The meeting was called to order at 6:00PM by Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Chairman.
Select Board members present: Joseph Gagnon, Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, and Thomas Hooker. Absent: Allen Hitchcock, Margaret “Peg” Flory,
Also present: Thor Konwin, Don Nickless, Kathy Brown, Bruce Paynter, Anita Paynter, David Rowe, Tom Carrara, Robin Rowe (6:10 PM), John Haverstock and Kelly Giard, Recording Secretary
The purpose of this meeting is a public hearing for comment on the proposed Town Plan adoption.
T. Pelkey read an overview of the proposed Town Plan indicating that all areas of the Plan have been reviewed and that is available for review at the Town Offices during regular business hours, as well as posted on the Town’s website.
T. Pelkey stressed that the meeting will be limited to comments with regard to the Town Plan.
D. Nickless, Chairman of the Planning Commission, had no further comments regarding the Town Plan as they were delivered on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
J. Haverstock thanked the members of the Planning Commission for the hard work that was put into this project.
J. Haverstock read a letter from Frank von Turkovich, who was not able to attend the Public Hearings with regard to the Town Plan. The letter contents are as follows:
January 7, 2010
Town of Pittsford, Vermont, Selectboard
Re:New Town Plan
Dear Selectboard members;
As you know, our company has been involved for a long time with plans to construct a new post office for the Town of Pittsford.
The town’s planning commission and zoning board have always been supportive of our applications to construct such a facility on the corner of Plains Road and Route 7. However, despite having obtained local permits and Act 250 permits, the project was derailed in the appeal process. The last version of the project was approved both locally and by the Environmental Court only to run afoul of some arcane procedural rules when it was reviewed by the state’s Supreme Court. Since then, we have carefully reconsidered the issues concerning the project but have been stopped from going forward by the lack of a legal and complete zoning regulation for the town. We have been waiting for it to be readopted and know that the first step is for the town to review and adopt a new Town Plan. A draft of the proposed new Town Plan was revealed in November of this year.
We are concerned about some of the language in the proposed plan. Specifically, on page 43, the plan talks about a “Village Center” being localized in the area adjacent to Kamuda’s Store, the McClure Library and the Hilltop Tavern. The plan goes on to specify that this area has been designated as a “Vermont State Designated Village Center area.” Later, on page 37, the plan states that, “ideally, a post office would be situated within the Village Center” area of the town.
I am writing to ask you to please clarify that it is not the town’s intention to adopt a zoning regulation that would prohibit the construction of a post office in areas other than a “Village Center.” Currently, as you know, the town’s Village Center District includes much of the area along the Route 7 corridor, reflecting the reality that the community has grown along that stretch of highway. Much of the town’s business investment is situated along the road. We would hope that it is not the town’s intention to create a zoning regulation that would prohibit realistic development in the current Village Center District.
Accordingly, we would ask the Selectboard to please make it clear in its minutes that none of the language contained in the Town Plan shall be construed to indicate a desire to change the boundaries of the existing Village Center District and that a post office will be a permitted use. We would hope that those boundaries would remain as currently placed. This would not, in our opinion, detract at all from the land that has been designated as a “Vermont State Designated Village Center” area. Those parcels would enjoy whatever special benefits they are entitled to without limiting the rights of other property owners in the town, including ourselves, as owners of the property located on Plains Road.
Otherwise, we would like the Selectboard to consider modifying the language contained on page 37 as follows:
Pittsford needs a new post office and it ideally would be located in a safe and convenient area for all residents, especially the elderly who may live within walking distance of any proposed location. Ideally, a new
post office would be situated within the Village Center so that it could benefit from and add to the shared amenities of the center, but nothing herein contained shall be construed to prohibit the construction of a post office in other parts of the town in compliance with all applicable zoning regulations.
However, in our opinion, so long as the Selectboard is willing to state its intention to preserve the boundary of the existing Village Center District and confirm that a post office will be a permitted use, then we would agree that the additional language we have proposed to page 37 should not be necessary. If the Selectboard agrees, it will be able to review the changes made to the zoning ordinance to ensure that these rights remain intact.
We are sincerely hope that Pittsford will soon be able to have a new post office facility. It is clearly long overdue. We are anxious to move forward with this and would appreciate the town’s consideration of this issue so that we do not find ourselves engaged in further litigation and delay.
Thank you for your consideration.
/s Frank vonTurkovich
T. Hooker indicated that the concerns that Mr. vonTurkovich raised were raised on January 6, 2010 and the village was explained as containing an area from Route 3 to Plains Road.
J. Haverstock also indicated that Mr. vonTurkovich was stating concern with regard to a new Zoning Ordinance being adopted and J. Haverstock felt that it was a bit premature to identify what should be included in these ordinances as the ordinances should be developed in conjunction with the new Town Plan.
B. Paynter presented a hand-out, which was reviewed. Mr. Paynter indicated that he was neutral to the outcome of the post office, siting controversy, but that he was concerned with the process to be used to decide the location. Mr. Paynter feels that the “cards are stacked” to build the post office at the Forrest Farm.
Mr. Paynter’s hand-out was presented as follows:
“COMMENTARY ON PROPOSED TOWN PLAN
The following discussion concerns the Proposed Town Plan and its handling of the question of locating a new Post Office and the question of the proposed Forest Farm project.
At the outset, some definitions are in order. The Proposed Town Plan (hereinafter referred to as the “Town Plan”) used the term “village center” in several ways in various parts of the document; and sometimes its use is at best ambiguous.
The following are some of the meanings of the term:
MEANING #1: “DESIGNATED VILLAGE CENTER” (DVC) or “VILLAGE CENTER DESIGNATION” This meaning appears to have a legal definition that is provided by Title 24 V.S.A. § 2793a. It would be extremely useful to include a map of the DVC in the Town Plan. I presume, without any real basis, that the DVC essentially runs along Route 7 from the Mobil Station to Plains Road.
MEANING #2: “Village Center” This meaning is used to indicate a smaller locality than the term as used in DVC. Thus, using this meaning it is possible to state “The Forrest Farm is located at what most residents would currently call the Village Center area with Pittsford’s more popular and existing venues already located adjacent to the site”¹ and “The Forrest Farm site is within the Vermont State Designated Village Center.”²
MEANING #3: “Village Center” This meaning is used to indicate the middle of the village. Perhaps it is used to indicate some point located equidistant from the Mobil Station and Plains Road. Consider the following “It is also interesting to note that the count sites in the middle of the village averaged approximately 10,000 adjusted average daily traffic (AADT) are higher than those counts taken
south and north of the village center which were recorded at 8,000 and 9,000 AADT.”³ (emphasis added).
A problem arises when the Town Plan uses these terms indiscriminately and/or ambiguously. For example: “Town Roads: Town roads include non-arterial corridors within, or proximate to, the village center which serves residential and commercial users.”4 Here, in this case, it is unlikely that the term is being used with meaning #2, because a village center with that meaning is just a “pie in the sky” concept and would not fit. Nor does meaning #3. Much more likely is the concept of meaning #1.
If one were panning for gold in this Town Plan, one would find the nugget of gold in the vision statement. It is there that the plans true purpose is revealed.
The following section is excerpted from Page 6 of the proposed Town Plan:
“A town with a preserved rural heritage and character with a pedestrian friendly Village Center supporting the development of business opportunities, with well developed social, civic, and recreational activities and venues that provide benefits to an active and diverse community.” (emphasis added).
I submit that the term “Village Center” as used in the Vision statement is used with meaning #2. Perhaps the clue that gives it away is the term “pedestrian friendly.” I do not see where the DVC is ever going to be pedestrian friendly in its entirety, mainly because it is somewhat spread out and there is no parking available.
On page 10 the Plan goes on to build its case:
“Pittsford is unusual in that it lacks a developed village center. A village center would provide synergistic business opportunities with convenience for shoppers, while limiting the negative aspect associated with uncontrolled sprawl.”
Here again, “village center” is being used with meaning #2. It can’t be meaning #1, because it has a “Designated Village Center already. No, what Pittsford lacks is a centralized, pedestrian friendly area – perhaps a 2 or 3 block area like Brandon, or perhaps an area the size of the Forest Farm.
Next, turn to the subject of the Post Office. On page 37 the current Post Office is described as a brief indication to the saga of the PO Controversy. More important is the following:
‘The location of the post office can be important in the Town’s development of a village center and its location should be given very careful consideration.”
If the Pittsford Selectboard members sign off on this section, they have ceded considerable control of the location over to the Planning Commission.
While the Designated Village Center section on page 43 does cover in some detail, it would have been more aptly titled THE FOREST FARM IS THE NEW VILLAGE CENTER. It is the capstone of their argument. Consider the following:
“The Forrest Farm is located at what most residents would currently call the Village Center area with Pittsford’s more popular and existing venues already located adjacent to the site including the Maclure Library, Kamuda’s Country Store, The Hilltop Tavern, and the Post Office.”
The most glaring flaw in this part of the argument is the assertion that “most residents would currently call” the intersection of Route 7 and Arch Street the Village Center area. I would accept as credible the assertion that most of members on the Planning Commission think of that area as the Village Center, or likewise, that most, if not all, the members of the PCC think of that area as being the Village Center. But the Planning Commission produces no scientific, objective, credible evidence that most residents harbor this notion. Thus, this appears to be merely a subjective notion that is held by the Planning Commission.
Secondly, the Planning Commission offers the group of the library, Kamudas, the tavern as being a major draw to that location. I do not repeat the Post Office – because its location is potentially up for grabs. Now consider the following nexus: the Food Shelf, Keith’s Country Store, the Bank, the Congregational Church, Blanchard’s. Who is to say which location would be the bigger draw, all things being equal.
With regard to elderly persons walking to the PO at the Arch Street location, persons residing at the Village Manor have mail delivered to their building and they evidently have their own mail boxes there, additionally, they are able to mail letters out at that location. There does not appear to be major foot traffic from that location presently to the PO. There are some other elderly persons presently that do walk from their private residences to the PO, but the sad truth is that elderly persons eventually will pass on, and that those persons who are middle aged now, will soon be elderly. To base a long range plan on where to locate the post office or village center where elderly people are currently living is not reasonable. Potentially, all areas of the designated Village Center are areas where elderly people might reside in the future. Equally true, is that elderly housing might be able to be constructed or modified in various areas.
On page 13 the Town Plan states the following:
“Economic development in Pittsford should proceed in full recognition of ‘smart growth principles.”
This is another statement calculated to favor the Forest Farm project. The phrase “in full recognition” is only slightly less deferential than “in full compliance.” Furthermore, who is supporting the PCC in promoting the Forest Farm project, none other than SMART GROWTH VERMONT.
If the Selectboard signs off on this phrase, it’s just one more nail in the coffin for any Post Office location other than that at the Forest Farm.
A much weaker, but more equitable, phrase might be “smart growth principals are one factor that might be considered when reviewing development applications.”
Embedded in this Proposed Town Plan is the primary goal of having the Forest Farm become the new Village Center. Whereas it is seen by those proponents of this goal that the new Post Office is essential to the success of this plan, certain provisions that will enable this outcome are also embedded in the document.
The inherent weakness of such a Town Plan is that its success is there is no money to build a Post Office, this plan will not succeed, assuming the premise that a Village Center is dependent on the PO.”
Mr. Paynter discussed the above comments, which is the wording that was included in the hand-out that was presented.
Mr. Paynter expressed a desire that any building of a post office be done fairly.
J. Haverstock indicated that a legal opinion was received on a related matter and that it will be discussed in Executive Session.
T. Carrara inquired if part of the Town Plan should include a plan to not get into further legal disputes. T. Pelkey indicated that Mr. Carrara’s comments will be taken into consideration.
D. Nickless explained the difference between smart growth principles and Smart Growth Vermont, in response to Mr. Paynter’s presentation. The State of Vermont encourages smart growth principles and was not created in conjunction with Smart Growth Vermont. These differences are reflected in the proposed Town Plan.
D. Nickless indicated that there is a group interested in developing the Forrest Farm as a possible expansion or creating a new Village Center. The location of post office is pending further decisions. D. Nickless indicated that, as of the writing of the Plan, there were no considerations of the Zoning Regulations and that the Town Plan has no impact on the future writing of these regulations. D. Nickless indicated that there were no ulterior motivations or mischievous intent to influence whether the post office would be built at the Forrest Farm property.
T. Hooker indicated that the Post Office was also a concern of his on January 6, 2010 and was clarified at that time.
J. Haverstock explained that the minutes of the two public hearings will reflect that there is no intent of the Planning Commission to choose sides as to the location of a future post office. J. Haverstock explained that the minutes are a reflection of the intent of the Town’s legislative body that would possibly adopt the proposed Town Plan.
B. Paynter indicated that, in the past, applications that were submitted to the Planning Commission with regard to the post office were handled fairly. However, the post office project at the Forrest Farm would need clarification in the wording, to prevent litigation. Mr. Paynter indicated that the Town Plan document is not favorable and felt that Mr. vonTurkovich may have interpreted the document in the same way.
T. Carrara inquired whether there would be a public vote with regard to adopting the Town Plan. T. Pelkey indicated that the Select Board would hold a public vote, following a deliberative session, and not a vote that would occur at Town Meeting. B. Paynter inquired if the vote would be held this evening. T. Pelkey indicated that there is no way of knowing this.
J. Gagnon inquired if more study should be conducted with regard to the Indiana bats. D. Nickless indicated that former Planning Commission member Sally Eugair wrote this section and there are no details as to the information that is included in the proposed Plan. D. Nickless indicated that it is his belief that the information was obtained from the USDA. J. Gagnon inquired if there could be changes to this section to request more study be done with regard to the Indiana bats. J. Haverstock indicated that it is his impression that if there are any changes to the Town Plan that was presented to the Select Board, that the project would go back to the Planning Commission and the hearing process would need to begin again.
B. Paynter indicated that he believes that the “major” changes require starting the hearing process over and “minor” changes may only require another hearing at the Select Board level.
T. Carrara inquired whether each member of the Select Board has read the proposed Town Plan. T. Hooker, T. Pelkey, and J. Gagnon all indicated that they had read the Town Plan. T. Carrara inquired whether A. Hitchcock and M. Flory have read the proposed Town Plan. T. Pelkey advised that Mr. Carrara needs to contact these individuals and ask the question of them directly.
D. Nickless explained that a “major” change would go back to the Planning Commission, which would consider changes, hold hearings, resubmit to the Select Board, and then the Select Board would again have to hold hearings. “Minor” changes would require the Planning Commission to review the proposed changes and submit a report to the Select Board as to whether the changes affect the mission/vision of the Plan itself.
Motion by T. Pelkey and seconded by T. Hooker to enter into Deliberative Session for consideration of adoption of the Town Plan. K. Giard and J. Haverstock were invited to remain for Deliberative Session.
The Select Board entered into Deliberative Session at 6:46 PM.
T. Pelkey wished to thank the public for their input at the public hearings and wished to thank the members of the Planning Commission for their hard work on the Plan.
The Select Board reconvened at 7:13 PM.
Motion by T. Pelkey and seconded by T. Hooker to accept the Proposed Town Plan, based on an understanding of the testimony and presentation of the map that shows the Village Center Designation to encompass the entire village from Plains Road boundaries to the Route 3 boundaries, as written and presented. Passed unanimously 3 – 0.
Meeting adjourned at 7:14 PM.
Kelly Giard, Recording Secretary
Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Chairman
Allen Hitchcock, Vice Chairman – Absent
W. Joseph Gagnon, Selectman
Thomas Hooker, Selectman
Margaret “Peg” Flory, Selectman – Absent