Board Members Present: David Soulia, Dave Mills, Rick Conway, Chuck Charbonneau, Kevin Blow
Board Members Absent: Mark Winslow
Also in Attendance: Jeff Biasuzzi, Alicia Malay, Tharon Malay, Tammy Hitchcock
The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by Dave Mills – Chair.
Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Kevin Blow to approve the agenda as amended. The motion passed unanimously.
Addition of Item 5. Chairman’s Comments
Approval of Minutes
October 19, 2017 Planning Commission Regular Meeting and October 19, 2017 Planning Commission Hearing Minutes
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by David Soulia to approve the October 19th Planning Commission Meeting and Hearing minutes.
In the Planning Commission meeting minutes, a change under Item 4: Town Plan Updating Process to replace Dave Mills with David Soulia in first sentence. A correction in the October 19th Hearing minutes to include Mike Sullivan in attendance.
December 28, 2017 Planning Commission Regular Meeting
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by David Soulia to approve the December 28, 2017 Planning Commission meeting as amended. The motion passed unanimously.
Kevin Blow had requested clarification of which Commissioner had made the statement under the Public Comments section on Page 2, Paragraph 2 regarding the village map. Jeff Biasuzzi reviewed the recording to determine that Rick Conway was the Commissioner.
January 11, 2018 Planning Commission Special Meeting
This item was postponed to a subsequent meeting.
Tharon Malay asked if there is any information on the plan to fix the sidewalks on Route 7, as Mr. Conway had indicated in a meeting there is a desire to fix the sidewalks. Rick Conway advised that he was referring to the grant money that is available to the Town; however, the Town would have a match for those funds. It was thought there could be money taken from the Burditt Fund, but there was discussion of whether this met the threshold of the Burditt Fund. As far as the highway upgrades, it is uncertain what that timeline will be. It was noted that Joe Gagnon has concerns with putting in new sidewalks prior to the Route 7 upgrade only to have them torn up. Alicia Malay stated Peg Flory had indicated it would likely be 25 years before the Route 7 project is done. Mr. Malay noted it is dangerous for people to walk on those sidewalks. With regard to the Burditt Fund, it is uncertain if this type of project would qualify. Chuck Charbonneau advised the Town’s attorney is reviewing the Burditt Fund, due to the change with the new school district. Mr. Conway stated the Town needs to have the Town Plan in effect and adopted to be eligible for these types of grants and was one of the reasons the Planning Commission wanted to get the Town Plan adopted, as the Town was on a deadline for reapplying for grants. At last night’s Select Board Meeting, John Haverstock advised the Town was beyond the 90-day extension and now had to start over. David Mills noted the worst part of this scenario is that the work had been done in June and it had been hoped the State would extend a courtesy because the Village District Map was out of date.
Dave Mills read the following article from the Addison Eagle with regard to the Open Meeting Law: “Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay reported Feb. 13 that the Vermont House Government Operations Committee took testimony recently on a committee bill that would make substantial changes to Vermont’s Open Meeting Law. Among these proposed changes is a narrowing of the definition of what constitutes a meeting to include any communications of a “serial” nature between at least two members of a board, either directly or through intermediaries, “to discuss or take action on any business of the public body, even if the individual communication does not involve a quorum of the public body.” The proposed legislation would also create a new open government ombudsman position that would be empowered to investigate alleged violations of the Open Meeting Law. Board members briefly shared their thoughts and concerns with Ramsey about how the proposed legislation, which will create more transparency in local government, could impact government operations.”
Mr. Mills noted the case of a lawsuit in Bennington where the Select Board and Planning Commission are being sued over the Enhanced Energy policy. Mr. Mills questioned the Town Manager about whether the Planning Commission members would be covered under the Town’s insurance policy regarding possible litigation relating to Act 171 possibly being considered a Regulatory Taking Under Inverse Condemnation. John Haverstock forwarded the inquiry to the VLCT. Mr. Mills read the following response from Pam Fecteau at VLCT: “Hi John, yes it does appear that the Exclusion in Section V, B #3 would most likely apply to the scenario listed below. It would depend on what is actually alleged and a determination would be made based on the terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions of the coverage document when the claim is presented. Hope this helps. Pam”
Rick Conway stated also named in the suit are adverse parties to the application as well because now in Act 250 there is recourse for an applicant to seek damages for opposition, increased costs, etc. It was believed the case might be at the U. S. District Court. Mr. Mills stated because Attorney Kupferer had indicated there could be suits and in working for the Town if it makes everyone liable for the actions of the Planning Commission, he has a problem with that. Mr. Mills wanted to be sure that all Planning Commission members were aware of this item.
Future Planning Commission Projects
Dave Mills reported Mark Winslow had suggested the Planning Commission look into the zoning changes that were discussed at the Zoning hearing and to do research on subdivision. Mr. Winslow has had individuals ask if the Planning Commission might consider making changes in the zones. Mr. Mills suggested those individuals could attend a Planning Commission meeting to discuss the proposed changes. David Soulia stated the Planning Commission had also received emails from the Malays. Mr. Mills questioned whether the Planning Commission wanted to wait until the new Committee convenes and brings that information before the Planning Commission. Tharon Malay thought the Select Board was going to choose four people for the Committee to work with the Planning Commission on the changes. Rick Conway noted this is new business, however, the Planning Commission had a clear indication from people back in June 2016 regarding the zoning issue and the Planning Commission had indicated they would be contacted if changes were made to zoning. Mr. Conway has had two requests from Harry Carter who is still interested in this topic. Mr. Carter had attended Planning Commission meetings requesting status on this item. The Planning Commission needs to get the map corrected. The Planning Commissions also needs to make sure the expanded Industrial District it is included in the zoning amendment. Mr. Conway noted there had been contentious issues with Route 3 and the zoning map still indicates Rural Commercial because the Town Plan map needed changing. Now that the Town Plan map is correct, the Planning Commission needs to work with the zoning map to update it correctly. Mr. Mills stated it would likely take four months to do the updates required. Mr. Soulia also suggested looking at subdivisions in the rules and regulations, as requested by Mr. Winslow. Jeff Biasuzzi stated quite a bit of work had been done on subdivisions by the previous planning commission and it might not be as formidable a task as thought. The State has a concise guideline piece and standards that need to be met. It was noted that Mr. Winslow was researching whether this is an option the Town wants to consider.
Rick Conway noted that Dave Mills had attended the RRPC’s January 16th and January 30th RRPC Energy meetings. In the January 16th meeting, Ms. Pulling had provided information on adding a Wind Energy map and was asked to provide a more thorough explanation of Compact Development at the next meeting by Commissioner Smith. Dave Mills stated the Wind maps had been removed from the RRPC’s Energy plan, as wind had been removed except for residential use. The State then indicated that even though the Region is not going have wind power, the maps still have to be included in the Plan. It was noted that ANR ranks wind from 1 to 7 and the only ideal wind from 5 to 7 is right along the Green Mountains. Mr. Mills noted Grandpa’s Knob area was only rated a 2 to 3. Mr. Conway stated there was discussion of changing the draft plan. Mr. Mills advised that he would try to obtain an electronic copy of RRPC’s draft Energy plan for the Planning Commission’s review. Mr. Mills noted he did not agree with many of the items that are in the Plan. Mr. Conway expressed concern the RRPC’s meeting minutes are minimal and suggested investing in a recorder for the RRPC meeting. He advised there were people that attended a Planning Commission meeting expressing concern about wind and he wants to be certain people know if there have been changes made at the State and Regional levels concerning this subject. He also noted all Planning Commission members should have the information on what is going on at the Regional meetings. Mr. Mills noted on another concern that Dave Soulia and he attended the October RRPC meeting to review the Pittsford Town Plan because there had been some minor changes and a map issue. The RRPC was supposed to have provided a letter in response for the local Planning Commission’s October 19th hearing, but it never arrived. When the RRPC’s agenda for their next month’s meeting was received, the Pittsford Town Plan was again on the agenda. Mr. Mills stated there had also been discussions with Ed Bove of the RRPC with regard to adding a village support system, but the Planning Commission preferred a change to Route 3 and Route 7, as requested by the townspeople. Mr. Conway reiterated that it would be worthwhile having a recording of the RRPC’s meetings, as their meetings do concern him. Mr. Mills will stay on as the RRPC Rep and noted there would only be the need for two recorders because there are two subcommittees that meet prior to the full board reconvening for the regular meeting. Chuck Charbonneau suggested the RRPC be asked to start recording their own meetings and providing a copy to all district members. Alicia Malay stated T. J. Donovan will be prosecuting issues regarding the Open Meeting laws. Mr. Conway noted the decisions made at the RRPC meetings are impacting the local boards and that during the January 30th Energy meeting, the Committee decided to restrict the preferred areas list to state-preferred areas and to restrict the list of regional constraints to Current Use and Conserved/Protected areas.
Dave Mills stated whatever the State has for the preferred areas is what will be included in the RRPC plan for solar. As far as he is concerned, as well as most towns present at the meeting, that wind is not considered to be in the Energy Plan. Mr. Mills stated they added much more solar to replace the wind. Mr. Conway suggested the new Pittsford Committee being formed could potentially be representatives from the Town to the RRPC’s meetings to obtain information on the workings of the RRPC. Mr. Mills stated there were new Energy maps received and with regard to conserved areas, the Regional Plan will include a regional constrained map. Mr. Conway stated if a decision were made to place wind on Grandpa’s Knob, the State would have to go through eminent domain to place a tower in that location. Mr. Conway expressed concern that the Planning Commission has an obligation of knowing what is on the maps. Mr. Mills advised the State required the maps to be in the Plan, but as far as the RRPC is concerned, they do not consider wind in the Plan. Alicia Malay stated there had been information presented with the renewable sources and asked what individuals could do to assist with this renewable energy. Mr. Mills stated the Plan indicates Pittsford’s requirement for solar would be 80 acres and residential rooftop solar would count towards that area. He noted there are 20 towns in the county and the State averaged the solar based on the number of towns, not on energy consumption. Jeff Biasuzzi stated there are many secondary forests in Vermont and putting in solar projects in those areas are preferable to using agriculture property and the energy credits obtained from the Public Utility Commission (PUC) is greater in those areas than on prime agriculture soils. The regulations for solar changed significantly in 2017 and if one uses secondary sites, they get more preference by the PUC that makes the project more attractive to the developer. Mr. Biasuzzi stated Pittsford has some projects that are not highly visible and provided an example of a socially conscious business in Wallingford that installed a solar project that serves the needs of a local industry that is a local taxpayer.
Dave Mills stated the next Planning Commission meeting would include discussion of the Zoning map and zoning changes for Routes 3 and 7. Mr. Mills suggested the Planning Commission members review the Zoning regulations prior to the next meeting. Rick Conway questioned what classification the new Committee being formed will work by. Mr. Mills advised the Committee would have publicly warned meetings that will include the posting of agendas and minutes. The VLCT had confirmed the new Committee would have to conform to the regulations of the Open Meeting Law. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the Select Board would likely provide specific tasks for the Committee to work on. Mr. Conway asked if John Haverstock had requested the Zoning Administrator mail the approved Town Plan to all appropriate parties. Mr. Biasuzzi advised the document would be mailed by Friday in accordance to VSA 24, Subsection 4385.
Schedule Date for Next Meeting
March 22, 2018 @ 7:00PM – Planning Commission Meeting
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded Kevin Blow to adjourn the meeting at 8:20PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission