What Is The Purpose Of Zoning?

We are frequently asked, “Why is the Town involved with decisions about what I want to do on my property?” Another question, asked nearly as often is, “How could the Town allow that to happen next door to my property, or in my neighborhood?” Together, these two questions explain the need for reasonable Town regulation of private development, and also demonstrate the position in which the Town Boards and the Zoning Administrator frequently find themselves in zoning matters. The purpose of “zoning” is to separate different land uses so that different uses are compatible with each other. The development standards found in the Zoning Ordinance try to insure that private development takes place within a given area in a manner in which:

1.     All uses are compatible (e.g., an industrial plant is not permitted in a residential area);

2.     Common development standards are used (e.g., all homes in a given area are set back the same minimum distance from the street); and

3.     Each development does not unreasonably impose a burden upon its neighbors (e.g., parking is required on site so as not to create neighborhood parking problems).

To do this, districts called “zones” are established and standards are developed for these zones.  Zones allow for residential, commercial, recreational and industrial uses. Properties within each of these zone districts have common development standards. Overlay zones may also be established “on top” of these zones that regulate for Flood Hazard areas, Design Control districts, Ridgeline Development or for the protection of Environmental Resources.

How Can Property Be Used?
 
In order to determine the potential uses for a given site, it must first be determined which “zone” applies to the site. Each zone has Permitted Uses, Conditional Uses, and prohibited uses (also known as “uses not allowed”). For example, in the Residential District, Single-Family Dwellings are Permitted Uses, Apartment Buildings and churches are Conditional Uses, and manufacturing plants are not allowed.
 
How do I Establish a Permitted Use?

To establish a Permitted Use, simply follow the development standards for the zone and apply for a zoning permit. For new dwellings or additions to existing dwellings, the structure must be at least 40 feet from the front property line, and 20 feet from the side and rear property lines. The Zoning Ordinance is available in the Wilmington Town Office and on the Town of Wilmington’s website.

How do I Establish a Conditional Use?
 
When establishing a Conditional Use, a review by the Development Review Board is required to determine if the activity can be conducted at the proposed location without imposing a burden on neighbors or the surrounding community. In commercial zones, some uses, such as gas stations or restaurants, require a Conditional Use Permit. The Board may impose conditions on their approval of the use to protect the neighborhood and the community.
 
How Can I get an Application Form?

Application forms are available in the Wilmington Town Offices. The forms are also available on the Town of Wilmington’s website.

What Are The Chances That An Application Will Be Approved?

Application’s approval depends primarily on whether the proposal meets the standards in the zoning bylaw. For Conditional Uses, the proposal must conform to the Conditional Use criteria. These standards include the capacity of community facilities, traffic on roads in the vicinity, the character of the area, and the purpose of the zoning district. Additional standards, called Performance Standards, are also created for some specific uses to help determine if the use can fit in with its surroundings and if special operating conditions are necessary to ensure that it remains a compatible use.

A copy of the Performance Standards for specific uses may be obtained in the Wilmington Town Office and on the Town of Wilmington’s website.

How Is the Application Processed?

After an application, plans and fees are received, a meeting is scheduled before the Development Review Board (DRB). A notice of the meeting is published in the Deerfield Valley News, posted in three places in town and mailed to all abutting property owners. It is the responsibility of the Applicant to post a notice on the property. A public hearing is conducted and the applicant should be prepared to explain the request and answer any questions. Neighbors may also speak about their concerns at the public hearing. After hearing all the testimony supporting or opposing the project, the DRB will make their decision in a Deliberative Session. The Deliberative Session is closed to the public, but the DRB’s written decision will be mailed to the Applicant and to all interested parties.

Whenever the DRB makes a decision, it may be Appealed within 30 days. During this time, the Zoning Permit will be issued. The zoning permit has an Appeal period of 15 days. The approval and the permit may be acted upon when all Appeal periods are over.

What If an Application Is Denied?

If a Conditional Use request is denied, the applicant is entitled to an appeal to the Environmental Court. Any appeals must be filed within 30 days of the decision.

It is important to know that if an application is approved, it does not become final for 30 days and a zoning permit must also be issued. During this time neighbors may file an appeal to reverse a decision approving a Conditional Use application.

How Much Does a Permit Cost?

A current fee schedule is available on the Town of Wilmington’s website at www.wilmingtonvermont.us or in the Town Office. The fees cover the cost of processing the application and are not refundable.

An Appeal fee is charged to anyone who appeals a decision to Environmental Court. The Appeal process, court location and the filing fees are available at: http://www.vermontjudiciary.org/courts/index.htm#Environmental   

What If a Use Is Prohibited?

If the use planned is prohibited in the district which applies to the site, it is not possible to establish that use in that location. The Wilmington Planning Commission is responsible for establishing the uses and standards in the zoning bylaw. Revisions to the zoning bylaw can be made only through a series of public meetings.

When Is a Subdivision Required?

If a project involves dividing a parcel into smaller lots for later resale to multiple owners, a subdivision is being created. The Wilmington zoning bylaw contains standards which control the creation of new subdivisions. The purpose of a subdivision permit is to ensure that all property that is subdivided for resale has adequate public and private facilities to serve each of the new owners.

What Are Development Standards?

Each zone has specific development standards relating to the height, size, and placement of buildings on a site. In some districts, there are additional requirements for on-site improvements such as parking, landscaping, and fencing.

In residential zones, the number of dwelling units permitted is regulated based on the size of the site and the density allowed in the zone.

What Is a Variance?

If a dimensional aspect of a proposed project does not conform with the development standards for the zone, it is possible to apply for a Variance. The purpose of issuing variances is not to allow exceptions to the development standards but rather to allow development on lots that otherwise would not be possible to develop.

Does the State of Vermont Need to Review my Project?

The State of Vermont regulates several types of land development, including reviews for Act 250, wetlands, stormwater, flood hazard and wastewater disposal. For new Single-Family Dwellings, a wastewater permit will be needed. Depending on the land, a wetland or flood hazard review might be needed. Larger projects, such as commercial or multi-family development may need act 250 and stormwater permits. Information about State permits can be found at: http://www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/ead/pa/index.htm

What Board Reviews Proposals for Development?

The Development Review Board is composed of five private citizens appointed by the Selectboard to evaluate proposed development. The Development Review Board is authorized to approve Variances, Lots without road frontage, Flood Hazard Reviews, Design Control District Reviews, Conditional Use requests, and Appeals of the Administrative Officer’s decisions. 

The Planning Commission is the decision-making body for revising the zoning bylaw and the Town Plan.

What Fees Can Be Expected for Hearings?

A current fee schedule is available at the Planning Division.

Construction Permits

Construction Permits are documents obtained through the State of Vermont, Division of Public Safety. Permits are issued for Fire safety, electrical and plumbing systems and other life/safety issues. Owner-occupied Single-Family Dwellings are exempt from State construction permits.