Town Plan and Land Use Regulations

Charlotte's Town Plan

Town plans are meant to be guides to the future. They are the result of public discussion and deliberation about how a community should develop. Town Plans include a current description of the community, an analysis of what facilities and services will be needed in the future, and describe what the community wants for its future. Most importantly, Town Plans include a set of priorities and goals for what can (or should) be done to achieve the future the community seeks.  It's a policy and vision document, not a rule-book.

Charlotte's current Town Plan was developed by the Planning Commission, and adopted by the voters at Town Meeting in 2019.  Per state statute, it must be updated and re-adopted by 2026. Town plans must be endorsed by the regional planning commission to provide a legal basis for enforcement of the town's zoning bylaws. The latest edits (in 2018) added substantial detail about energy use, including goals for generating more renewable energy, and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels for transportation, home heating and in commercial buildings. This allows the town to obtain party status to influence the siting of solar farms, wind towers and other large-scale renewable energy installations that may be proposed for Charlotte, which are licensed through the Vermont Public Utility Commission.

 

Charlotte Land Use Regulations (zoning bylaws):

Charlotte's rules on what can be built in town are spelled out in its Land Use Regulations (LURs), which are our zoning bylaws. State law authorizes towns to adopt zoning regulations that “govern the use of land and the placement, spacing, and size of structures and other factors specified in the bylaws related to public health, safety, or welfare.”  While the Town Plan sets forth the town's priorities and goals for land use planning, the LURs specify the particulars of what kinds of development can occur, where, and within what constraints.

Charlotte's LURs divide the town into eight “zones” or districts, as depicted on the official zoning map. The LURs specify dimensional and density standards that apply within each district, and what uses are allowed. These standards specify requirements for lot size, density (number of residences or commercial uses on a given parcel), frontage, setbacks from front and side lot lines, maximum building height, and maximum lot coverage (for both structures and impervious surfaces such as driveways, parking areas, patios etc.). They also include general standards that apply to any development, including required road and driveway access, parking, and restrictions on building on slopes and adjacent to rivers, wetlands and along the shore of Lake Champlain, and how land may be subdivided. (Subdivision rules are incorporated in the LURs.)

In Charlotte, the Planning Commission is responsible for preparing updates and other amendments to the LURs, with a required public hearing.  Once drafted, amendments are reviewed & may be adopted directly by the Selectboard, or put up for a town-wide vote, at the Selectboard's discretion.  Specific proposals for subdivisions of land, site plans for commercial properties, conditional use reviews, variances and boundary adjustments are decided by the town's Development Review Board (DRB), following a warned public hearing. Applicants, neighbors and other interested parties have the right to appeal DRB permit decisions to Vermont Environmental Court within 30 days of the DRB's final action.

The most recent set of LURs amendments were adopted by Charlotte voters in November 2022.  Current complete LURs can be found here. The official zoning district map can be found here.

Property owners with questions about how the rules apply to their project or plans may wish to consult this FAQs document.  Planning & Zoning staff are available to assist with understanding and navigating the permit process; see this linked page for details.