Numero-phobia in Ferrisburgh

Some things were different back in 1970, the year the Act 250 rules were legislated, and some not. For example, the retail milk price was then 66 cents per gallon, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which, adjusted for inflation, equates to about $3.50 today (so take that, all you contemporary milk-price-complainers) but, in contrast, the focus in land use regulation which used to be more mathematically-based, with published measurable quantitative standards for development proposals to meet, isn't so much any more. Consider, for example, the first three of the 10 Criteria of Act 250: #1, which measures air and water pollution, #2 which measures potable water supply sufficiency, and #3 which measures the proposal's burden on existing water supply. Down the list is #8, the one which was written to control such non-quantifiable things as "undue adverse effect on esthetics" and "irreplaceable natural resources". Those who have followed Act 250 in operation over the decades will recall that at first the quantifiable criteria were far more predominant, and only more recently have the subjective ones become more important.

Those of us in the planning discipline who were enthusiastic back then about quantitative, measurable, standards as the transparent, predictable criteria basis for development approval by local zoning boards turned out to be in a distinct minority, which is reflected in the history of performance-standards bylaws drawing a lot of hostility and almost zero acceptance from planning and zoning boards across the country. Instead, the P&Z folks chose to go in just about the opposite direction, raising "conditional use" (with its option for invented-on-the-spot conditions) from an infrequently-applied approach to special-situation permitting to one that has grown markedly in scope in most city and town plans just about everywhere. It's not surprising, therefore, that the Ferrisburgh P&Z folks have used their conditional approval powers to set some decidedly non-measurement-based requirements for the present Champlain Oil food and fuel proposal on Route 7. Two parts of the proposal have been rejected: one is diesel fuel pumps and the other is drive-through fast-food service. Both rejections are predicated on a stated board belief that such elements would "increase traffic in the area to an unsafe level". No numbers are offered to support this belief, even though the applicable figures are readily available, or reasonably estimable.

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