Smart Growth in Action: Village Zoning in Hinesburg
The Town of Hinesburg recently approved a comprehensive overhaul of the zoning districts and standards for its village growth area. The updated standards added several new districts and doubled the size of the village growth area from about 250 to over 500 acres, with the goal of accommodating a majority of Hinesburg’s new development over the next 20 years within this expanded village area.
The most significant feature of the revised standards is a series of incentives that provide density bonuses for developers who design their projects to meet specific community goals. For example, projects receive incentive points for building permanently affordable housing units, achieving green certification, constructing smaller homes, using renewable energy, providing public infrastructure (such as a community park), or building mixed-use projects.
Base densities in village districts are relatively low, varying from two to four units per acre. Residential projects that earn enough points can be granted up to twice as many units per acre as the base density allows. Commercial projects that earn points benefit from increased building height limits, decreased required parking, and increased lot coverage.
The overall purpose of the new standards is to build a critical mass of homes, employers, services, and community facilities all within walking distance of each other. Success will depend on whether developers take advantage of the density bonuses to build projects at four to eight units per acre. It is only with this density that new development in Hinesburg will exemplify the smart growth principles – walkability, access to transit, a mix of uses – that make compact villages such great places to live and work.