China planners review suggested ordinance amendments

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members discussed suggested ordinance amendments and the town’s 2020 comprehensive plan at their Jan. 10 meeting.

The ordinance amendments came from the select board, in the form of a proposed revision of Chapter 9 of the Land Use Ordinance, which is titled “Appeals.” Select board member Brent Chesley prepared the changes and presented them at the Jan. 3 select board meeting. The full board forwarded the document to the planning board.

Accompanying the proposed amendments was a print-out of an email from select board member Janet Preston to codes office Nicholas French in which Preston expressed her opposition to some of Chesley’s recommendations.

Planning board members pointed out that amending ordinances is their job, not the select board’s. “This is a backwards process,” co-chairman Toni Wall said.

By unanimous votes, they asked select board members to send them a document explaining why they want the planning board to revise Chapter 9 and providing reasons for specific changes they’d like planning board members to consider.

Planning board members’ intention is to consider amendments and, if they agree some are needed, draft them; present them to a public hearing for residents’ input; and forward the resulting document to the select board.

Board members briefly discussed other ordinances that might need updating, mentioning the Phosphorus Control Ordinance and the provisions governing home occupations, before considering review of the town’s comprehensive plan.

China’s current plan is available on the town website,

Near the beginning of its 170 pages, it directs the planning board to “dedicate one meeting a year to review of progress on implementation of the plan.” The board should also keep “a checklist of action steps that have been accomplished, those in progress, and those due to be addressed” and suggest amending proposed actions if needed.

The planning board should send its updated checklist to the select board annually, preferably at the beginning of annual budget discussions (in case suggestions require new expenditures).

Planning board members intend to reread the plan before their next meeting, focusing on the recommendations, which begin on p. 136 in the on-line version.

Board member Walter Bennett suggested commercial solar development, or perhaps renewable energy development generally (including windmills), as a topic that should be added. He considers solar farms visible from public roads incompatible with several of the plan’s goals, like preserving China’s rural character and protecting scenic vistas.

Wall shared her proposed 2023-24 planning board budget request, totaling $9,622.82. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said in an email that the 2022-23 budget is $5,000, of which almost half has been spent so far. The fiscal year ends June 30.

The next China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24.


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