Home Columns Opinion OPINION: Carve Sabin’s Pasture Into More Zoning Districts

OPINION: Carve Sabin’s Pasture Into More Zoning Districts


by Joe Castellano, Montpelier

would like to weigh in on my thoughts regarding Sabin’s Pasture. I agree with a number of people who I have been in touch with that Sabin’s should be divided into two, if not more, different zoning districts.

Realizing that zoning is just one tool in the city’s arsenal to encourage the type of development that it sees as part of its future, zoning Sabin’s as part of the R-6000 district, I feel, is encouraging the type of development that the land itself cannot reasonably support.

Like many residents of Montpelier and Vermont, I came here because of the beauty of the natural landscape and quality of life here in Montpelier. It distresses me that we have before us a proposal that has the potential to forever alter the landscape and one of the last large undeveloped parcels of land in Montpelier.

I put together two separate maps using information from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources website and the United States Department of Agriculture’s web soils analysis mapping tool.

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The first is a map from the Agency of Natural Resources that I titled “Sabin’s Pasture 2017.” I incorporated elevation figures and gradient lines to show the steepness of the terrain. Each of the lines reflects a 20-foot change in elevation. On the left side of the map, the terrain is comprised of 20 to 25 percent slopes and on the right side of the map, the slopes are steeper with slopes ranging from between 30 percent and 40 percent.

According to the proposed zoning, slopes ranging from 20 percent to 25 percent would require conditional use approvals while slopes in excess of 30 percent prohibit development. That is why I would hope that Sabin’s zoning be split as the easternmost portion of the land is considered unbuildable.

The second map was one put out by the United States Department of Agriculture. It is a web soils analysis that I refer to when determining what the physical possibilities of development would be on a given lot. I created a map containing a larger land area than Sabin’s Pasture as I wanted to capture all of Sabin’s and not just a portion of it.

There is an analysis not only of the soils in Sabin’s but an analysis of the slopes. The areas which encompass Sabin’s are 17B, 41E, 44B, 91D, 92C, 66E, 66D, 66C and 67E. For my analysis I selected dwellings with basements as residential zoning has been proposed for this area and I assumed that most residential units would have basements. Area 17B which has 8.7 acres, is rated as having very limited development potential. The same is true for area 41E (5.6 acres), 44B (1.1 acres), 66C (37.1 acres), 66D (5.9 acres), 66E (52.2 acres) and 67E (28.1 acres).

I believe there are members of city government who would like the council to believe that this property should be zoned for residential uses for a variety of reasons. And I’m certain that the landowners of Sabin’s would also like to believe that the property is an untapped resource that can be used to create additional housing stock.

However, two maps indicate just the opposite is true. So, I would strongly encourage the council to split Sabin’s into a much lower density district on the west side while not allowing development on the east side.

Lastly, according to the United States Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates, Montpelier’s population as of July of 2016 is approximately 7,535 people. In April of 2010 it was 7,849. This reflects a 4 percent decrease in population. If the council had decided to work on a new master plan first, rather than concurrently working on a re-adoption and new zoning, this basic statistic would have helped to better guide and inform the decision regarding the demand for housing.