Greensboro Looks to Expand Away from Lake Eligo

by Thorolf Van Walsum

GREENSBORO – On May 21, the Greensboro Planning Commission published the text for two proposed municipal bylaw amendments.

Of the two proposed amendments, the one drawing the most attention seeks to make the area between Lake Eligo and Town Highway 23 a “Resource District.” This designation would mean that the area is no longer classified as a “Rural Lands” zone, where development is limited to 10-acre minimum pieces, and plots are instead limited to a 25-acre minimum.

The planning commission’s report is explicit that these changes are being proposed with the general interests of Greensboro residents in mind. In a Community Profile Survey, residents were asked their views on “What I never want to change in Greensboro”. The top four answers were “lake water quality,” “Willey’s,” “other establishments,” and “rural character and open space.”

By restricting development to the east of Lake Eligo, a sensitive watershed area is being protected. Baker Hill and Patmos Peak, considered to be the town’s most prominent cliffs, are directly to the east of Lake Eligo. In theory, this area would threaten increased sedimentation and decreased water quality in Lake Eligo if developed. According to the town plan, development, which involves clearing and increases runoff, should be discouraged in areas of steep slopes greater than twenty percent.

Affected landowners had mixed responses. Eric Lapoint, who owns a 68-acre swath of land along the cliffside, objected to the planning commission in a letter, calling the new zoning proposal unjust, suspecting foul play and insinuating that other parties may encourage the town to “set laws and then sue the town for a loss”. 

Harry Miller, who owns 38 acres of land just above Lapoint’s, said he supported the zoning change in an interview with the News & Citizen.

“When I purchased my land, I bought it for the rural nature of the place. I’m an avid deer hunter. I’ve got a deer camp there. It’s wild and steep, gnarly terrain. That was sort of why I bought it in the first place, because it was remote. I wouldn’t have bought it if I knew there was gonna be a five-lot subdivision here. Let’s put it that way.”

In an interview with the Hardwick Gazette, Brett Stanciu, the Greensboro Zoning Administrator, emphasized this point, as well. “By also having the larger tracts of property open, that also preserves that forest corridor.” By minimizing urban interruptions in forested land, the Greensboro Planning Commission hopes to protect local terrestrial ecosystems.

The second amendment seeks to connect Greensboro and Greensboro Bend by creating a new type of zone, the Extended Town Center, which has a two-acre minimum lot size. This was chosen as a good intermediary between the current Town Center zone at 0.5 acres and the Rural Lands zone at 10. Extending 500 feet off of the sides of Route 16 and a section of Cemetery Ridge, this new zone would allow for and promote residential expansion, allowing Greensboro to grow as a community away from the Lake Caspian and Lake Eligo watershed zones. 

When asked what sorts of changes Greensboro residents might realistically expect in the coming years if the Extended Town Center amendment was passed, Stanciu smiled and shook her head, explaining that the land designated was generally too wet for development to ever happen on a large scale. “It’d be nice to have more families in town, but it’s not going to turn into, like, Burlington.”

[Thor recently moved to Hardwick through the Americorps VISTA Volunteer program. He’ll be helping manage some ongoing projects of the Northeastern Kingdom Collaborative. You can also come say ‘hi’ to him at the Jeudevine Memorial Library, where he volunteers on Wednesdays.]