a lot, a four-plex on a lot, a lot with two single-family homes, a lot with a single-family home and a “mother-in-law” apartment)
    2. If, say, the Planning Commission were to expand allowances for mixed-use buildings (commercial uses on the ground floor, residential units on the upper floor(s)):
      1. How would this impact you? (Positively? Negatively?)
      2. Do you have a preference on how this looks? If so, what is your preference?
      3. Do you have a preference on the uses for the commercial portion of the building?
    3. If, say, the Planning Commission allows more commercial uses and higher density in the identified areas (W. Main St; Jericho Rd from the 4-corners to School St; Depot St), how would this impact you? (Positively? Negatively?)

Meeting Schedule

We would like to invite anyone who is interested to come and hear how we are thinking about implementing our new and renewed Town Plan goals, and to give us your thoughts about proposals for the different districts. This is a preliminary discussion for input-gathering purposes.

If you’re unable to attend the meetings but would like to provide feedback, you can provide your comments via this Google Form: https://forms.gle/F7ryRqkkzMtceSjz5. All comments will be forwarded to the Planning Commission every week.

Goals and Objectives

Our task is to try to navigate between sometimes conflicting mandates. Between those who like things just the way they are, and those for whom things as they are just don’t work at all. With this challenge in mind, here is a brief list of some specific goals we are pursuing:

  • Keep Richmond’s village atmosphere while welcoming change and growth
  • Protect village neighborhoods
  • Increase flexibility for village properties on the main streets by providing more opportunities for multifamily housing and commercial activity
  • Increase on-farm commercial opportunities in the agricultural/residential
  • Increase housing density within walking distance of the downtown and in clustered developments outside the village that could eventually be served by public or group transportation
  • Provide for the continuance of large contiguous tracts of forestland by clustering any housing near existing roadways
  • Plan for renewable energy facilities
  • Protect the historic appearance of the area around the Round Church
  • Continue to prohibit development in the floodplain
  • Support the development of Richmond as an outdoor recreation hub
  • Consider whether / how to regulate short-term rentals (like Air B&B)
  • Determine the exact features of buildings that constitute “character of the neighborhood” to make DRB review of projects more straightforward

Specific Richmond Village goals include the following:

  • Increasing the housing density in the village while maintaining the current village look
  • Easing restrictions on creation of accessory dwellings
  • Allowing flexibility in terms of building use (residential, compatible commercial, live/work) to provide more viable options to property owners in a changing market
  • Maintaining the traditional settlement pattern by encouraging commercial activity, mixed-use and multifamily housing on the main roads, and a variety of residential options on the smaller streets
  • Simplifying permitting for residential uses and compatible commercial uses to increase affordability
  • Insuring walkability and safe biking options