Time for a zoning code update, says town of Champlain

— A patchwork quilt of zones is just too much of a headache for the zoning board, and they’ve been outmoded by new town law that uses different designations than what’s on the books for that board.

The zoning board has reworked the current law as much as it can without some help, so the members sought input from AES Northeast's Scott Allen at at their March 15 meeting.

The town is divided into 23 zones right now, said Code Enforcement Officer Michael Tetreault. Reducing that to 10 or so would be a big improvement. He said that when other town officials see their jigsaw-puzzle-like zoning map they're astonished at the number of separate zones.

He and the Zoning Board have worked on the current zoning law for the last three years, and are ready for the homestretch where they finalize their plans.

It might be a little tougher than the board hoped, said Allen. Rewriting ordinances and introducing new ones, like regulating outdoor woodstoves, should be a simple matter of board vote. Rezoning the town could take a much more extensive revision of Champlain’s comprehensive plan, a costly and time-consuming project that won't launch immediately.

Tetreault said that even with just zoning code revisions, he’d effectively have less power as a codes enforcement officer, and he’d much prefer it that way.

His job would involve much less interpretation on his part if the definitions were better. It would also put people in a better position to appeal zoning board decisions if they had more clearly explained terminology to work with.

One example, said Tetreault, is the word family. Though it's used throughout the zoning code, there's no definition provided. Does it just mean people who live together, or does there have to be some legal or ancestral criteria? There's just no definitive stance to take because it's not spelled out in the code.

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