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Scenic Road Ordinance

ORDINANCE #256

ORDINANCE CONCERNING THE DESIGNATION OF SCENIC ROADS

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE TOWN COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF VERNON:

SECTION 1. PURPOSE AND AUTHORITY

The scenic and rural roads of Vernon are a cherished and irreplaceable resource critical for the protection of Vernon's natural heritage. The scenic values of many of Vernon's roads have been destroyed or are in danger of being destroyed because of past or potential alterations to their right-of way. These changes have had an adverse impact on the quality of Vernon's aesthetic and historic environment, an environment that is beneficial to both residents and visitors alike.

It is the purpose of this ordinance to balance the need to preserve and protect the scenic and historic, values of rural roads with the need to maintain them in goad and sufficient repair and passable condition.

Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Section 7-149a, the Town may, by ordinance, designate Town roads or portions of Town roads as "Scenic Roads." The power to designate such Scenic Roads is delegated hereby this said ordinance to the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC). No State highway or portion thereof may be designated as a Scenic Road under this ordinance.

SECTION 2. CRITERIA FOR SCENIC ROAD DESIGNATION

The Vernon Planning and Zoning Commission (hereafter referred to as "Commission") shall consider designating as a Scenic Road only those town roads, which are free of intensive commercial development and intensive vehicular traffic and meet at least one of the following criteria:

1. It is unpaved;

2. It is bordered by mature trees or stone walls;

3. The traveled portion is no more than twenty feet (20') wide;

4. It offers scenic views, which for purposes of this ordinance shall mean it affords vistas of marshes, shoreline, forests with mature trees, ridgelines or notable geologic or other natural features;

5. It passes through agricultural land or abuts land on which is located an historic building or structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the State Register of Historic Places, compiled pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes (CGS);

6. It blends naturally into the surrounding terrain, or

7. It parallels or crosses over brooks, streams, lakes or ponds.

SECTION 3. PROCEDURE FOR SCENIC ROAD DESIGNATION

A. Any party seeking to have a road or a portion of a road designated as a "Scenic Road" may file an application for such designation with the Commission. When a road is to be considered for designation as a Scenic Road, the Commission shall schedule a public hearing on the application.

Hearing notices and deadlines shall be made in compliance with the provisions of Sections 8-26d and 8-26e of the Connecticut General Statutes. The Commission shall notify the Vernon Town Council, the Vernon Public Works Director, the Conservation Commission and all owners of lot frontage abutting the road or portion of the road under consideration for a Scenic Road.

B. Following the public hearing, the Commission shall vote on the proposed design-nation. No road or portion of a road may be designated as a Scenic Road under this ordinance unless owners of a majority of lot frontage abutting the road or portion of the road agree to the designation by filing a Written statement of approval with the Vernon Town Clerk The Commission shall send notice of said designation to the owners of lots with frontage abutting the road. Said notice shall provide that the owners shall have sixty (60) days to either agree or disagree with the designation. Those owners who fail to file a written statement with the Town Clerk shall be considered to be in agreement with the designation, provided that any abutter who fails to respond shall not be deemed to have waived their right to appeal said designation under subsection d of this ordinance.

C. The Scenic Road designation may be rescinded by the Commission, using the same procedures, and having the written concurrence of the majority of owners with lot frontage abutting the Scenic Road.

D. Any person who is aggrieved by a designation, of a road or portion of a road as a Scenic Road may appeal such designation in the manner and utilizing the same standards of review provided for appeals from the decisions of Planning Commissions under Section 8-8 of the Connecticut General Statutes.

SECTION 4. PROCEDURES FOR SCENIC ROAD ALTERATION AND IMPROVEMENT

A. Subject to the notice and hearing requirements set forth in this ordinance, any road or portion of any road designated as a Scenic Road shall be maintained by the Town of Vernon: in good and sufficient repair and in passable condition.

B. Any party, including the Town of Vernon, proposing to carry out an activity within a Scenic Road right-of-way (ROW) must apply to the Commission, which shall schedule a public hearing on the proposal. Hearing notices and deadlines shall be made in compliance with the provisions of Sections 8-26d and 8-26e of the Connecticut General Statutes.

C. No road which has been designated as a Scenic. Road under this ordinance shall be altered or improved, except for good cause as determined by the Commission. "Alterations or improvements" include, but are not limited to, widening of the right-of-way (ROW) or the traveled portion of the road, paving, changes of grade, straightening, removal of stone walls and mature trees. "Good cause" means maintaining the Scenic Road in good and sufficient repair and in passable condition. In the case of a natural disaster where the Scenic Road becomes impassable or posts a danger to public safety, it can be repaired to pre-emergency conditions. Examples of "good cause" include, but are not limited to, correcting drainage problems; removing dead and. decaying trees and branches of trees; straightening of curves that pose a danger for vehicles traveling on then; repairing existing bridges, guardrails, guideposts and other engineering structures with similar materials that compliment the scenic character of the road; trimming tree branches and brush that overhang or encroach on the traveled portion of the road; and removing obstacles that prevent vehicles from traveling on the road. The Commission shall state the reasons for its approval of such alterations and improvements in its minutes.

Emergency, routine, and minor maintenance on any road that has been designated as a Scenic Road under this ordinance shall be continued by the Town of Vernon without the necessity of Town Council vote, review by the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) or public hearing. Such work includes the removal of dead, diseased, damaged, or dangerous trees and branches of trees; trimming of tree branches that encroach on the traveled portion of the road below the height needed to allow school busses, emergency vehicles, and Town road maintenance vehicles to pass; trimming or removal of brush and removal of boulders or other obstacles that encroach on the traveled portion of the road; necessary trimming for utility lines; trimming of brush to enhance and to protect scenic views, stone walls, and mature trees; correction of drainage problems; striping, gravelling, filling, retreatment including, but not limited to, overlay paving and chip sealing and repair of existing roadway surfaces; grading; snowplowing; sanding and emergency repairs to the Scenic Road in the case of a natural disaster that makes it impassable or unsafe for public traffic.

D. Nothing in this Ordinance shall be deemed to prohibit a person owning or occupying laud abutting a Scenic Road from maintaining and repairing the land which abuts the Scenic Road if the maintenance or repair occurs on land not within the right-of-way, or provide minor maintenance in the right-of-way, paved or unpaved, of the Scenic Road.

SECTION 5. EXPIRATION

A. This Ordinance shall expire ten (10) years from the date of its passage and ten (10) years from the date of each renewal unless renewed by the Vernon Town Council prior to each said expiration.

Introduced: December 7, 2004
Advertised: December 14, 2004
Public Hearing: December 21, 2004
Council Action: December 21, 2004
Advertised: December 27, 2004
Effective Date: January 11, 2005

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