Parker pushes plan to use development rights to fund Simes House

Town Meeting Member Randy Parker’s plan to use the zoning bylaws to generate revenue for the Simes House met with what might be called supportive skepticism from the Planning Board, last Monday night.

Parker is scheduled to formally present the plan on September 15.

Parker has filed a warrant article for the Fall Town Meeting that would permit transfer of development rights from flood zones and privately owned open space.

Transfer of development rights is a planning tool in which landowners are allowed to sell the right to develop a piece of property to someone who would then use those rights to build somewhere else.

In an informal presentation to the Planning Board, Parker noted town counsel called his proposal “inconsistent with the purposes and intent” of the transfer of development rights bylaw. Parker disagreed, noting the bylaw allows for protecting sensitive natural resources. A flood zone, along with beaches and dunes, fits that description, he said.

Developers in high value property areas, like rural areas or the Pinehills, he said, might be interested in taking advantage of a rights swap.

Trying to use transfer of development rights as a funding tool for the Simes House is a way of avoiding returning to Town Meeting for more funding for the project, something Parker said he promised not to do.

Planning Director Lee Hartmann called the idea creative, but said it needed more work. His biggest concern, he said, is that it could encourage development in rural areas, a “substantial departure from what we’ve done” in trying to focus development in the village centers.

He also noted that town counsel’s biggest issue was that the article gave no criteria for a decision on what qualified under the new bylaw.

“You’re proposing to use zoning bylaws to do things not related to zoning,” Planning Board Member Marc Garrett said, “the zoning bylaw is not a tool for getting funds.” He agreed with Hartmann the proposal needed more work and suggested it be put off until spring.

While he said he would look again at the language of the article, Parker said he would still take it to the Fall Town Meeting. Even if it failed to get the required 2/3 vote, he thought giving it a hearing would be a learning experience for the future.

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