Meeting Minutes : Planning Commission

Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
August 28, 2014

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

Board Members Absent:

Also in Attendance: Ken Niemczyk – Zoning Administrator, Mike Gecha, Timothy Baker, Sam Markowski, Kevin Blow, Samantha Blow, Sandra Conway, Richard Conway, Harry Carter, Kelly Carter, Michael Carter, Roger Rowe, Colleen Conway, Albert Maxham, C.M. Billing, A. James Grace, Mark Pape, Lloyd Provin Jr., Howard Stickney III, Ron Smith, Brad Keith, Ed Keith, Jr., Joe Gagnon, Patrick McLaughlin, Thomas W. Grace Jr., Mark Winslow

1. Call to order

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

Agenda Item 2a was moved to the end of the agenda.

2. Administrative Matters

a. Corrections to April 17, 2014 minutes

This item was subsequently postponed to a future meeting.

3. Public Hearings

a. New Business

1) Application for subdivision submitted by Timothy Baker, property owner, for property located at 224 Butler Lane (Florence), Parcel ID #0347 in the Town of Pittsford, Vermont. The proposal is to subdivide parcel of land currently consisting of 10.69 acres into two (2) parcels being +/-8.67 acres for Lot 1 and +/-2.02 acres of Lot 2.

Timothy Baker was present to request a subdivision of his 10.69 acre property into two parcels for the purpose of building a house on the smaller lot; one lot to be a +/- 2.02 acre lot and the second lot to be +/- 8.67 acres. Don Nickless questioned the CVPS and Verizon easement and Mr. Baker advised it is on a small corner of the property. Trish Lewis questioned whether there is an access to the smaller lot and Mr. Baker advised there is currently on old driveway to the property. It was questioned if the line has been surveyed and Mr. Baker confirmed that it has been and the pins are more than 10 inches high. The intent is for the owner to build a house on the property. Mr. Baker has had an engineer review the property to do a design for water and septic, but property has not been perked yet. Ken Niemczyk advised the permit could be approved pending the receipt of necessary permits for septic and water.

A motion was made by Trish Lewis and seconded by Kathy Brown to close the hearing at 7:05PM. The motion passed unanimously.

A motion was made by Trish Lewis and seconded by Kathy Brown to approve the permit for the subdivision of Parcel ID #0347 consisting of 10.69 acres into two (2) parcels being +/-8.67 acres for Lot 1 and +/-2.02 acres for Lot 2, with the condition the Zoning Administrator receives the state permits for water and septic. The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Nickless advised Mr. Baker that he would be receiving a response from the Zoning Administrator that will include the conditions of the permit approval.

b. Review of the Proposed Amendments to the Town of Pittsford Zoning Ordinance

Don Nickless stated the proposed changes to the zoning regulationsinclude the changes to state and regional regulations. The intent of the meeting is not to impose changes, but to get feedback and take comments for consideration.

Harry Carter expressed concern that he had not heard about the meeting and questioned if an attempt was made to publicly announce the meeting. Mr. Nickless advised the changes have been discussed for 6 months and has been noted on the Planning Commission agendas. There is not a requirement to do an outreach to the public such as a registered letter, as it would be cost-prohibitive. There had been a proposal to email the public; however, the town does not have a listing of all emails. The Planning Commission follows the rules that the state provides and tries to obtain feedback from the public. It was noted there will be subsequent hearings on this subject.

Sam Markowski asked if the meeting had been warned 15 days ago and Mr. Niemczyk confirmed it had appeared in the Rutland Herald on August 9th and was posted in three public places and on the website on August 7th.

Kevin Blow stated at the meeting concerning the zoning map, email addresses were provided. Mr. Nickless stated there had been a comment made to consider contacting people in town by email and this could be considered. It was noted that people had thought that by providing their emails at the meeting they would be provided information going forward. Mr. Nickless advised that the Planning Commission currently has only the sign-up sheet from that meeting and there is not a listing of emails from the attendees. Kelly Carter suggested starting another email listfor information to be provided to those interested parties going forward. Trish Lewis suggested the Planning Commission obtain assistance in distributing this information.

Rick Conway suggested Mr. Niemczyk, as Clerk of the Board, could be a resource available. Mr. Conway expressed concern that Pittsford is everyone’s town and people are upset because there is confusion about the proposed changes. He stated the information being provided by the town office is not up to date and questioned why there are constant revisions to the zoning. He thinks the people are upset because the actions and what is going on is perceived as hidden agendas. Mr. Nickless noted he has asked for assistance from the public, as there is a lot of work to be done and the Commission would welcome volunteers to share in the workload. Mr. Nickless requested comments this evening be phrased in a constructive way.

Sam Markowski questioned why the zoning is being rewritten again when it had been amended and questioned whether the wording is from the Regional Planning Commission as he is aware they offer assistance. Mr. Markowski questioned the section on Site Development, Page 38, concerning the reduction of the amount of material from 30 cubic yards to 10 cubic yards. It was noted this amount would not equal a tandem dumpload and the quantity makes no sense. He suggested eliminating the section as everyone would have to apply for a permit to get a load of dirt. There are many state rules and regulations and anyone that has a business is overregulated and he does not see the Planning Commission creating another level of regulations. This regulation would mean more work for the Zoning Administrator and the Planning Commission.

Don Nickless stated an example of the previous changes are a result of FEMA changing their requirements. The Planning Commission had to abide by the changes to enable citizens in the town to be able to acquire flood insurance. There were a number of changes made to abide by the state, federal and regional requirements that had changed, while some of the regulations were cleaned up to make them more understandable. There were also changes made in response to the hearings that were held for the Town Plan.

With regard to Section 1118, it was questioned why there was a change made to go from 30 cubic yards to 10 cubic yards. Don Nickless stated there is the potential for changing elevations or creating a change in the water flow pattern. Mr. Nickless thought more consideration should have been given to this item and it will need to be revisited. It was noted this regulation has always been in the regulations, but comments are valid regarding the reduction in the amount.

Pat McLaughlin expressed concern about the meeting notification and questioned if people that currently bring in loads more than 30 yards need a permit. Don Nickless stated according to the regulation that would be the case. Mr. McLaughlin suggested placing notices in with the tax bills to inform people about the meetings. Trish Lewis agreed this is a good idea; however, due to the infrequency of mailing the tax bills, there needs to be another method of notifying people more frequently.

Mike Gecha stated as a business owner, he thinks that the first part of this regulation should be removed and only use the last part. He does agree with the adverse effects part, but the stipulation of 10 cubic yards should be removed, as this could be a couple of yards of top soil. He stated that it is hard to sit on a board and develop rules, but this board makes rules that other boards have to enforce and there should be co-mingling between the boards. There should be common sense used with some of the regulations that are passed down from the state.

Rick Conway stated the Zoning Board has difficulty making the regulations work and to try to administer them is not easy. The applicants have difficulty as they are not clear and concise. He stated the intent of zoning is to prevent the overcrowding of land and can be illustrated by boundary points. The Zoning Board has to be careful as there are towns around that do not have zoning. There has not been a lot before the Zoning Board, but he sees people struggling and there is a lot of unrest and not a lot of communication. Mr. Conway does not think the update is needed and feels what the town has right now is sufficient and they should not be made more intense and cost-prohibitive. He wants good growth in the town and he thinks everyone in Pittsford works together.

Albert Maxham questioned whether the Planning Commission had written the regulations or if they are a copy of another town’s zoning. Mr. Nickless advised the regulations are Pittsford’s regulations that began in 1966. Mr. Maxham questioned the regulation noted on Page 53 requiring a permit for a dog house over 16 square feet. Trish Lewis stated there were deletions and additions made to the current zoning regulations. Mr. Maxham does not think that most people could understand the regulations.

Ken Niemczyk stated the document the Planning Commission has been working with was initially written in 1989 when it was adopted. There were changes made in 2010, but there was a court case that threw out the changes and the regulations reverted back to the 1989 version. The interim zoning regulations became permanent zoning in 2013. Mr. Nickless stated the Town Plan had expired and the zoning regulations should not have been approved because the Town Plan had expired. It was necessary to update the Town Plan and get it approved. Mr. Conway stated zoning never goes away unless it is voted out. It was noted that the Town Plan has tobe in effect for Act 250 regulations and is readopted every five years. Mr. Niemczyk stated all notations in black were written in 1989 and all of the verbiage in red was crafted by this Planning Commission.

Kelly Carter questioned Regulation 1114 for a permit for partial or full demotion of astructure. Trish Lewis stated there is no cost for the permit and this was specifically requested by the listers so they know when a building is damaged or torn down in order to adjust the property value.

Samantha Blow questioned if there is a map regarding the Wildlife Corridor referenced in Section 504b on Page 18. Trish Lewis stated she will obtain the map from the Nature Conservancy and add it as an attachment. Ms. Blow stated this will likely affect their property and she would like to know that they can give her children land and this could affect building on their property. Ms. Lewis stated there may be larger setbacks and slightly tighter parameters. Mark Winslow read a statement from David Mills, noting that in speaking with the Town Manager he was advised that the Wildlife Corridor was a dead issue and he questioned why it is referenced when the landowners are strongly opposed to it. Mr. Winslow is concerned that the Nature Conservancy has determined that his land is in the Wildlife Corridor. This item is subjective and he is not in favor it.

Joe Gagnonstated he was at a meeting when the Wildlife Corridor first started and his land is next to Mr. Winslow. As a landowner no one has come to him to indicate that his land is under consideration as part of the Wildlife Corridor. He has land in several places and he is opposed to the Corridor. Don Nickless stated there is no classification or definition of a Wildlife Corridor. Some groups have mapped migration patterns of the wildlife, but there is no formality to it. Sam Markowski stated if there is no map, the town should not participate in this. Mr. Conway felt if the true intent is not known then it should be removed. Tom Grace expressed concern if this is added; the state could then make regulations that would make the land useless. Mr. Nickless stated people wanted to protect the rural character of Pittsford. Kelly Carter asked for a show of hands of who would like to see this item scratched from the zoning and it was a general consensusof those in attendance to eliminate the Wildlife Corridor section.

Lloyd Provin, Jr. is concerned with the sign changes in Section 901 on Page 27, as there is a sign that is 15 feet on his building and the regulation states signs would have a maximum width of 8 feet. Trish Lewis stated his sign would be grandfathered in, which would include the ability to repair it. Rick Conway asked what the impetus is to have this regulation since it is thought that there are good regulations on signs and he does not see the need to make changes. There is also concern with the temporary signs and the restriction of two weeks. Ms. Lewis stated there are places where a sign is put out and it stays until it falls apart. It was noted the Haunted House sign is up for four weeks. Mr. Conway stated there is a mechanism in place to file a complaint and since there is a regulation, it is unnecessary to make any changes.

It was questioned why everything was changed from should to shall. Mr. Nickless stated there are a number of court cases where the regulations need to be very specific and should becomes a subjective opinion and there was a recommendation from the state to change to shall so that the regulations cannot be misinterpreted.

There was a question concerning vehicle repair as it relates to home occupations. It was noted there is contradicting information. On the original regulation, it states that vehicle repair or body work is not considered under home occupations. Mr. Nickless suggested the last sentence could be dropped. The Zoning Administrator stated the language prohibiting vehicle repair is written in the state law and Mr. Niemczyk read the state law and advised he will get clarification on this item.

Howard Stickney stated from a younger person’s perspective, he has looked at the red highlights andhe sees things getting harder. If someone wants to build a house, it requires a 100 year watershed report. He noted being a small business owner, if he cannot work on his vehicles, he could not make it. Mr. Niemczyk stated people are allowed to work on their own vehicles and the regulation addresses a business. If vehicles are part of an individual’s business, they can work on their own vehicles. Mr. Conway asked if there are other home occupations that are regulated, as this appears to be discrimination. Mr. Niemczyk reiterated he will get this item clarified. Mr. Stickney understands the point of zoning, but things seem to be straying from a common sense point of view.

Sam Markowski stated there are some places where one has to go through a permit to change a door and Pittsford is not there yet, but he senses that maybe it is going in that direction and perhaps there does not need to be changes to some things. The town needs to be reactive and it is good to be proactive, but in viewing what has happened in Pittsford over the past 10 years, there has not been a lot of industry or development in town. It is difficult for businesses to move to this region as it is costly. Mr. Nicklessstated the Commission reviewed the zoning in the village and questioned why there is a need for one-acre lots. There were changes made to reduce setbacks and increase lot coverage. There were a number of things that were changed in the village to provide a larger footprint to make it less onerous to develop in the village.

Rick Conway stated the origin of the one-acre parcels in the village was because there were not the isolation distances for the wells and septics. Mr. Nickless cited the sizes for one-family and two-family dwellings and the limitations of the current regulations. Mr. Conway stated there is a preexisting and nonconformance clause and it would not require a variance. Mr. Nickless stated there were restrictions on the lot coverage that have been changed. TrishLewis stated the intent was to try to make the village more business friendly. Mr. Conway stated there is an issue of no spare capacity for sewer.

Kelly Carter sees what is happening in a neighboring town and their boards have lost the public’s confidence. She would hate to see this happen to any of the Pittsford boards. Harry Carter stated it is a thankless job and he would like to see better communication between the Planning Commission and the public. Mr. Nickless stated it is an idealistic goal but is not easy to achieve and he understands the comments and there needs to be a determination of going beyond the legal requirements. It would be good to develop focus groups or committees, but there is a concern that the comments reflect the consensus of the community and not just those with personal interests.

Sam Markowski stated no one knows anything about zoning until they have to deal with it and there are many people that come before the Zoning Board unprepared. He noted there are rules and regulations that he does not agree with, but he represents it to the best of his ability. Mr. Nickless suggested the Zoning Board provide feedback to the Planning Commission on issues that they are experiencing. Mr. Conwayquestioned why the applicants are required to provide seven sets of plans, as it is felt that this is excessive. Mr. Niemczyk advised the seven copies include one for the file and one for each member of the Board.

It was recommended again to provide emails for the Planning Commission to provide information. Mr. Niemczyk suggested people provide their emails to the Zoning Office or the Town Clerk. Roger Rowe asked why notifications could not be put in the newsletter from the town. Mr. Nickless stated the Planning Commission meetings are the 4thThursday of every month and if the Zoning Administrator has to act on a permit application that requires a hearing, there needs to be a way to publicize other than the newsletter, as that is mailed quarterly.

It was questioned why there is the regulation 1124 for outdoor wood boilers, since there are state regulations and it was not felt that it needed to be included in the town’s regulations. Mr. Nickless stated this is to acquaint people with the state regulation, as this is an abbreviated version of the state’s regulation. It was note that there are also other regulations that are mandated by the state.

Rick Conway thought the regulation for site planning and the adequacy of storm water management on page 32 sounds like more regulations and he sees the process becoming costly for the applicants. He asked why there has to be a traffic study done and questioned the merit for these items. Mr. Conway could see it costing someone $15,000.00 to $20,000.00 for a commercial business and if it does not go through, the owner would be out that money. For the purposes of Act 250, Mr. Conway stated Pittsford is a one-acre town and he thinks this regulation is too much. Mr. Markowski thought some of the regulations should be taken away, rather than adding to the regulations. Mr. Conway thought that people should be held accountable and the current regulations should be enforced. Kathy Brown stated one of the problems with the regulations is enforcement. There have been rules and regulationsset in place to live by so that everyone can live on the same level, yet the town is not enforcing them. Ms. Brown is concerned that people are not living within the ordinances, such as the Junk Ordinance. Ms. Brown stated the town needs to enforce the rules that are in place. She does not see that it is the Planning Commission’s job to notify people individually when they are going to meet. Mr. Conway stated the town has an obligation to let the people know what is going on with their properties.

Mr. Nickless stated the Planning Commission appreciates people coming to express their comments and they will take into account the comments, make revisions accordingly and submit the revised Zoning Regulations to the Select Board. The Select Board will be holding two hearings and they will warn them accordingly. The Select Board has the final decision and additional comments can be made to the Select Board. The Select Board has the option to send the Zoning Regulations back to the Planning Commission with recommended changes. Joe Gagnon, a member of the Pittsford Select Board, suggested people get the word out when these meetings are scheduled. He is not against regulations, but he recommended getting people to attend the meetings as it relates to everyone’s property rights. Additional comments can be emailed to the Zoning Administrator. Kelly Carter will provide the Town Clerk with a listing of emails provided at the meeting.

The hearing was closed at 9:03PM.

4. Deliberation

There was no deliberation held.

5. Public Comments

There was no discussion held.

6. Other Business

a. Report by Planning Commissioner Brown relative to training workshops

Kathy Brown attended a webinar that discussed the actions taken following tropical storm Irene. There was also discussion about river corridors and storm water management. The webinar was hosted by the EPA Office of Sustainable Communities. Information on this subject can be found on the web at There was concern that they have not reacted the way they should have as some of rivers have been redirected and may cause additional problems in future disasters.

A recap of the actions from the zoning regulation hearing included the Zoning Administrator researching the topic of vehicle repair as a home occupation, a discussion will be held at the next Planning Commission meeting regarding a change to the 10 cubic yard regulation and the regulation about the dog house size restrictions. A special Planning Commission meeting was scheduled for September 18th beginning at 6PM to discuss the recommendations from the zoning regulations hearing.

7. Next Regular Meeting

September 25, 2014 @ 7PM

8. Adjournment

A motion was made by KathyBrownand seconded by Trish Lewis to adjourn the Pittsford Planning Commission meeting at9:24PM. The motion passed unanimously.

Respectfully submitted,
Charlene Bryant
Recording Secretary

Approved by,
The Pittsford Planning Commission