Planning Services to Develop Bylaw Revisions

Issued:  May 20, 2021
Deadline for Submission of Qualifications:  June 5, 2021

The Town of Middlebury is soliciting qualifications from consultants to assist the Town Planner and Middlebury Planning Commission this year, in drafting revisions to our Land Use and Development Regulations.  These zoning revisions are desired to achieve the land use goals contemplated by our Downtown Master Plan and meet the requirements for a Neighborhood Development Area (NDA) designation from ACCD.

Project Summary
This project will build off the extensive public process held for the 2020 Downtown Master Plan.  Working directly with the Town Planner and Zoning Administrator, the consultant will review existing zoning and identify opportunities for modifications that allow us to encourage infill development and add vitality to the Downtown area, while at the same time preserving the character of our well-loved Downtown neighborhoods.  Proposed zoning changes will be vetted with the Planning Commission at a series of meetings open to the public.  Consultant will work with staff to draft new zoning language as well as illustrations demonstrating particular concepts.  We anticipate the need for creative improvements to both zoning requirements and administrative processes.  We look forward to combining our knowledge of this community with the Consultant’s experience in other places.   Consultant will collaborate with staff to identify what can be tackled now, and also develop a list of future recommendations for zoning improvements (e.g. developing design guidelines, including form-based elements) that can be deployed in future phases.    

Context and Background
We see this as the first phase of zoning improvements to update our regulations.  We have some immediate needs that must be addressed:
• Make changes needed to qualify for Neighborhood Development Area (NDA) designation
• Enable higher density and a diversity of housing types on infill development opportunity sites in Downtown, using our master planning work as a guide
• Address challenges to citing affordable housing projects and social services facilities in Downtown
• Update our review process and requirements and streamline as appropriate
• Ensure the basic framework exists to ensure new construction (including streets) respects Middlebury’s existing character and contain the key elements of good neighborhood design

This project builds upon the 2020 Downtown Master Plan, which among other things identified:
• The need for additional housing across a range of housing types and income levels, including the “missing middle”
• The need to economize on limited available space in Downtown by encouraging infill development  
• The need to protect the integrity of existing residential neighborhoods, by following the rules for good neighborhood design
• The need for better administrative procedures, regulations and mapping related to historic preservation

Community characteristics:
• Middlebury has a fairly intact Downtown with infill development opportunities, but no opportunities for whole-block redevelopment.  Largest lots range from 5-10 acres.
• Downtown is physically constrained by the Middlebury College Campus to the West and Town forests to the East.  The topography is steep and varied and underlain by clay and bedrock.  The Downtown area is served by water, sewer and stormwater.
• Middlebury is the shire town for Addison County and the need to provide housing, goods and services for the surrounding region places a demand on limited space resources.
• Middlebury has very low residential vacancy rates, even for large historic homes.
• We receive a significant number of inquiries from realtors and investors about converting limited single-family housing stock into apartments and commercial space.  These investors have the ability to outcompete people shopping for a home.  Density and use restrictions in certain zoning districts may be protecting limited single-family housing stock in a competitive market.
• Middlebury has a significant amount of Air BnBs.  Some of these are related to investments by Middlebury College parents and alumni.  Some are meeting the need for short-term housing as people relocating to the area search for an affordable home to purchase.
• Middlebury has a sprawling water and sewer system with low hookup fees and no impact fees (school, rec, highway) for new development.  
• Middlebury College limits the number of students living off campus, so the impact of students on neighborhoods is relatively contained to the area immediately surrounding the campus.  The College owns several homes and apartments in Downtown reserved for use as faculty housing.
• Middlebury has several beautiful residential neighborhoods in Downtown, which could happily accommodate some thoughtful infill development and ADUs.

Housing Needs:
• Two major employers, Middlebury College and Porter Hospital, have expressed the need for middle-income or workforce housing proximate to Downtown.  Visiting nurses and short term faculty occupy many of the better-quality rentals.
• Young families and skilled workers have expressed difficulty relocating to or remaining in Middlebury due to the lack of childcare and housing choices.
• Middlebury has an aging population; many empty-nesters have expressed an interest in smaller-sized, high-quality housing in or near Downtown, allowing them to return their family-sized homes to the market.
• Social service providers have expressed an urgent need for more low-income and subsidized affordable housing units in Downtown Middlebury.  Proportionally, these units already account for many of the apartment units in Downtown.  Because of where funding agencies require these projects to be sited, downtown Middlebury and Vergennes must accommodate the majority of projects for all of Addison County.  Local social service providers specifically desire more recovery housing, temporary shelters, entry-level housing for the homeless, voucher-eligible 1BR and studio apartments for singles, and tiny houses.  
• Developer interest in Middlebury has not been keeping up with demand.  We have seen a sluggish rate of new construction in the past decade.  In the past few months residential development interest (multifamily) appears to be rebounding, underscoring the need for higher density allowances and an NDA designation.

The 2020 Downtown Master Plan and accompanying public engagement process made good use of precedent images, concept plans and visual renderings.  We received positive responses from the public to the following:
• Multi-story mixed-use new construction project on a municipally-owned site in the heart of Downtown.  Public preferred multiple buildings with smaller massing.
• A pocket neighborhood development showing a range of housing types (townhomes, single-family, cottage court development) and commercial uses (school) on a parcel set within an existing neighborhood.
• A row of new mixed-use buildings (apts above, retail below) shown tight to the street along a well-known commercial corridor.
• Precedent images showing cottage courts and small structures in a residential setting.

Scope of Work
There is $22,000 available for this project, from a Vermont Municipal Planning Grant.  ACRPC and the Town are able to provide little or no GIS mapping assistance.  Consultant will work with the Town Planner and Planning Commission to develop a zoning amendment addressing the following elements:

• Perform basic updates to the regulations to support higher density while protecting the fabric (form and use) of existing neighborhoods.  
• Help us to quality for a Neighborhood Development Area designation and contemplate related adjustments to the Designated Downtown boundary as needed.
• Ensure our rules enable the forms of development and types of uses visualized in the Downtown Master Plan and supported by public participants.
• Support and encourage a variety of different housing types, including ADUs and housing that meets the urgent needs of social service providers.
• Encourage quality design in new construction.  Integrate some very basic design review guidance into our regulations, preferably including some illustrations/graphics showing best practices and examples allowing us to build up to design standards or guidelines in the future.
• Streamline our review process, reducing subjectivity and confusion.
• Create a map showing historic district boundaries.
• If a zoning map change is contemplated, develop maps for that amendment.

The Consultant will work with staff to create a Project Work Plan that includes a number of virtual meetings with the Planning Commission at their regularly scheduled publicly warned meetings.  The final work product will consist of a draft amendment and maps ready for the Planning Commission to put through the public hearing process for zoning amendments.  Maps will be provided to support an NDA Application and Downtown designation boundary change, but the Town Planner will be responsible for completing those application processes.

To meet the MPG grant deadline, this project must be completed by September 15, 2021.

Submission Requirements
We are not seeking a detailed scope of work or cost proposal at this time.  
Respondents should submit one (1) digital submission (PDF) by midnight EST June 4th 2021 to:

Town of Middlebury
Jennifer Murray, Planning Director
77 Main Street
Middlebury, VT  05753
(802) 458-8010

All responses to the RFQ shall include the following:
1. Cover Letter
A statement describing your interest in the project, what makes your firm a good fit for the project and ability to complete by mid-September 2021.  
2. Statement of Qualifications and Staffing
Provide a summary of qualifications (see description below) and identify the role of each member of the consultant team.  
3. Summary of Relevant Projects and References
Describe relevant experience on similar projects and the work experience of staff involved on the project.  Please include three (3) references from within the past ten (10) years

The Town of Middlebury reserves the right to reject any and all submissions received as a result of this submission, to negotiate with any qualified source, to waive any formality and all technicalities to cancel the RFQ in part or in its entirety, if it is in the best interest of the Town of Middlebury.  This solicitation in no way obligates the Town of Middlebury to award a contract.

RFQ Schedule summary
Qualifications due:  Fri June 4, 2021
Consultants selected for short list and contacted:  Mon June 7, 2021
Possible phone interviews on:  Thurs June 10, 2021
Proposals due:  Mon June 21, 2021
Final consultant selected and nominated to SB: Wed June 23, 2021
Consultant approved by Selectboard:  Tues June 29, 2021
Contract start date:  July 1, 2021
Complete project on or by:  September 15, 2021

Evaluation of Qualifications
Respondents will be evaluated according to the following factors:
1. Consultant Qualifications (experience with similar projects, ability to work with municipalities to attain desired outcomes and knowledge of the topic) – 85%
    a. Experience doing similar work in other communities
    b. Knowledge of Vermont land use and zoning statues, historic preservation, and principles of neighborhood design.
    c. Understanding of the unique challenges faced by smaller Vermont communities in trying to achieve infill development, maintain neighborhood and Downtown vitality and address housing shortages
    d. Ability to work collaboratively with a staff planner and communicate effectively with Planning Commissions in a virtual setting.
    e. Availability to complete project this summer
2.  Quality, completeness and clarity of submission – 15%

Contract Requirements
The consultant contract will be subject to the terms of Attachment D of the Municipal Planning Grant Agreement.