Meeting Minutes : Planning Commission


Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting    

December 19, 2013


Board Members Present: Kathryn Brown, Don Nickless, Trish Lewis, Chris Beitzel


Board Members Absent:  


Also in Attendance: Ken Niemczyk – Zoning Administrator, David Buzzell, Helen Buzzell, Doug Cummings, Mark Winslow, Joseph Gagnon, Marty Markowski, Ed Keith, Dan Adams, David Markowski, Kelly Carter, Mike Blanchard, John Keith, Bruce Paynter, Mike Blanchard, Hank Pelkey, Maggie Meyer, Dana Conway, Rick Conway, Beverly Taranovich, Harry Carter, Chuck Charbonneau, Eileen Hoffman, Mark Winslow, Lloyd Provin, Jr., T. J. Turner, Jim Bourne, Chris McLaughlin, Jim Richards, Sandy Conway (See attached Sign-in Sheet for full list of Attendees)


1.  Call to order


The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by Don Nickless, Chair.      


Don Nickless recessed the meeting at 7:02PM for the purpose of reconvening the meeting at the Lothrop Town Hall.


2.  Administrative Matters


There was no discussion held.


3.  Public Hearings


a) Old Business


There was no discussion held.   


b) New Business


1.                Hearing for Proposed Changes to the Pittsford Zoning Map


The hearing was opened at 7:15PM.


The purpose of the hearing was to solicit public comment for the zoning map for the Town of Pittsford. Don Nickless opened the floor for public comment, noting the Planning Commission was present to listen and take into consideration public comment before taking further action on the zoning map.  The town attorney was present to answer any legal questions. The hearing was for discussion of the update to the zoning map, as updates to the town regulations will not be available for public discussion for another couple of months. The proposed changes came about from recommendations from the Regional Planning Commission and the State of Vermont. There is a recommendation for towns to manage development through a process known as “Smart Growth” that discourages urban sprawl and encourages development within town villages. It is not a mandate, but are recommendations. Procedurally, there has to be at least one Planning Commission hearing and possibly a second hearing. The Select Board would then hold two hearings on the proposal presented by the Planning Commission. Hank Pelkey stated discussion should be civil and respectful. Maggie Myer asked if the Planning Commission wants new commercial businesses coming into the town. Mr. Nickless stated the Planning Commission encourages new businesses. She questioned how many new businesses have come into town in the past five years, noting taxes are increasing and anything that would prohibit or discourage business would be a detriment to the town. Mr. Nickless stated the Planning Commission wants to encourage business growth, but the town has to determine how they want to preserve the areas of the town and look at growth in a comprehensive view.  Dana Conway lives in the Commercial zone on Route 7 and asked what is wrong with the way it is. If the zoning is changed, he asked who will compensate him for the decrease in value of his property, as the value will suffer significantly. Dan Adams questioned what he could do with his property because of non-conforming use. Mr. Nickless stated he could continue the current use. In reviewing the regulations, the Planning Commission will see that the article and regulations on grandfathered Commercial uses are maintained. Mr. Adams stated an existing non-conforming use could not be expanded and this needs to be clarified.  He also asked about the Rural Commercial along Route 7 and Route 3, as they will suffer a loss of value. Mr. Nickless stated they would be rezoned Rural and there would be many other uses in the rural areas and there is no intention to make any significant changes to the use tables in rural zones. Mr. Adams does not understand how a zoning map could be put out without a list of the possible uses.  Mr. Nickless stated there is an existing set of regulations that will not change and whatever the zoning regulations are will apply. Rick Conway, Vice-Chairman of the Zoning Board stated the zoning map has caused much confusion. Mr. Conway was on the Planning Commission when the zoning map was developed and they went out to the townspeople and asked what they wanted for their areas and that was how the areas evolved. He asked if any of the property owners affected were advised of the proposed changes and it was noted the Planning Commission had not personally talked to the people affected. Mr. Conway asked how to orchestrate zoning if the map is changed before the regulations, as the map would contradict the regulations.  Mr. Adams stated the map plays a part and should go hand and hand with the zoning bylaws and he does not believe that that either should be put up for a hearing without the other. Mr. Adams was the Chair of the Planning Commission for ten years and there were four public hearings held the last time there was a change. The proposed changes are based on input from the State of Vermont and the Regional Planning Commission. Rick Conway stated Pittsford needs to have good zoning but questioned where all commercial would go in the village. Mr. Conway noted the Zoning Board’s hands are tied when the zoning regulations and the map do not match. Mr. Nickless stated the two will fit together and the Planning Commission is present to obtain public input. John Keith, business and home owner, stated he is against this change as it will be detrimental to the town in doing away with Commercial along the Route 7 corridor and removing Industrial down Kendall Hill. There are people that appreciate Omya being in town and this would hurt them. Beverly Taranovich, owner of  property at the end of Route 3, stated this property has been leased  by Green Mountain Power over the last eight years, however, the lease is up. Since the use has been an electric company, it would limit the uses and she is concerned about future leasing or the ability to sell the property as a commercial building. Don Nickless stated the Planning Commission is aware of the issue at hand and consideration will be given to avoid detrimental issues for people. This is one of the items the Planning Commission will be considering. David Markowski, taxpayer and businessman, stated he was a Selectman and was the Chairman of the Water and Sewer Commission. He noted the town has invested several millions in a water system and sewage treatment plant. The water system runs south on Route 7 for about 2 miles, north on Route 7 and down Kendall Hill. He hopes that in looking at the recommendations from the state, consideration is given to this investment. Without commercial dollars, it would be the expense of the users. To establish economic stability and pay for the services that are necessary, Mr. Markowski recommended the Planning Commission abandon the recommendations from the state for changing the zoning map at this point. Harry Carter stated he is a member of a family business that has been in Pittsford since 1929 and is in agreement with Mr. Markowski and Mr. Adams. Bruce Paynter stated that zoning is not a bad thing and encouraged the Planning Commission to be sensitive to the needs of the community. Mr. Paynter thought the Planning Commission is isolated from the community. Don Nickless stated all Planning Commission and Select Board meetings are open to the public and the Commission would like to see more people participate. He encouraged more people to join the Planning Commission. Mr. Nickless stated there is a vision for the town in the Town Plan that was developed through a series of meetings and included input from local business people, the fire department and other town groups. Dan Adams appreciates what the Planning Commission does, however, they need to obtain public input, noting when the current zoning map was developed there were public meetings held. Trish Lewis suggested hosting a workshop and brainstorming session with individuals interested in working on this project. Chuck Charbonneau noted input has been provided tonight and people are not happy with this change. Eileen Hoffman stated in removing Commercial from the Route 7 corridor, it will affect people from investing in the community. Mark Winslow, owner of Winslow Farm, is against the change along Route 7 and Route 3. He does not agree with the proposed changes that will affect his and his neighbor’s property rights. Pittsford needs to offer jobs and he does not believe this change encourages that. Lloyd Provin Jr. stated he cannot imagine where a commercial property will go in the village, as the village is for homes and he is in favor of the existing map. T. J. Turner, local farm owner, noted he will probably never sell his farm, however, he does not agree with the change that would affect his children’s property rights in the future. Don Nickless advised the state is making recommendations, but the changes are not mandated.  Stephanie Elnicki, a property owner on Route 7, noted the state has a vision and asked the Planning Commission to be transparent with their vision for the community to continue to grow, thrive and survive. Mr. Nickless stated the Town Plan has had extensive changes that reflects the views of at least 200 people that attended the meetings. The Town Plan that is presently written reflects the consolidated views of many and is an accurate reflection of the feedback, which is the town’s vision.  From that should flow the activities within the town guided by the Select Board and the Planning Commission. There are several ideas being discussed such as a tax holiday for new businesses to encourage business. Ms. Elnicki stated there needs to be different types of businesses with a healthy mix. Rick Conway appreciates what the Planning Commission does, but putting all commercial in the village will not work. Mr. Conway requested a copy of the report relating to the proposal, as he has been unable to obtain one. Joe Gagnon stated Route 3 and Route 7 are the main roads that come through this town and any commercial property should be left to do whatever they need to do. He would hesitate to take Industrial or Commercial land off the maps.  When someone wants to build along Route 7, there are regulations and businesses have to go through several agencies before a business can be opened. He suggested removing a few regulations, rather than adding them. Tony Flanders, resident of East Pittsford and manager of Factory Direct Homes stated if there is not a problem, it should not be changed. Mr. Conway stated the Planning Commission can accomplish changes through permitting and there is not a need to change the map, as the town has permitting power. Mr. Nickless stated the process for the proposed changes to the map would include the Planning Commission holding one or more hearings, followed by the Select Board holding two hearings, with the ultimate decision to be made by the Select Board. He noted there is a limit of authority and regulations do not arbitrarily happen. Mr. Conway expressed concern that removing Commercial from the main corridors to town will stifle business. Jim Bourne stated part of the problem is fear and input has been provided to the Planning Commission this evening that people are not in favor of the change. He noted there are other ways of instituting change and questioned why the Planning Commission would want to do something the community does not want. Kelley Carter stated there are not a lot of younger people staying in the area and she is concerned that they will have to go elsewhere for jobs. Mr. Nickless stated the existing situation has not been very positive in finding ways to increase jobs and there needs to be something done to help create changes and generate growth. Chris McLaughin asked why the town is not going to the state to ask them to assist with bringing businesses to the town.  Marty Markowski stated the towns are supposed to be ruling themselves and they have lost touch with the federal and state governments; and towns should be telling them what needs to be done. Rachel Giddings questioned who drew up the proposed map, what was wrong with the existing map and why there is going to be changes. Ms. Giddings suggested scrapping the proposal and contacting the businesses and citizens to assist with the vision for the town.  Carmilla Carter questioned why information was not placed in the Pittsford newsletter.   Ms. Elnicki stated if there was consideration to change the map, the Planning Commission should figure out what the impact on citizens and business owners is before proposing the changes. Rick Conway expressed concern with putting all commercial within the village with regard to traffic. He stated the Zoning Board needs to know what is going on with the Planning Commission and he was troubled that he could not get the information from Zoning Administrator. He respects everyone’s opinions and noted the town’s boards need young people to bring new ideas. It was noted there will not be a public vote. The Select Board can decide to put it to a vote. John Keith asked if the public can petition to direct the Planning Commission to scrap the idea. Mr. Nickless stated the public can raise a petition that will add incentive, as it shows broad support for the public view. Jim Richards asked if this is a form of condemnation. Gary Kupfer stated with regard to procedure, basically this is the first step. It would go to public hearings with the Select Board and they would take a vote. There is a petition procedure that would require 5% of the voters.  The Select Board would adopt the zoning map, not the Planning Commission. Mr. Kupfer stated it would be an uphill battle to prove this is condemnation. It was questioned if any Planning Commission members own property on Route 7 and it was noted that Chris Beitzel lives on Old Colony Way.  The Planning Commission was questioned whether they are against sprawl. Don Nickless stated it is not appropriate for the Planning Commission to take a position. Dan Adams asked where the impetus comes from to do away with the Commercial, Rural Commercial and Industrial zoning. Mr. Nickless stated Mark Blucher had provided recommendations, as the town is not in conformance with the goals of the state. Mr. Adams advised when he was on the Planning Commission, they worked with Mr. Blucher, but at the time they did not go along with the recommendations. Sandy Conway stated most of the right of way through the village is 99 feet and she cannot envision squeezing businesses in. Rick Conway stated this was a two year battle, however, the state prevailed and the right of way is now 100 feet. This changes everything within the village as people have lost 25 feet from the street line. Don Nickless stated the Planning Commission will reconsider the proposal and no action will be taken at this point. Jill Blanchard asked how the further action on this item will be communicated back to the public. Mr. Nickless stated future hearings and meetings will be warned and posted. The Planning Commission’s regular meetings are held the 4th Thursday of each month starting at 7:00PM. Chuck Charbonneau stated the Planning Commission has been provided input and he suggested doing a mass email to those present who have provided their email address.


4. Deliberation


 There was no discussion held.



6.  Other Business


There was no discussion held.


7. Next Regular Meeting                   


Thursday, January 23, 2013 @ 7:00PM at the Pittsford Town Office


8. Adjournment


A motion was made by Don Nickless and seconded by Trish Lewis to adjourn the Pittsford Planning Commission meeting at 8:49PM. The motion passed unanimously. 


Respectfully submitted,


Charlene Bryant
Recording Secret


Approved by,



 The Pittsford Planning Commission