Meeting Minutes : Planning Commission

                                      Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting    

March 28, 2013



Board Members Present: Mike Gecha, Trish Lewis, Chris Beitzel, Kathryn Brown


Board Members Absent:  Don Nickless


Also in Attendance:  Ken Niemczyk  – Zoning Administrator


1.  Call to order


The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by Trish Lewis, Vice-Chair.      


2.  Administrative Matters


There was no discussion held.


3.  Public Hearings


a) Old Business


There was no discussion held.


b) New Business


There was no discussion held.


4. Deliberation


There were no deliberations held.


5.  Public Comments


There was no discussion held.


7.  Other Business


a)   Procedures for moving forward with revisions to the Zoning Ordinance and status report


Trish Lewis requested a review of the Farmworker Housing ordinance. Under Item B, it was questioned how the single family dwelling will be covered. Ken Niemczyk stated a single family dwelling could be a building that is a stand-alone, free-standing building that is used as a residence. Qualifications could be placed on the dwelling in relation to the main farmhouse. Ms. Lewis asked if temporary or permanent or a mix could be included to take care of this, as she was thinking more of temporary as in tents, or an RV. Mr. Niemczyk stated it would be used for temporary employment on the farm during harvesting season or planting season. Mr. Niemczyk stated it is the intent to provide housing for farm workers and as far as the dwellings; he was covering the entire gamut of workers. There are full-time permanent employees or there are full-time workers, but are seasonal type workers. Chris Beitzel stated there are farms that have a caretaker, where there could be sub-houses. Mr. Niemczyk stated there could be a limit placed on the number of single family dwellings. Ms. Lewis stated she is more inclined to go with that type of wording. Kathryn Brown stated there could be established and approved temporary housing, in addition to the farm as it exists. Mike Gecha is concerned with housing that is quickly installed and not approved.  Kathryn Brown stated including the word “established” would avoid this type of issue. Mr. Niemczyk stated a zoning permit from the town would be required and there are qualifications for having a farm worker. Mr. Beitzel stated a recreational vehicle could sit on the property all year. Mr. Niemczyk  stated the recreational vehicle would need to be self-contained with holding tanks for water and sewage and the use would be for more than 90 days, as an RV can be used on any lot in town for up to 90 days.  Mr. Niemczyk stated there could be language that is more specific relative to the use of an RV. There was question concerning the statement indicating this would not include subsistence farming. Mr. Niemczyk stated this type of farming is the homeowner who is doing the farming for their own use and this ordinance would not apply to this type of farming.  Mike Gecha questioned the placement of RV’s. Ken Niemczyk will provide more language relative to RV’s to include time limit and number of RV’s. Chris Beitzel questioned if there are limits on the number of RVs on a farm. Mr. Niemczyk advised there should be a limit of 2 or 3 RV’s on a farm. Trish Lewis was in agreement with a 3 RV limit. Mike Gecha hoped that the farms would go with single family dwellings, rather than RV’s. Mr. Niemczyk stated the ordinance would include a time limit and restrictions for the placement on the property. A zoning permit would be required for the placement of the RV and for other single family, multi-family dwellings. Trish Lewis suggested noting this is a no-fee permit. It is the responsibility of the property owner or operator of the farm to apply for this and the RV could be provided by the property owner, or allow the intern to bring their own RV. Mr. Niemczyk stated anyone can bring someone in with an RV currently, but they cannot stay more than 90 days for farm worker housing. Kathryn Brown noted subsistence farming should be included in the definitions. Ms. Brown felt that all of the bases have been covered and it is a necessary document.  Mr. Niemczyk inquired with other communities in Vermont and this is a collection of the ideas; and will assist farmers in finding workers. 


A discussion was held concerning temporary zoning permits due to catastrophic events. There are a number of towns that have zoning to allow the zoning administrator to sign off on permits to let individuals do what needs to be done to obtain temporary housing. Mr. Niemczyk has contacted other towns to obtain information on this subject. Trish Lewis was in agreement with the document and suggested a change at the beginning of the document indicating the zoning administrator.  Mr. Niemczyk stated one municipality allows a property owner to renew the six month permit, if at the end of 6 months the property owner’s repair is not complete. Mr. Niemczyk suggested making the permit 9 months, with the ability to apply for additional time if required. Mike Gecha noted dealing with insurance companies can extend the repair process. Mr. Niemczyk stated his idea would be to provide a straight 9 months or 12 months. Ms. Brown noted there are still people who are homeless from Irene. It was a consensus of the board to change the timeframe to 12 months.  


Zoning Updates:


Mr. Niemczyk stated Don Nickless requested a status report on the zoning updates. Mr. Niemczyk and Mr. Nickless intend to begin crafting language. Trish Lewis stated there is concern about the development of strip malls, as it is not in keeping with the rural character. Kathryn Brown stated in the past there has been discussion of sprawl and it is desired for development to take place within the village. Mr. Niemczyk advised the changes can be made in the zoning map. Trish Lewis stated there are a lot of rural/industrial areas that are lenient and she does not feel the rural areas are protected from this situation. Mr. Niemczyk stated this is an important change that can be done on the map, which would require a public hearing.  Chris Beitzel felt the map would be the easiest way to change, rather than a change to the wording. The zoning map would allow developers to determine where there is land to accommodate their business. The current businesses in the areas would be grandfathered. The town would prefer development to stay within the village. In discussion of development within the village, it was noted that the town does spread east to west. The development would require going through the Act 250 process, which is very detailed. There was concern expressed that it is difficult to encourage business within the village due to the absence of a downtown district. Ms. Lewis noted the idea is to develop out in a compact grid, nothing there are places on Elm and Arch Street that can be developed. The developers will need to be inventive and the town could potentially offer tax breaks for new businesses. Ms. Lewis is not anti-growth, but she is against sprawl. Mr. Niemczyk stated if the town wants to grow a commercial center, they must expand the village zoning designation to encompass more vacant land to allow development. Ms. Lewis advised articles 15, 16 and 17 are relative to this subject and should be brought to the forefront for consideration. Ms. Lewis stated the town has to have a specific plan, or decisions can be appealed and ruled against. The commission does not want to deny growth, but wish to encourage business within the village, with the potential for tax incentives. Mike Gecha reiterated it will be difficult to develop within the village due to the absence of a downtown district. Mr. Niemczyk stated if Pittsford wants to look like a New England village and do not want sprawl, it must be zoned as such. Chris Beitzel questioned if this would be a realistic possibility. Mr. Niemczyk stated if it is the plan to avoid strip malls, the map would need to be down-zoned or shortened and widened, to force the developers to go into the land area, rather than along the roadway. Mr. Niemczyk noted the zoning map is Item #40 on the zoning regulations checklist and if the map is changed, it would be a part of the zoning regulations.  


Item #6: Relative to whether an accessory dwelling be defined as contiguous to a principal residence, it was noted this means sharing a common wall with a principal building. If the regulation requires being contiguous to the principal building, one will limit the number and types of accessory dwellings. Mr. Niemczyk advised Mr. Nickless thinks accessory dwelling needs to have more wording. Kathryn Brown stated this would be a building on the same property, but not necessarily adjoining; subordinate to or separate from. Mr. Niemczyk advised the definition of an accessory dwelling notes the owner would have the option of either building another dwelling that is or is not attached, but could not exceed 30% of the original dwelling. 


Item #7: With regard to needing more specific definition for accessory dwelling, it was the consensus of the committee to keep the working as is. Mr. Niemczyk suggested adding examples.


Item #13:  Kathryn Brown read the definition of gross floor area and it was the consensus of the committee to keep the definition as stated. Mike Gecha asked if this excludes the accessory structure. It was noted this would be used as a measurement for other issues and has to exclude the accessory structures. 


Item 18: Kathryn Brown read the definition regarding the doubling of fees when one starts a project prior to the issuance of a permit and the committee was in consensus this definition should remain as stated. Mr. Niemczyk suggested replacing the word “may” with “shall”. 


Item 19:  Kathryn Brown advised in reviewing information relative to regulations for an outdoor furnace (OWB), the environmental protection regulations primarily deal with emissions. In 2012, there was a decision not to grandfather certain wood boilers and Ms. Brown noted it should be decided where to allow them and how far from the next dwelling. People can be referred to the state regulations as far as whether they are grandfathered. The question was raised whether the furnaces will they be allowed within the village and what the acreage limits would be. The state indicates the furnaces have to be 300 feet from the next dwelling. It was suggested there be requirements of a minimum 2-acre lot, prohibited in the village designation and not closer than 300 feet from a dwelling.  It was noted the state’s requirement for non-approved furnaces that are within 200 feet of a school have to be removed and destroyed. Most OWB’s sold in Vermont before 3/21/08 are outlawed.  Trish Lewis stated this item should be addressed due to the number of changes and questioned if there could be an appendix in the ordinance that refers to the state regulations.  Mr. Niemczyk stated there should be a clause that spells out the standards and other than the ones that are grandfathered, they should be banned. Kathryn Brown will draft an ordinance for the commission to review. Mr. Niemczyk stated this is going beyond zoning and an outside burning would be an accessory use. For zoning, where it is located on the lot has to meet setbacks and is treated as an accessory structure. The state has the authority over the emissions of an outside furnace and Mr. Niemczyk stated it should also relate to how the wind blows and the topography.


Item 20:  It was noted that fencing around all in-ground pools needs to be added. Mr. Niemczyk asked if there should be a minimum height and the board was in consensus that the height should be 4 feet, which is a normal fence height. Kathryn Brown stated all in-ground pools, as of the approval of the ordinance, should require a fence.  


Items 21: Chris Beitzel advised he needs to do more research on the subject of quarrying. He will also need to review what the original ordinance was. As far as town’s authority, the wording may have to be drafted by the commission.  Kathryn Brown stated there have been ongoing discussions about gravel pits and she feels that this item would also be a similar situation.


Item 29: With regard to Section 106, Mr. Beitzel stated Don Nickless had indicated Mark Blucher of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission had advised there is missing information in this regulation, however, in reviewing the regulation it states verbatim from the state regulations.  Mr. Niemczyk noted perhaps Mr. Nickless had wanted assurance that what is extracted from Chapter 117 is verified. Mr. Beitzel stated he will reconfirm with the state regulations.


Item 32:  With regard to the West Creek Road issue, Trish Lewis stated Mr. Nickless indicated it does not make sense that one side of the road is rural and one side is industrial, when both sides appear to be rural. Ms. Lewis stated in her conversations with Omya, they have indicated that they do not have any plans, but would like to reserve the right. She asked if this would be a grandfathered situation. Ms. Lewis’ recommendations are to make both sides rural and to keep the visual appearance rural. Mr. Niemczyk stated the setback could be expanded to maintain the rural character so that nothing can happen in the front setback. Any uses that infringe upon the rural character could be changed and the commission should go through the list of allowed uses in the zone and eliminate those uses that do not fit in an industrial zone or along particular roadways. This item will require further discussion. Chris Beitzel questioned the status of quarrying the future.  Mr. Niemczyk advised the only place quarrying can take place is in the industrial zone.  


Mr. Niemczyk has been looking into a unified development plan, which is a bylaw where all the regulations are contained, including the sub-divisions and zoning law; and are all administered by a development review board (DRB).  This would require approval of the select board to have two boards, with the DRB having the control. It was suggested that a member of the planning commission should serve as a liaison to the DRB.  There will be further discussion of this item at a subsequent meeting.   


b)   Continued discussion of procedures for finalizing minutes


This item will be discussed at a subsequent meeting.


Next Meeting:  April 25, 2013


11. Adjournment


Motion by Kathryn Brown /Mike Gecha to adjourn the Pittsford Planning Commission meeting at 9:02PM. The motion passed unanimously – 4 to zero. 


Respectfully submitted,



Charlene Bryant
Recording Secret




Approved by,




Don Nickless

Pittsford Planning Commission Chair