Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
January 22, 2015
Board Members Present: Don Nickless, Kathryn Brown, Trish Lewis, Cristina Kumka, David Soulia
Also in Attendance: Jeff Biasuzzi – Zoning Administrator, Kevin Blow, David Mills, Cathy Rider
- Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:03PM by Don Nickless – Chair.
- Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by Trish Lewis and seconded by Kathryn Brown to accept the agenda as presented. The motion passed unanimously.
- Administrative Matters
- Approval of Minutes
The approval of the October 23rd minutes will be acted upon at the next meeting after they are distributed to the new members.
- Old Business
- Review Final Draft of Revised Zoning Rules
Don Nickless stated there were many months the Planning Commission worked on doing a number of updates and corrections to the current zoning regulations. The Planning Commission hearings have been held, in addition to discussion and input at two Planning Commission meetings. The Planning Commission is at a point where the regulations need to be voted on and submitted to the Select Board for their consideration. It was recommended since the two new Planning Commission members have not been involved in the process that they abstain from voting on this version. The Select Board will then have two hearings and they will vote to approve them or send them back to the Planning Commission with their comments and public comments received to request changes.
David Soulia questioned whether there will be any further changes made to the current zoning updates prior to submitting them to the Select Board. Mr. Soulia has reviewed the document and has had conversations with members of the public. Mr. Soulia requested the Board bring the new members up to speed on this subject and perhaps revisit voting on this document at a subsequent meeting.
Trish Lewis noted that the prior Zoning Administrator and Don Nickless have made a list of all good points that were received as a result of the hearings and those points, plus the new members to the Planning Commission would lend themselves to the next revision, as this is not a static document and there will always be recommendations for revisions. The revision process consisted of 39 sub-points for consideration that were divided between the Planning Commission members for review. Ms. Lewis suggested that new input be placed on a listing for the next set of revisions. Mr. Soulia stated if it goes to the Select Board, what is the probability of having things removed, as he has received comments that there are some parts of the document that are favorable to some and not others.
Mr. Nickless suggested the new board members read the Regulations, Guidelines, Goals and Objectives document that the Planning Commission functions under that are to benefit the town. Mr. Soulia sees some items that would negatively affect the development of business in town and noted there are many groups providing input for the Plan, but he questioned if the townspeople have provided input. Mr. Nickless advised the Town Plan had been written several years ago and it reflects the desires of the townspeople and there were several meetings held to obtain public input.
Cristina Kumka stated she will be abstaining from the vote, however, she has read the entire Pittsford zoning ordinance changes. She also met with the prior zoning administrator and there was discussion about what some of the changes mean and what the controversy was at the public hearing. Ms. Kumka requested Mr. Biasuzzi provide copies of the 10/23/14 Planning Commission minutes and the public hearings. Ms. Kumka questioned how often the zoning regulations can be revised and whether the changes were vetted by legal counsel. Don Nickless stated the changes have been confirmed by legal counsel and revisions can be made as often as the Planning Commission wants.
Kevin Blow asked how the updates were done since they were not done during the Planning Commission meeting. Don Nickless stated the updates to the draft document were done after the October meeting; as there were a number of corrections proposed as a result of comments from the public. One person drafted the changes that were recommended within the meeting and the work was done by one person, not with a majority of the Planning Commission present. Kevin Blow asked if everything that is in the draft is reflective of state law, as he has questions on Section 1104, Page 36, Item C and D regarding Home Occupations. Mr. Snow read:
“C. Vehicle (auto; truck) bodywork, service or repair, are not considered home occupations.
- For the purposes of this Bylaw, to be defined as a home occupation:
- The aggregate floor space dedicated to the home occupation, whether located in the principal dwelling or in any accessory structure, may be no more than thirty percent (30%) of the gross floor area of the principle dwelling.”
Mr. Blow stated there would be no possible way to do any service or repair using 30% of the principle dwelling as his house is 20 ft. x 30 ft. and the total floor space is 1200 sq. feet. Mr. Blow has previously asked about the VT state law and read the following:
“Vermont Statutes Title 24: Municipal and County Government
Chapter 117: municipal and regional planning and development
24 VSA 4412: required provisions and prohibited effects
4) Protection of home occupations. No bylaw may infringe upon the right of any resident to use a minor portion of a dwelling unit for an occupation that is customary in residential areas and that does not have an undue adverse effect upon the character of the residential area in which the dwelling is located.”
Trish Lewis stated Item D is not talking about auto repair. Mr. Blow stated under the original zoning, it includes body work and truck and car repair. There is a small business fact sheet from the state that provides information on what one would go through to be legal for auto body or repair facilities. Jeff Biasuzzi stated using the size of the principle residence determines how much gross footprint you can dedicate to a home occupation activity. He statedif one exceeds the 30% factor, they would have to apply for a business license through the town, as it would no longer be a home occupation. The business would have to be permitted, but it is not saying that one can’t do it under the title of home occupation. Mr. Blow expressed concern that vehicle auto bodywork and repair is being singled out. Mr. Biasuzzi stated the automotive category is not so much dedicated to local zoning but for the other permits at the state and federal level. The Planning Commission does not have jurisdiction over this. One can start with a conditional use permit, but it is saying that one can’t call it a home occupation. Mr. Blow also noted that Vermont statutes indicate no bylaw may infringe on an occupation that is customary in a residential area. Trish Lewis stated auto repair is not customarily done in residential areas. Mr. Biasuzzi noted this is defined by law.
David Mills knows that there are many people who fix cars for other people in their garage and he is uncertain why the Planning Commission is singling out that particular business, assuming it is because of fumes and chemicals. Trish Lewis stated the Planning Commission has received complaints from residents. Ms. Lewis would like to obtain more information on the difference between repairing one’s own or acquaintances’ cars and when it is determined to be a business, as there needs to be clarification on how much of the work is considered a home occupation or a business. Mr. Mills stated part of the reason the residents all get along in this town is because people are not pitted against one another, however, if the Planning Commission puts in a law that regulates some residents and not others, there will be problems. The Planning Commission needs to be careful when developing regulations that favor some and when too many rules and regulations tip the balance point. He noted a regulation should blanket everything and not single out one item. Mr. Blow expressed concern that he has tried to explain this situation in the past and was advised that he would have to go before the Select Board if he is not satisfied. Trish Lewis advised that some changes have been made since the public hearings. Mr. Nickless also advised that this section was in the original regulations. Don Nickless read the Home Occupation regulation and noted there is a balancing act between when it can remain a residence and when it becomes a business.
Kevin Blow stated this country started with home occupations and he does not think it is right to restrict the occupations. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the definition of home occupation is dictated by the State of Vermont and when one has a home occupation, one needs to consider the other activities involved and whether it changes the residential appearance. Mr. Biasuzzi will check the statute and see what the state limitation is.
Cristina Kumka sited the state law relating to home occupation that indicates a home occupation cannot be retail sales (this was not an exclusive list, but an example). Ms. Kumka does not assume that an auto business draws customers and it may be less a Pittsford issue and more of a State of Vermont regulation. Mr. Blow noted that it does not single out automotive service. Ms. Kumka advised that state law gives the municipal leeway of what it can and cannot exclude and there may have been a time when the Town of Pittsford had decided to exclude this as a home occupation. Ms. Kumka will research this item and advise Mr. Blow. She also encouraged him to contact Ed Bove at the Rutland Regional Planning Commission for more information.
Trish Lewis recommended leaving the document as it stands and including this issue in the next zoning regulation rewrite. Mr. Nickless stated the section would need more debate and a broader input from the public. Mr. Blow requested this section be considered for rewrite.
David Mills stated the Wildlife Corridor was also a concern. Mr. Mills provided information that was presented in Brandon. He understands wildlife needs to be considered, but stated the corridor is a big deal and he has a problem with the notation of a corridor in the regulations. Don Nickless stated there was consideration and recommendations from the Select Board and residents concerning wildlife protection. Trish Lewis stated she removed the information about Connect Vermont and only has a reference from the state. Mr. Nickless advised the word “corridor” was placed in the plan as a result of the windmill proposal.
Cathy Rider asked why the federal government can require regulations in the town’s plan. It was noted that in order for residents to be eligible for low-cost flood insurance through FEMA, the federal government requires certain regulations, as well as other grant and aide programs. Cristina Kumka also advised that there are and continue to be federal incentives for solar development and currently there are no parameters for where to put up solar projects. Jeff Biasuzzi stated net metering solar is regulated by the Public Service Board and municipalities cannot regulate the solar projects.
A motion was made by Trish Lewis and seconded by Kathryn Brown for the Planning Commission to approve the Zoning Ordinance draft, subject to typo corrections, and submit the draft to the Select Board for their consideration and approval. The motion passed with two abstentions – Cristina Kumka and David Soulia.
It was noted the Select Board will have two public hearings and they will then have the option to send the document back to the Planning Commission for revisions or determine to move forward and approve it.
- Public Comment
There was no discussion held.
- Other Business
Trish Lewis suggested the Planning Commission consider steps in dealing with the potential Emerald Ash Borer issue. She advised Enosburg has a plan on how to address the issue and she would like the Planning Commission consider using their template for disaster relief. The places that have been hit are in a huge financial bind and if actions are not taken, our area could lose a lot of timber value. Ms. Lewis stated the idea is to target the trees that will cause the most damage and harvest them, leaving other healthy trees. Mr. Nickless stated Dutch Elm disease was fought for years and he does not think cutting down trees will stop it. Ms. Lewis stated the intent would be to have some practical steps to deal with the issue, stopping it was not the plan, and to have information to provide to land owners. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the issue is not yet in Vermont and the situation will be reacted to through sanitation efforts. It is a good idea to manage the trees that are resistant and as a municipality, the Planning Commission should address the roadside trees. Trish Lewis questioned whether the Planning Commission would like to develop a plan to provide the road crew to assist them in identifying the issue. Mr. Biasuzzi stated the line crews would then report any issues to the county forester. He noted it is not so much a zoning issue, but would be more of a town policy or ordinance for the Select Board to act upon. Mr. Biasuzzi suggested posing the question to the forester. Cristina Kumka asked if there are other preventative measures taken other than cutting down trees. Mr. Biasuzzi stated the best control is sanitation and taking down the trees that are infected.
There was a discussion regarding what constitutes a meeting of the Planning Commission. It was noted that chain emails cannot be sent to all members, as they would be considered an official meeting. A one-on-one discussion can be held and in the case of a five–person planning commission, three members would constitute a meeting if they talked about any planning commission business. Therefore all new members are now aware that they should not discuss certain topics when a quorum is present unless it is in a formal meeting. Mr. Nickless suggested the VLCT offers seminars that members could take advantage of. Trish Lewis also noted if there is an immediate request by a member, that member can email the zoning administrator and he will contact the other members.
- Next Regular Meeting
Thursday, February 26, 2015 @ 7:00PM
A motion was made by Don Nickless and seconded by David Soulia to adjourn the Pittsford Planning Commission meeting at 8:40PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission