Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
January 26, 2017
Board Members Present: David Soulia, Kevin Blow, Dave Mills, Rick Conway, Mark Winslow, Chuck Charbonneau
Board Members Absent: Colleen Hobbs
Also in Attendance: Jeff Biasuzzi – Zoning Administrator, Dan Adams, Kelsey Adams, Elisabeth Kulas, Melissa Disorda, Ed Keith Jr., Julie Keith
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by David Soulia – Chair.
2. Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by Mark Winslow and seconded by Dave Mills to approve the agenda as amended. The motion passed unanimously.
Removal of the word Special in the title of the agenda
3. Approval of Minute
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Dave Mills to approve the December 1, 2016 Planning Commission meeting minutes as presented. The motion passed with one abstention – David Soulia.
5. Presentation on Forrest Farm by Housing Trust of Rutland County
Elisabeth Kulis, Executive Director, and Melissa Disorda of the Housing Trust of Rutland County were present to provide a presentation. The Housing Trust is a nonprofit organization that focuses on affordable housing, development and management. It has been in Rutland County for 25 years and owns 47 properties, with several properties in Brandon, Benson, Rutland and West Rutland. Some of the properties converted to affordable housing include the renovated Admin Building at the previous Brandon Training School, the Erastus Thayer building in Brandon, the Watkins School in Rutland City and the Stanislaus School in West Rutland. The Adams House on the Green in Fair Haven was renovated into senior housing. Ms. Kulis stated these are good examples of white elephants that are in prominent locations in the communities and are no longer being utilized for the original purpose. The Housing Trust is actively working with Proctor on the Vermont Marble building for the College of St. Joseph to use for its PA program; which would be a good fit, as it does not have other potential uses. The Housing Trust tries to marry the sites with a demonstrated need. Ms. Kulis advised that the many years ago when Bob Forrest was interested in selling the parcel, she was approached by residents to secure the property to expand the downtown. There was originally 144 acres and it was conducive to many things like multi-level terraced housing to expand the village center. The Housing Trust was excited about the concepts and talked about potential funders with the Town and the people in the community; however, the parcel was appraised and was not valued at what was being asked. This property has now been brought to the forefront again. Ms. Kulis is starting conversations with Lyle Jepson to see if there are other ways for the community to have these conversations. They are interested in working with the Town; if the Town wants to drive it, but they are not in the position to pull all the pieces together. Ms. Kulis is representing a housing organization, which would be a part of the redevelopment. Ms. Kulis stated REDC would be interested in being part of the exercise and support the community in pulling something together. Mark Winslow asked what the proposal would be and Ms. Kulis stated it is first the Town’s decision whether there is interested in discussing what it might look like. She stated if there were interest in exploring what Pittsford would look like in 20 years, she would be interested in helping.
Baird Morgan stated he was on the Planning Commission 20 years ago and there had been a series of meetings in the past with Mark Blucher of REDC overseeing the meetings. They discussed what the people wanted the Town to look like in 30 years for the development of a Town Plan. People had expressed interest in having a town center with residential and businesses around the Forrest farm. Mr. Moran and Ms. Kulis have been in conversation since around the early 2000’s. Mr. Morgan stated there is no formal idea but there is a piece of property that is available and once it goes, it will be gone for good. The Town has an opportunity at this point to direct what it would like to see happen with a prime piece of real estate in town.
Ms. Kulis provided the web address for the Housing Trust: www.housingrutland.org and noted she will be meeting with the Vermont Council on Community Development, as they are trying to get better with collaboration, economic development and housing. Pittsford is predominately residential, but there could potentially be an opportunity for economic development. Kevin Blow asked what the cost of a rental unit would be. Ms. Kulis suggested a 2-bedroom unit would range from $680.00 to $720.00 with heat and hot water. Ms. Kulis noted they handle the property management with a 13-person staff in maintaining the properties, working with the local vendors, doing the resident selections and leases. All of their properties have restrictions and fall under Act 75 that is an evaluation process articulated by law through the State and requires the municipality use the income approach through a formula that is used. They pay the commercial rate but pay on the restrictions on the property. They cannot sell the property the same way that a private owner can, as there are restrictions placed on the title of the property and the property taxes are paid in accordance with the State process. Ms. Kulis advised they are not looking at potentially owning the entire property and are looking at the redevelopment of part of the property. Jeff Biasuzzi asked if they have viewed the building. Ms. Kulis had toured several years ago, but there would have to be an analysis done again, as the house is part of the overall redevelopment and that information would have to be investigated. Mr. Biasuzzi asked if there is income sensitivity given to the renters. Ms. Kulis stated they would evaluate where the market is, i.e. senior housing, etc. When assessing the property, there are multiple ways to value it and the income approach is what is used a lot and is mandated by the State because of the legal restrictions on the resale of the property. With subsidies, it would depend on the funding packages. They are mandated to keep the rents under a certain rate and they use federal, state and private investor dollars so that the rents are used for the upkeep. Mr. Biasuzzi asked if there are grants available. Ms. Kulis suggested a conversation between Lyle Jepson, the Select Board and the Town Manager to discuss options. There is a Vermont Community Development Planning grant to potentially update the visioning concept and do conceptual site designs. Rick Conway questioned what the anticipated number of units would be. Ms. Kulis does not know what the enhanced village center would be. Their projects tend to be in the 15 to 20 unit range, but they may determine that a different number needs to be done that would perhaps require the addition of another building in town to do a scattered site development. Kevin Blow stated the Town of Pittsford will most likely not have the sewer capacity and they would have to evaluate the site to determine the infrastructure. Baird Morgan was told there is capacity for 25 units. Ms. Kulis stated this is a good opportunity to bring some partners to the table to do a great project and it can make Pittsford a destination for a calm, green place to live. Ms. Kulis encouraged the Planning Commission to let the Housing Trust know if there is interest. If so, they would have a more formal conversation with John Haverstock and the Select Board and noted this could be a goal of the Planning Commission when updating the Town Plan.
4. Public Comments
Dan Adams stated the overall concept of developing a village center is a good idea. Pittsford is Route 7 and people drive through it. It is a bedroom community and the Town currently does not have anything to keep people here. He noted initially when there were discussions, the purchase price was the hindrance, but that is not the case now. He does not know what the Housing Trust expects Pittsford’s involvement to be, but he thought it should be explored. Rick Conway advised the Rutland Regional Planning Commission has a new concept of what the village center should be and where it should be. He stated things have changed and the Regional Commission is talking about village support districts that are outside the village limits. Mr. Adams stated there is a state level movement for reuse of existing buildings. Mr. Adams stated the Forrest farm is a concept but there would be many bridges to cross and he represents the sellers who are trying to liquidate the property.
Jeff Biasuzzi stated it does not sound like the group wants the entire 20 acres. Dan Adams stated it would likely be a collaboration to do some mixed housing in affordable and middle income. Their properties are assessed at the town level based on subsidized rents that are mandated to be below current market. It would be a vast improvement, but this would be about 70% of fair market value. The property is listed at $200,000.00 for the entire piece left. Dave Mills stated there had been a previous discussion of having an athletic center that could also be a community center for other events. Ed Keith stated there was discussion of having a building to house AAU events. Mr. Mills stated this could be an anchor for other businesses that would complement it. Kelsey Adams stated the sellers have a lot of land besides the house and even if the house is not used, there is plenty of property to use. Chuck Charbonneau stated this is something that needs to get out to the townspeople for their input. Julie Keith questioned the issue with sewer capacity and Dan Adams advised there is talk of expanding the sewer. Rick Conway had a conversation with John Haverstock concerning sewer capacity and did not receive a definitive answer. Mr. Conway’s concern is what the total sewer allotment would be to do this project. He stated Pittsford’s parking requirements would also eat up land. Mr. Adams stated there are 22 acres total with the house and the barn and goes to the bottom of the hill, about 100 yards from the track. Mr. Adams advised the permission was received to sell off the 127-acre parcel, which frees up the rest of property to sell. The cost of the house, barn and four acres is $125,000.00; if someone wants just the 18 acres without the barn it would be $168,000.00.
Jeff Biasuzzi advised that he would provide the Planning Commission an article about housing trend predictions from the American Planning Association. Mr. Biasuzzi also distributed an article from the VLCT updating the bills that are in the new session. There is a proposal that is critical to the Planning Commission, which is 9L relating to Act 250. The issue of urban sprawl will be mitigated provided the Town issues a local permit. There is also a bill to take the storm water rules and change them from 1 acre to ½ acre.
6. Miscellaneous Commission Items
Dave Mills reported the Rutland Regional Planning Commission’s meeting was cancelled last week. There was a meeting held in mid-December regarding energy as it related to Act 174. Mr. Mills stated it needs to be decided if an Energy Section should be included in the Town Plan. Act 174 dictates that towns will be 50% renewable energy by 2025 and 90% by 2050. Maps will be distributed from the State by April 20th and similar to the Wildlife Corridor, the State has determined the best locations in the state for solar and wind power. The question had been asked if a town does not want wind if it could increase the solar. It was advised that the energies have to be complimentary, however, it is unknown how this is going to work and it is uncertain if eminent domain will come into effect. Mr. Mills reported that Kevin Blow, Rick Conway and he attended a planning event. The advantage of having an energy component in the Town Plan is that the Town would have a little more say, but it is not absolute. The people in the Town need to understand it is a mandate from the State. Mr. Mills advised that he will be attending the Regional Planning Commission meeting on January 31st. Rick Conway stated the Planning Commission has to give this some thought and move forward with the Town Plan, but be mindful that it may change in two years. Mr. Mills stated if the Town wants to have more say, it will require an energy component in the Plan. Mr. Conway stated the Planning Commission has to take into consideration the private property owners’ rights. Jeff Biasuzzi stated in going for substantial deference, a town has to identify sites that may be considered as suitable for variance renewable sites. They are looking for the evaluation of the total energy efficiency package and credit will be given for savings as well as generation. The Regional Planning Commission is planning to get all towns to establish enough in their town plans to apply for substantial deference. Mr. Biasuzzi asked if there would be a system of calculating the total energy rather than just electrical generation. Mr. Conway asked what will be the baseline used. Mr. Mills advised the State would be providing all of this information by town. Chuck Charbonneau expressed concern that today the trend is solar, but that will run out when the money runs out. He noted there has been negative comments on solar and windmills and he would not tell any property owner what they have to do with their property. Mr. Mills advised that the Town would be accountable for whatever is put in the Town Plan, as there has to be progress shown. The Planning Commission commended Mr. Mills for attending the Regional Planning Commission meetings and bringing the information back to the Commission.
Mark Winslow expressed concern relating to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission membership; specifically Omya’s issue with Annette Smith publishing private contact information on-line. David Soulia advised that he spoke with Ed Bove of the Regional Planning Commission with regard to the issue and was advised that Ms. Smith is a representative from a sending town and was not on the staff of the Regional Planning Commission.
David Soulia provided an update on the Pittsford Plan survey results as of January 26th. Mr. Soulia asked the Zoning Administrator to scan the comments from the survey and send to the Planning Commission members for review. Mr. Soulia reported the Town has lost a business, Chris Clark Auto Repair, due to Act 250 conflicts and issues. This had a lot to do with the status of Route 3. Rick Conway advised it used to all be commercial. Mr. Conway stated this is a good illustration of 9L, as this is a casualty for Pittsford. Jeff Biasuzzi stated he had been advised that Clarks was being reviewed because Act 250 thought the size of the business had increased. Mr. Biasuzzi noted if Pittsford were a 10-acre town, there would not have been this issue. It was suggested that at some point a representative from Act 250 be invited to one of the Planning Commission meetings to discuss one-acre versus ten-acres.
Rick Conway reported he has discussed the maps with attorney, Gary Kuepfer. From a legal standpoint there needs to be confirmation that there are no material changes. Once confirmed by the Regional Planning Commission, he suggested bringing this information to the Select Board to keep them in the loop. The map needs to be dated and there needs to be an author noted on the map from the Regional Planning Commission.
David Soulia stated since the passing of the regulations, the Zoning Administrator has been able to do a couple of parcels. Mr. Biasuzzi advised the Planning Commission there is a property on the Whipple Hollow Road for sale. Mr. Biasuzzi has viewed the property and advised that it is .4 acres that the Town had taken over. It is mapped as being in the flood plain and wetlands, but he is unsure if it is actually in the wetlands.
7. Continue Town Plan Updating Process
Dave Mills recommended completing the Town Plan rewrite by taking sections of the Town Plan and having 2-person committees complete the rewrites between regularly scheduled meetings for review and discussion by the Committee as a whole at the meetings in an effort to speed up the process. Mark Winslow and Dave Mills will do the Farming section. Bev Peterson will be contacting Omya to rewrite the section about Omya. Rick Conway provided the Historical Society the History section for rewrite. Jim Rademacher submitted the Education section rewrite. Jeff Biasuzzi reached out to Shawn Erickson to review the Transportation section. Rick Conway stated Colleen Hobbs and he would continue to work on the Vision and Goals in the interim. Mr. Soulia advised that he would be unable to do the typing part of the Town Plan and suggested either another member could volunteer to do the task or the Planning Commission could hire someone to do the typing.
8. Schedule Date for Next Meeting
February 23, 2017 – Regular Planning Commission Meeting
A motion was made by Dave Mills and seconded by Mark Winslow to adjourn the Planning Commission meeting at 9:01PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission