Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
April 25, 2013
Board Members Present: Mike Gecha, Trish Lewis, Chris Beitzel, Kathryn Brown, Don Nickless
Also in Attendance: Ken Niemczyk – Zoning Administrator, Patrick Griffin, Philip Picotte, Fred Colburn
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by Don Nickless, Chair.
2. Administrative Matters
a. Election of Officers
Don Nickless advised following the town meeting, there is a requirement to elect a chair, vice-chair and clerk of the Planning Commission. Ken Niemczyk advised in his former employment, the Planning Board had decided to assign him as the clerk to do the necessary paperwork and handle the administrative matters. It would not require voting for the clerk and the only offices to elect would be the chair and the vice-chair. The clerk would then select a recording secretary to do minutes.
Trish Lewis nominated Don Nickless as chair of the Pittsford Planning Commission.
Kathryn Brown nominated Trish Lewis as vice-chair of the Pittsford Planning Commission.
A motion was made by Kathryn Brown and seconded by Mike Gecha to appoint the slate of officers as nominated. The motion passed unanimously.
3. Public Hearings
a) Old Business
There was no discussion held.
b) New Business
1. Application for Subdivision submitted by Mark Wilber, property owner, for property located at 128 Winslow Lane, Parcel ID #1552, in the Town of Pittsford, Vermont to subdivide parcel of land currently consisting of 13.81 acres into three (3) parcels being +3.2 acres for Lot 1, +4.5 acres for Lot 2, and +6.0 acres for Lot 3.
Don Nickless opened the hearing for discussion.
Patrick Griffin from Enman & Kesselring Consulting Engineers was present representing Mark Wilber. Fred Colburn was present as an adjoining landowner. Patrick Griffin stated Mark Wilber owns 13.8 acres near Winslow Lane. The access would be off Winslow Lane and there is an existing easement to the property from Winslow Lane. They are choosing to extend the easement through the property. Don Nickless asked if they are going to modify the easement and Mr. Griffin stated they will create an easement across the lots. The front lot is 3.2 acres, the middle lot is 4.5 acres and the back lot is 6.0 acres. The property has been permitted from the state for subdivision and wastewater. The lots will be for development and there have been building envelopes developed. Mike Gecha noted the figures for the three properties do not add up to the 13.8. Patrick Griffin stated that was a rounding figure. The zoning boundary currently cuts through the lot between commercial and rural. Ken Niemczyk stated the setbacks for residential buildings would be the same in commercial and rural, with 40 feet for the front and 25 feet for the side and rear of the dwellings. Kathryn Brown asked if the builder would be required to build within the approximate building envelopes and it was noted as long as the structure meets with wastewater requirements. Mike Gecha asked if there are alternate septic sites. Patrick Griffin stated there is no reserve site designed at this time. The permits have been issued for water and sewer. Don Nickless asked if there are significant elevation changes and Mr. Griffin stated it is fairly open and flat. The maximum change in elevation ranges from the front lot being generally flat at about 720 and the back lot is 712 and drops to 690. Mr. Nickless questioned how the easement is going to be allocated between the three properties coming off Winslow Lane. Patrick Griffin stated there is no right of way and the easement will be on the two properties and the boundaries are down the middle of the road. The width of the travel will be 25 feet and the actual roadway will be 12 to 15 feet wide. Don Nickless questioned why there is a tongue of land on the last piece of property. Patrick Griffin stated it is a continued easement and was provided in case there is a frontage question. Ken Niemczyk stated there can still be a positive answer without the panhandle. It was noted that it is not a useful piece of land and it is more of a concern for the future if the land turns over to different owners. Patrick Griffin stated this was going to be a driveway, but was likely done to satisfy the town. Ken Niemczyk recited Section 103 and advised it is an either/or item and Item 2 is met; the lot has access from a public road or an easement that is 25 feet in width. The lot would conform without the panhandle. Mr. Griffin stated he can ask Mr. Wilber whether he is amenable to the change. Mr. Niemczyk stated the driveway will go through where the easement is and Lot 2 has an easement now. Mr. Niemczyk stated there is a burden on that portion of the lot and he does not see that large of an additional tax burden. Don Nickless stated a decision can be made and leave this item as an open issue. Mr. Niemczyk stated a definitive decision should be made or it should be continued to the next meeting. It was noted a decision should be made by the Planning Commission and not left to the decision of the property owner. Mr. Colburn asked if it is laid out where the homes would be. Mr. Colburn reviewed the map and questioned if the layout could be changed once divided and it was noted that they could be changed. Ken Niemczyk asked the approximate sizes of the building envelopes and Mr. Griffin noted that they are 135 feet by 150 feet. Mr. Niemczyk stated a building could be moved around within the envelope as it is unlikely that a single family home will encompass the entire envelope. Mr. Colburn requested a copy of a smaller scale of the map. Don Nickless advised questions could not be entertained after the hearing once a decision is made. Mr. Niemczyk stated abutters received notice 18 days prior to this meeting. Mr. Colburn noted the right of way is running along his boundary and he has a concern due to past development. He noted at previous hearings there had been a document provided indicating the setbacks and requirements. It was noted this information is available on the website. Mr. Nickless questioned if there were further comments about the panhandle. Chris Beitzel stated there is no reason to have the additional panhandle since the lots meet the requirements without it. Mr. Nickless asked if this can be conditionally approved based on a change and it was noted this could be done. Ken Niemczyk stated the Planning Commission uses the criteria as laid out in the site plan review regulations and the existing zoning regulations. Mr. Nickless stated this will be moved for approval and Mr. Colburn could potentially come back with concerns. Mr. Niemczyk stated if a decision is made tonight the avenue would be to appeal the decision to the environmental court if an abutter has an issue. Mr. Nickless recommended making the approval based on necessary easements to avoid problems in the future.
A motion was made by Kathryn Brown and seconded by Mike Gecha to close the hearing at 7:30PM. The motion passed unanimously.
A motion was made by Don Nickless and seconded by Trish Lewis to approve the subdivision application, conditional on removal of the panhandle between lot 2 and 3; such that the boundary is a straight line to the northern boundary and further conditional on the approval of the easements for access to each of the three properties. The motion passed unanimously.
Ken Niemczyk advised by law there is 45 days to provide the permit, following a 30-day appeal period. Patrick Griffin asked if the Committee needs Mylars. Mr. Niemczyk stated Mylars are not required, but requested a revised drawing and the language for the easements for review by the clerk.
There was no discussion held.
5. Public Comments
7. Other Business
a) Discussion with Representatives of Rutland Regional Planning Commission re: Pittsford’s Newly Amended Town Plan, Pittsford’s Priorities and RRPC Consultations
Philip Picotte of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) stated the town has been through a recent town plan update and has good representation on the RRPC Board. The RRPC approved the town plan in January and there was a review of how it meets the state goals and there are more pointed questions about whether the town plan supports the state goals. Mr. Picotte suggested reviewing the information he provided and come back with questions or comments. Don Nickless advised there are some issues with converting the information from the town plan to the zoning regulations. Mr. Picotte stated it is much more difficult to translate to forcible zoning regulations. Mr. Picotte stated the RRPC‘s plan was adopted in April 2008 and they have until 2016 to complete a new version. Mr. Picotte reported he is currently drafting a new energy standard to assist in whether a project meets standards outlined in the region. The town plan and regional plan will get due process in the Public Service process. Mike Gecha questioned how the RRPC can support the local committee if their plan is not updated. Mr. Picotte noted the RRPC has to comply with all state laws and the state’s template is followed even though their plan is not updated. Trish Lewis stated there are 24 active commissioners and the RRPC’s plan has to look at the region and cannot be as specific as the town plans. If there is contention between the towns, the RRPC plan has to be of a different focus and take a different look for discussion of items such as the potential ridgeline development. Philip Picotte stated a simple majority for a change could be made and there could be a request to change the town plans regarding wind power on the ridgeline. Mr. Picotte stated the RRPC is redrafting the energy portion of their plan to include standards that will have more weight with the Public Service board. He does not know if the RRPC will adopt the chapters or wait and change it once all chapters are completed. Chris Beitzel asked how many of the towns have town plans that are approved by the RRPC and Mr. Picotte noted almost all have a plan. An approved town plan is required for town or village designation to obtain planning grants. Mr. Beitzel questioned whether the RRPC plan would trump a town plan with the Public Service board and Mr. Picotte advised consideration would be given to both. Don Nickless asked if a town takes initiative and puts into a plan certain goals or proposed limitations within the town and the RRPC is silent about a subject, how might this influence the Public Service board. Mr. Picotte noted the Public Service board should take the town’s requirements into account. The Public Service board should take considerations from both the local Commission and the RRPC; it needs to be determined how to maximize and impress upon the Public Service board the requirements of the town. Mr. Picotte stated the Public Service board‘s responsibilities deal with energy sources. Don Nickless noted the Public Service board does not take into account Act 250 when it comes to energy. Mike Gecha stated when he attended an Act 250 meeting; Bill Burke advised when coming into a town, they do review the town plan first. Mr. Picotte stated as the regional plan is rewritten, there has been discussion on how to address wind turbines. He encouraged the board to continue to express the public’s comments. As far as timing when the RRPC will have the rewrite of their plan complete, it will likely be two to three years before the RRPC adopts the entire plan. Mr. Nickless expressed concern when submitting items to the RRPC and not receiving an immediate confirmation, as there had been an issue of submitting something to the RRPC with no response. Once the change had been approved at the local level, disapproval had been received from RRPC that resulted in changes being required. Mr. Gecha recommended Ms. Lewis bring this concern before the RRPC to discuss. Trish Lewis will make an official request from the RRPC. Chris Beitzel asked how the RRPC obtains public input, other than from its members. Philip Picotte advised once there is a draft for the complete regional plan there will be two to three public hearings held to discuss the plan. Mr. Picotte suggested after the plan has been adopted and regional approval has been requested, he will recommend to the Director that a process be developed for comments from the local Committees. In reviewing Pittsford’s town plan, Mr. Picotte suggested paying attention to potential conflicts that an attorney could use against general issues of the plan. Mr. Picotte will send the Commission members a guide that deals with energy facilities to express the community standards about where to site items.
Mr. Picotte asked if there has been any discussion about natural gas. He advised there is consideration in running a line from the north to Middlebury and there is a docket to expand from East Middlebury, south easterly to International Paper in Ticonderoga, NY. They have also expressed an interest in continuing to Rutland. Mr. Picotte stated Omya has invested in a natural gas facility that will be delivering to Florence. Mr. Picotte advised the line in Monkton will follow town roads and right of ways, but the initial plans were that Monkton would not be served and would receive no benefit from the line. The question would be whether a line would serve the village. If Pittsford wants its village area to take advantage of natural gas, it would be helpful for it to be in the regional plan. Mr. Picotte stated more influence is given in the regional plan for natural gas, as opposed to the electrical facilities. Trish Lewis advised she has called Vermont Gas to offer assistance in working with them in planning the lines. Mr. Picotte advised that Steve Wark is the point person for the expansion to Middlebury and Ticonderoga. Trish Lewis, as a member of the Energy Committee, would like to determine what mitigation can be done to benefit Pittsford. Philip Picotte stated as it is passing through town, it needs to be determined if they want the village to benefit from this line. With regard to Omya’s liquefied natural gas, there are no U. S.-approved train rails and it will have to be transported using a specially built L & G truck to be brought in from Boston. Mr. Picotte advised there is a grant that can be used for training in the event of natural gas issues. It was note that Tom Hooker of Pittsford would be the contact person to discuss this type of training. Don Nickless stated it is assumed that Omya would assure the local fire department would be trained in the event of issues with the natural gas.
Mr. Picotte asked if the Committee had any type of training needs. Mr. Nickless advised the Committee could use some expertise and back-up with revisions to the plan, if the RRPC is staffed for this type of help. The local Committee has paid for assistance in the past for revision of the plan. Kathryn Brown asked if the RRPC works with Mike Mosher, the census expert. Mr. Niemczyk advised he would be a good resource for figures on housing and population. Mike Gecha noted as a village, Pittsford is eligible for grants; however, would the RRPC also be eligible for grants to assist the town. Mr. Picotte encouraged the Committee to apply for the planning grants that are available, which are usually $3,000.00 to $6,000.00 for zoning or town plan updates. Mr. Picotte stated the RRPC receives money from the state and they have to use this for assisting and training for towns. Ken Niemczyk asked what the annual fee is that the town pays to the RRPC and Mr. Picotte advised it is $875.00. The town in turn receives benefits that include access to the RRPC training, basic assistance in finding information for updating of the plans, but not entire rewrites of plans. Trish Lewis noted she has always received timely answers on specific questions posed to the RRP. Mr. Gecha asked how the Committee finds out when money becomes available and Mr. Picotte advised the grants that the RRPC receives are used internally to assist the towns, but are not pass-through grants to the towns. He advised the process for municipal planning grants is usually the submission of an application during August, with a determination received by December. Mr. Picotte stated the grants are generally for 12 to 18 months. Philip Picotte stated his focus is emergency management, hazardous material, and floodplain management. If Pittsford has a traffic counting need, he encouraged the Committee to contact the RRPC. Don Nickless requested information on traffic calming. Mr. Picotte stated the focus is on slowing down the traffic and would involve installing speed bumps or trees. He noted there are different elements that the town could request VTrans add. He noted that enforcement is the other area. Mr. Picotte suggested discussing this issue with Susan Schribe in the VTrans office. The Committee thanked Mr. Picotte for attending the meeting and providing information.
b. Continued discussion of procedures for finalizing minutes
Don Nickless stated there has been an issue with getting minutes approved in the past and a proposal has been submitted to place timeframes in communicating with the recording secretary on comments about the minutes. At a minimum, there needs to be a draft available to the public in five days. If the board wants to continue with a procedure where corrections are made electronically; suggestions were made for the members of the Commission to respond to the recording secretary with comments within 3 days of receipt, with the final corrected draft forwarded to Mr. Niemczyk within 3 days by the recording secretary. It is hoped to use the minutes as the notice of decisions that normally accompanies a permit. Mr. Nickless stated in a permit approval, findings and supporting arguments should be complete. It is acceptable to use the minutes to substantiate the findings, but the minutes have to be accurate. Mr. Niemczyk stated when an application is before the Commission, the motion needs to be specific and the motion should have a findings of facts, the listing of conclusion of law and a statement where the Commission approves the application, with conditions, if required. There was a consensus that the Commission is agreeable with the chair signing the approved final draft of the minutes.
Next Meeting: May 23, 2013
A motion was made by Chris Beitzel and seconded by Mike Gecha to adjourn the Pittsford Planning Commission meeting at 9:01PM. The motion passed unanimously – 4 to zero.
Pittsford Planning Commission Chair