News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 15, 2012
Survey seeks input on Surry comp plan update

by Rich Hewitt

The committee working on updating the failed 2005 town comprehensive plan is seeking comments from residents on proposed changes to that plan.

The committee has sent a brief survey to residents and property owners asking questions about changes to minimum lot sizes in the plan. Changes to existing minimum lot standards were among the most controversial issue in the 2005 plan and they raised the most concern among residents who attended workshops on the updated plan this summer, according to Dave Hollenberg, co-chairman of the comprehensive plan committee.

Turnout at those workshops represented only a small percentage of the town population, and Hollenberg said the committee hoped to get a better sense of community sentiment on the plan.

“We’re trying to provide an opportunity for landowners in Surry for feedback on potential changes in future land use,” Hollenberg said.

The survey also provides a chance for the committee to identify specific opposition to proposals in the plan and to adapt the draft plan if necessary, he said.

The committee has been working since this spring at the request of the selectmen to revise and update that 2005 plan. The town currently operates under a plan adopted by voters in 1991.

In 2005, the proposed comprehensive plan had a rocky reception. Although voters at the annual town meeting approved it, there were problems with the way the official plan had been posted and that initial vote was not valid. A second vote drew a very small crowd which defeated the plan by just one vote, prompting selectmen to schedule a third vote. That meeting drew a large crowd which rejected the plan by a healthy margin.

One of the major issues with the 2005 plan, Hollenberg said, was the proposed change in the minimum lot size in the rural area. That plan had recommended increasing the existing 40,000-square-foot limit in that zone to four acres.

The committee again is considering a change in minimum lot size in several areas of town and the survey was designed to gauge townspeople’s reaction to those potential changes.

The survey asks some general questions about land use and development in the town, but focuses on specific questions about changes in minimum lot size. The plan proposes decreases in the minimum lot size in the village and roadside residential zones, and an increase in the rural zone.

In the village zone, the survey asks whether residents favor the current 40,000-square-foot limit or a proposed 20,000-square-foot limit.

In the Roadside Residential zone, the survey asks whether they favor the current one-acre minimum lot size or a proposed 20,000-square-foot limit.

In the rural zone, the survey provides several options and asks whether they favor the current 40,000-square-foot limit; a proposed three-acre minimum lot size; or a compromise two-acre limit. It also offers a space to suggest another alternative.

Hollenberg said the survey focused on the minimum lot size issue because of the opposition during the 2005 vote and because it had raised concerns again during workshops this summer. The committee held several workshops to discuss the proposed comprehensive plan and the changes in it.

“These seemed to be the issues that have the most concerns for people,” he said.

The surveys were sent out earlier this month to all residents and out-of-town property owners. The committee hopes to receive in-town responses by November 16 and out-of-town replies by November 30.

The committee will review all the responses and come up with recommendations on what to include in the plan. Hollenberg said the state will need to review the plan before the town can vote on it.

“We hope we can put it all together by early next year so the state can review it and we can present it at town meeting in the spring,” he said.

A 13-page summary plus a draft of Part II of the plan are available at the town website or at the Surry Town Office.