Seeking a Vibrant and Equitable Community

Fairfax is a growing bedroom community for residents who work in the greater Burlington and St. Albans employment centers. Housing demand is outpacing supply. The majority of residential development is happening outside the town’s village center and growth area. On average, almost 30 homes have been constructed in Fairfax each year for the past decade – the second highest housing creation rate in Franklin County. The rate of residential growth in Fairfax is nearly three times the rate in the county as a whole.

The Fairfax Planning Commission recently studied the community’s housing needs and opportunities through the Zoning for Great Neighborhoods project and the Build-Out Analysis and 2020 Growth Study. Those projects showed that the type and pattern of development enabled under the Fairfax Development Regulations does not fully reflect community goals and policies as expressed in the Fairfax Town Plan. The Planning Commission is now moving forward to implement the recommendations from that earlier work by considering regulatory changes to support diverse housing opportunities in Fairfax and guide future development towards the vision expressed in the Town Plan.

Fairfax Homes and Neighborhoods Meeting

Thursday, June 22, 6:30 p.m. at the Fairfax Town Office

Join the Planning Commission for a conversation about how Fairfax can support housing creation, choice and affordability in livable, connected neighborhoods. We will be talking about the potential for trails and recreation areas accessible from neighborhoods throughout town. The Planning Commission is considering changes to the Development Regulations, including the zoning map, and adoption of an Official Map to further these objectives.

Development Regulations

The Planning Commission has been working to revise zoning district and subdivision requirements with several objectives:

  • Expand opportunity for multi-unit housing throughout town. The state has just mandated that towns allow duplexes on any lot where a single-unit home is allowed. The amendments to Fairfax’s regulations would go further and allow for up to a four-unit home on most lots in town.
  • Reduce lot size in the village and residential areas. This change is anticipated to open up the possibility for some additional infill within existing neighborhoods and for property owners seeking to subdivde land to do so more efficiently and affordably when new lots can be served by public infrastructure or shared wells and septic systems.
  • Make new developments more walkable and connected with access to recreation amenities and shared open space. People want to live in Fairfax because of the rural character and opportunities for outdoor recreation. People also want to live in a place where it is possible to walk and bicycle safely. As development continues in Fairfax being able to efficiently travel between neighborhoods and different parts of whether by driving, biking or walking is becoming increasingly important.
  • Promote meaningful conservation of working lands and sensitive natural resources when rural lands are developed. Preservation of rural character and the ongoing viability of agriculture in Fairfax is very important to residents. Changes to the subdivision regulations are seeking to balance development and conservation in a way that makes sense for Fairfax.

The proposed zoning district changes are summarized in this two-page handout. Potential changes to the Fairfax Zoning Map can be viewed on this online map.

Official Map

An Official Map allows Vermont towns to shape development patterns and community design by identifying locations for future public facilities. The map can show future street alignments, planned trails and sidewalks, and potential sites for public buildings and recreation areas. With an adopted Official Map, a town can require the reservation of easements or land for an intended public purpose such as completion of a road connection, or creation of a public park or trail system.

Fairfax is considering adopting an Official Map. At the June 22 meeting, the Planning Commission will be inviting community members to provide input on potential future trails and paths that could be included on the Official Map.

Housing Choice Presentation

The Planning Commission hosted a presentation in July to invite discussion of housing choice in Fairfax. The presentation explored historic and contemporary forms of housing in Vermont communities like Fairfax. Nearly 80% of the housing units in Fairfax today are detached, single-unit homes and most new housing being built continues to be detached, single-unit homes.

The Fairfax Town Plan calls for the town to “ensure adequate housing options for people of all income levels, ages and household types.” To achieve that goal, Fairfax will need to offer a greater diversity of housing types than is currently available.

The Housing Choice presentation focused on housing types other than single-unit homes and large apartment buildings – what is commonly called ‘missing middle’ housing. You can watch the video of the presentation here and learn more about ‘missing middle’ forms of housing here. It considered what other forms of housing could be a good fit for Fairfax.

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