Concerning Spear property in Charlotte

By now, Im sure everyone in Charlotte has heard about the proposed changes to the land-use regulations along Route 7. Id like follow-up on a commentary I submitted last month in an effort to clarify some of the current details. Ive read local newspaper articles, like everybody else, and appreciate everyone sharing their opinions and the facts as they know them. Unfortunately, some of the facts Ive read are not accurate. Let me start at the beginning. Back in 1995, some changes were made to the Land Use Regulations, specifically, the village commercial zone area on the east side of Route 7 on the corner by Church Hill Road (where Steves Citgo and the creamy stand are located). These changes were made without at least one of the landowners even knowing about them. The changes were discussed, voted on, and approved without the Spears even having a chance to oppose or even discuss them. Yes, the public hearing was apparently warned in the newspaper back in 1995, but the Spears didnt see it. Like most of us, they didnt see the warnings in the paper. You wouldve thought that they would have been notified personally as their property was directly affected. The changes that were made included an additional 100 ft. setback and the removal of retail sales. Now the 100 ft. setback was in addition to the 80 ft. right-of-way that was already imposed by the state. This put the setback 180 ft., from the Route 7 centerline, directly behind the garage, down the center of the warehouse and creamy stand building. The Spears my in-laws stumbled across these changes two years ago when they started thinking of selling the property. Imagine their surprise when they found out where the setback was now and that they could no longer sell retail on the property! The Spears have been selling retail there for the last 30 or so years remember the warehouse sales? They used to sell everything from bubble gum to fishing lures. Imagine you grew up in Charlotte with your parents owning the Old Brick Store. It was been a part of your family for generations; as you grew up the keys were handed over to you then you became the new owner. Years pass and you decide to retire and sell the store, but you discover that the corner had been rezoned. You can no longer sell retail; the setback had been changed to 50 ft. (putting it behind the building) from both Ferry and Greenbush roads. What would you do with your building now? Better yet, imagine that your family owned a farm in town for generations; you later discover the zoning had changed years ago and it your property is no longer agricultural land. What would you do? As a landowner what rights do you have? In the Spears case, they have decided to work with the town to come up with a solution that works for everybody. Weve worked with both the Charlotte Planning Commission and the Charlotte Selectboard for the last several months on a solution that works. Is it a perfect solution? No, but it works. My hat goes off to the members of both boards. I know it has not been an easy task, but theyve all been willing to work with us toward a solution that is fair and allows us both to move on. Thats all the Spears are asking for; a fair solution. Put yourself in their shoes; what would you do? My guess is youd do exactly what were doing. Another thing residents need to remember is that Spear family members have been part of the Charlotte community for over the past 100 years; they care about their town and its future growth. They dont know what the future holds for their corner lot they do know that its future isnt very bright under the current zoning laws. They dont want to see their property turn into a vacant lot . If local residents want to classify this area as the Gateway to Charlotte then they will likely want it to look nice and tidy. In fact, one of the recommendations that the planning commission made to the selectboard (on the addition of any new retail building going in there) was to add a standard that requires the design of the retail building to be compatible with the village character. Features such as roof pitch, dormers, building orientation, locations and sizes of windows and doors, and siding type should be included in design considerations. The Spears agree that if something new is going to be built at that location in the future, they want it to look nice and fit in with the rest of the village. Remember, this is their town, too. Regarding recent comments about a convenience store or concerns of a strip mall going in there (if the retail is allowed), the Spears havent even put this property on the market yet! They believe the issue needs to be addressed before anyone looks at it. They feel that the property isnt marketable as it currently is; there is approximately one acre that is usable with the current setbacks. As for rumors of a strip mall: first of all, the Spears wouldnt want it either; secondly, there wouldnt be enough room as youre only allowed 3,500 sq. ft. I already mentioned some inaccuracies that were noticed in some recent news articles: the convenience store and strip mall top the list (along with confusion about the setbacks). To help understand the setbacks, Ive included a diagram of the property (see below) showing the 80 ft. right of way along with the current 100 ft. setback. Explaining this setback in writing is difficult without a sketch this may be where some of the confusion is coming from. It was mentioned in a recent news article (and at the last hearing) that a diagram would help in understanding the setbacks. We totally agree. In fact, several drawings will be available at the next hearing; these will help illustrate the setbacks and what building sizes will actually fit on the property. In closing, thank you to both the planning commission and the selectboard for their time and efforts in working toward a plan that allows the Spears to move forward (while keeping the town plan in sight). As for the townspeople kudos to you. Your support has continued to be overwhelming; we are truly grateful. Please dont forget to attend the next public hearing Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. We appreciate all that can attend. Gary Farnsworth, Bristol

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