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Working Landscapes

Working landscapes are lands actively used for the production of food, fiber, earth products, and outdoor recreation. They include cropland, dairies, woodlots, orchards, sugarbushes, pastures, plant nurseries, sand mines, and fee-based recreation areas. Working landscapes are what many residents and visitors see as the classic image of Vermont. The persistence of these traditional land uses in rapidly changing Williston is a credit to the perseverance and hard work of dedicated private landowners. 

Williston has lost a sizeable area of productive farmland to development. Agriculture is still an important part of the local landscape, however, and the town will continue to work with landowners to sustain it. The town has helped conserve thousands of acres of working landscapes through the acquisition of land or purchase of development rights. 

The 2016-2024 Town Plan states the desire to ensure that the town bylaws permit a reasonable range of uses in working landscapes. The intention is stated to periodically review the bylaws to ensure promotion of the development of diverse, innovative agricultural activities, including farm stands; cottage industries like cheese making or other value-added enterprises; farm waste recovery for energy generation; and fee-based recreation, hospitality, and educational activities.

Currently, however, the permitted uses in the ARZD are restricted to only one- and two-family dwellings, farming forestry and outdoor recreation. An exception is permitted for historic barns that might be conserved by being reused for appropriate commercial and residential use. Historic Barns will generally be ones that were constructed prior to 1900 and/or appear on the state or national lists of historic places.

During spring 2022, the town partnered with University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Natural Resources, Environmental Problem Solving and Assessment course to explore the idea of expanding allowed land uses in the ARZD to support agritourism. The students developed a survey to solicit feedback on the idea of expanding land uses, which will likely be distributed in fall 2022 to the broader community. The students met with some local farmers to get their insights and explored how other towns are approach agrotourism in their town plans and regulations. Check out the student’s work in the links below.

 
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