People & Places

Colchester contemplates changes to East Lake Shore Drive

A car zoomed by an East Lakeshore Drive camp and rental home on Wednesday evening in Colchester. Photo by Auditi Guha/VTDigger

On a recent Wednesday evening, as the setting sun cast an orange shimmer over Malletts Bay, a few people walked along the edge of Colchester’s East Lakeshore Drive.

A new log house overlooks a large lawn and the bay on East Lakeshore Drive in Colchester. Photo by Auditi Guha/VTDigger

The sunset strollers had to tread carefully as there are no sidewalks flanking the narrow, curvy road. Across the street, Marty Ryan stood on the deck of his modular log house. Pointing out cars zooming by, he said he wished the town would send a cop over to enforce the 25 mph speed limit. 

One of the town’s main thoroughfares, Lakeshore Drive is a narrow 3-mile road hugging Malletts Bay, dotted with tiny camps and older homes. 

The 2019 town plan identified improving the stretch as a priority project, and town officials kicked off a rezoning process for East Lakeshore Drive earlier this year. (The town updated its zoning along West Lakeshore Drive in 2016.)

Establishing building heights, addressing traffic issues and improving walkability are part of what town officials hope to address through the East Lakeshore Drive rezoning process that’s underway.

“It is always a challenge to balance community goals with private land rights but the town is currently working on figuring out what people want to see,” said Cathyann LaRose, Colchester’s planning and zoning director.

At a public meeting in April, residents weighed in on building heights and facades and what types of small businesses they think would work well on the stretch of road. According to the survey, most people prefer small cabins and low-profile cottages over larger homes, tall fences and skinny buildings.

Originally zoned for medium density residential use, the draft recommendations for East Lakeshore Drive propose two new districts — LakeShore3 or LS3 on the bayside and LS4 on the other side of the road, said Rich Paquette, chair of the Colchester Planning Commission.

Colchester planning officials have drafted two new zoning districts — R3 and R4 — for each side of East Lakeshore Drive as a part of a process to create better guidelines for development along Malletts Bay. Map courtesy of the Colchester Planning and Zoning Dept.

“We want to keep it reasonable,” Paquette said, noting that residents don’t “want it to be overbuilt.” 

Marty Ryan’s home is perched on a slope overlooking East Lakeshore Drive, situated on a half acre that his family has owned since the 1800s. He estimated the height of the house to be about 23-25 feet. 

On the other side of the street is a new three-story waterfront structure that, at 33 feet, is taller than most of the nearby houses. “I’m sorry to say but it’s kind of an eyesore,” Ryan said. 

The planning commission met on Aug. 2 to consider zoning requirements for the two new districts. For two-story buildings, they proposed a height cap of 28 feet for pitched roofs and 23 feet for flat roofs on the waterfront side, and 40 and 35 feet respectively for the other side of the road. They also agreed to limit buildings to two units on the waterfront side while allowing cottages, single family, duplex or small multiplex and townhouse buildings across the road.

The proposed changes are the final piece of a critical land use planning process for the Malletts Bay, according to Pam Loranger, chair of the Colchester Selectboard. 

“These regulations will provide thoughtful guidance for any future limited development in a neighborhood that borders and cherishes the inner Malletts Bay,” she said.

The town sent about 170 postcards to residents notifying them of the rezoning process, but several people approached on the road earlier this month said they didn’t know about it. 

Among those in the dark: Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle, who lives on East Lakeshore Drive and owns Dick Mazza’s General Store on West Lakeshore. 

“I haven’t heard anything about it,” he said on Aug. 3. “But I’m going to find out.”

The Planning Commission will review the draft recommendations at the next meeting on Tuesday. A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. Both the commission and the Selectboard will need to review and approve any changes. 

Paquette said the upcoming meeting in September will be “the time to speak out if there’s something (residents) want changed.” He noted, “We have had great input actually from the East Lakeshore community and we have implemented a lot of their ideas.”

Colchester town officials are working on draft recommendations to rezone East Lakeshore Drive in Colchester along Malletts Bay. Photo by Auditi Guha/VTDigger

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Auditi Guha

About Auditi

Auditi is Chittenden County editor at VTDigger. Originally from Calcutta, India, she graduated from Emerson College with an MA in journalism. She has worked as an editor and reporter for several newspapers, and in various beats. Most recently, she covered race and justice at Rewire.News, and higher education at the New Bedford Standard-Times. She previously worked at several Massachusetts newsrooms. She is a mentor for young reporters through the Report For America program, founded the Boston chapter of the South Asian Journalists Association, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Email: [email protected]

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