Pittsford Planning Commission Special Hearing Zoning
December 13, 2018
Board Members Present: Dave Mills, Kevin Blow, Mark Winslow, Ted Gillen, Rick Conway, Tom Markowski, David Soulia
Also in Attendance: Robert Giddings, Rachel Giddings, Jeff Biasuzzi, Beverly Peterson, Elizabeth Simpson, Ed Brutkoski, Ed Keith, Jr., Brad Keith, Patrick McLaughlin, Tammy Hitchcock, Stephen Hitchcock, Chuck Greeno, Gary Kupferer, Mike Getcha, Mame Rasmussen, Patricia Lewis, T. J. Turner, Chris Clark, Ernie Clerihew
- Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by Dave Mills – Chair.
- Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Rick Conway to approve the agenda. The motion passed unanimously.
- Swearing In
All participants that would be giving testimony were sworn in by Dave Mills.
- Planning Commission Comments
Mark Winslow stated these proposed changes stemmed from an original request by a Pittsford citizen at the Planning Commission meeting January 5, 2016 to change Route 3 area designated Rural-Commercial back to Commercial as it had been before. The Board determined the request was logical and after much discussion at numerous meetings it was determined this change and the extension of the Commercial designation on Route 7 north to the Brandon line should be proposed. In reviewing these proposed changes, the Board discovered that official maps and recordings of meetings when the Rural-Commercial designation was applied to Route 3 areas from Commercial designation were missing from the Town records. The Board also chose to propose to expand the Industrial zone to include existing quarries and allow space for renewable energy sites, to meet the State’s 90 by 50 mandate. The Board first chose to clean up current zoning regulations. Second, the Board revised, proposed and had the new Pittsford Town Plan approved. Lastly, almost three years after the start of this subject, the Board has completed review and proposes these changes to the regulations and map.
- Public Comments
Bev Peterson questioned if there are changes to the West Creek Road. Dave Mills advised the Industrial district has been expanded on the north and south end. The future land use map in the Town Plan is the same map being discussed at the hearing. Mr. Mills stated there is some land that is Omya’s that was zoned Rural. Mr. Mills noted there had been a prior map that outlined the quarries in Industrial. Both sides of West Creek will be zoned Industrial. Tammy Hitchcock did not agree with the amendments and did not see the reason for the changes as what currently exists is not fully developed. The Town Plan indicates there be logical growth and she is worried with the changes that it will foster indiscriminant development. Steve Hitchcock asked the reasoning for increasing the Industrial zone to the south. Dave Mills stated on the north end there are three existing quarries and on the south end the change is being proposed due to the 90 by 50 Renewable Energy State mandate, as the Town will have to allow more solar. The RRPC’s Energy Plan does not allow for wind towers in the region and it is proposed to expand the Industrial zone for solar in areas where the projects will be out of sight from the main corridors. There is also a substation at Omya, which is something solar vendors look for. Mr. Hitchcock noted that Pittsford residents in the past had been concerned that Route 7 in Pittsford does not become an extension of Rutland’s Route 7 and this new development meets the criteria of what the Town did not want in the past for Routes 7 and 3. Mr. Hitchcock noted concern that homeowners could become surrounded by commercial business and he is opposed to the changes. Ed Brutkoski stated there is not a lot of sprawl from Rutland and he is in favor of changing the zoning back to what it was. He noted his family owns a farm and is concerned with landowner rights. There are already many State restrictions and Pittsford needs the increased tax base. He is in the agreement with the changes. Ernie Clerihew asked the difference between Rural Commercial and Commercial. It was noted with Commercial there are more uses than in Rural Commercial. Rural Commercial is light commercial and by changing the designation, it gives people more options from the Table of Uses. Mr. Mills noted Theron Malay also found some items that were allowed in Rural Commercial that were not included in Commercial and this was also corrected. Mr. Mills provided a sample of commercial uses: appliance retail sales, associations, clubs, lodges, auction house, bank, beer/wine distributor, bowling alley, car wash, and manufacturing. If someone wanted to continue to farm along Route 3, it would still be allowed. Pat McLaughlin noted the strip near his property is already zoned Commercial. It was noted that Route 7 south of the village had already been zoned Commercial and Routes 3 and 7 north had been changed from Commercial to Rural Commercial and the request is to put those areas back to Commercial. Mr. McLaughlin requested he receive a newsletter from the Town. Jeff Biasuzzi advised the Town has a quarterly newsletter that he thought was sent to all Pittsford property owners. Dave Mills will contact the Town Manager to place this request for Mr. McLaughlin. Mame Rasmussen stated there could not be massive commercial areas due to the State designated wetlands, which would provide limited growth. Route 7 is funded for commercial traffic and that is where the Town should keep the commercial growth. She noted her family has the only operating dairy on Route 7 in Rutland County. She stated a small dairy farm is not going to make it anymore and the addition of equipment would change the farm to a commercial use. Ms. Rasmussen did not know the Town had changed the Commercial designation on Route 7 north and she would like to see it changed back. Elizabeth Simson, a new resident in Town, is concerned with light pollution and she would like the Board to consider that as a factor. She asked if there is anything that is not allowed if a parcel is changed to Industrial. Jeff Biasuzzi advised the Zoning regulations include a Table of Uses and is organized by activity. He noted there are permitted uses and conditional uses that are commercial uses that have to go through a ZBA review. The ZBA can impose reasonable requests and exceptions. Trish Lewis was against expanding the designations. The State’s solar needs could be made a conditional use. Ms. Lewis noted her other concerns have been covered by other people’s comments. Ms. Lewis questioned if the Planning Commission is planning for a larger tax base, drawing young people to Town or concentrating on retired people. She noted Planning Commission members own properties in some of the areas where the changes are proposed. Ms. Lewis suggested the Planning Commission schedule public meetings with a facilitator to work on goals for the Town, such as how to attract new businesses and younger people, etc. She would like to see a big town meeting be done before making the changes and she would also like to see females and younger people on the Planning Commission Board. Ms. Rasmussen stated the changes proposed are to go back to what the designations had been. Chuck Greeno noted Route 7 south and part of Route 7 north are already zoned Commercial, with the change only being about 4 miles. There would be about 3 to 4 miles changed on Route 3 and noted there is not much room to build in either area and he agreed the solar development would be best off Route 7. Bev Peterson asked if it would be possible to leave the zoning as is and the entity could apply for a variance if there was a change to be made, which would provide the Town the opportunity to deal with each request. Chris Clark stated Route 3 is pretty well developed so there cannot be much development, however, without the change in designation, it makes it difficult to add small local businesses. Mr. Brutkoski stated without the change, it is more costly for the small businessperson to make changes, in addition to the State’s requirements. Mr. Clark noted it cost him $17,000.00 to increase his small business and he now has a business that he is proud of and if he wants to increase his small business, he does not want additional issues. Mr. Brutkoski noted the added restrictions can push people to move their business to New York. He stated there is very little land on Route 7 north due to the State’s restrictions on wetland. Dave Mills stated because Pittsford is a one-acre town, Act 250 comes into play on everything that is done. The change would make it easier for the business owners when going through the Act 250 process. Jeff Biasuzzi stated if there is both zoning and subdivision; the trigger is 10 acres, but for most of the small start-up businesses in Pittsford, it triggers Act 250. Mr. Biasuzzi stated the Town could do formal subdivision requirements that would increase to 10 acres. Mr. Hitchcock asked what the point was in changing the designation to Commercial if there is nowhere to build. Mr. Mills noted there is limited areas, but there is still some area for expansion. It was noted that any changes would still require going through the Planning Commission, even with the change to Commercial designation. Trish Lewis asked if the extended Commercial and Industrial designations would raise the taxes on the homes. It was noted this would not change their taxes, as the taxes are based on use, not zoning. A review of the proposed map was done. Mr. Biasuzzi stated Commercial zoning is 600 feet from the centerline and Pittsford zoning allows the commercial to be expanded to the property owner’s line. It was suggested to develop a map that shows what the current uses are in the areas. Mr. Biasuzzi noted there had been a couple of businesses that had considered the TNT Tractor facility on Route 3, but decided against the move due to the designation. Mr. Biasuzzi advised the Zoning regulations are a result of the Town Plan and during the adoption process; the Town Plan had received a lot of public attention. Rick Conway advised that in 1989 when the Plan was adopted, the districts were zoned Commercial. Changes came in later years and there was a lot done to zoning that was not done correctly and resulted in a court case against the Town. The Planning Commission revised the zoning in 2016 and the next task was to address the Town Plan and future land use map. The map that was adopted with the Town Plan has Routes 3 and 7 as Commercial and the Industrial district as shown. This Town Plan has been approved by the RRPC and the map in the Town Plan will be the Zoning map. Many of the homeowners of the houses that were built when it was Commercial did not know it had been changed to Rural Commercial. There is also issues in having spot zoning and the Planning Commission has put it back to what it was in 1989, except the Rural section of Route 3. Mr. Conway noted until someone is a business owner, one does not have a concept of what the process is. He advised that at the last VLCT Planning seminar, there are changes with regard to farming that can place a farm into Commercial status. Mr. Conway stated the Planning Commission is charged with trying to do the best that it can for the Town. He stated we all have to survive as a community and he personally has enjoyed living in this Town. The biggest problem is the State’s rules and regulations, noting Vermont is not business-friendly.
Dave Mills read emails the Planning Commission received in regards to this subject from Trish Lewis, Teresa Craig and Rick Hedding. (See Attachment 1)
Dave Mills provided the following list of Planning Commission Educational trainings:
2015 – Killington (Rula Moradi/Dave Mills)
2015 – Montpelier (Rula Moradi/Dave Mills)
Fall 2016 – Montpelier (Kevin Blow, Richard Conway, Dave Mills)
Spring 2017 – Lake Morey (Kevin Blow, Richard Conway, Dave Mills)
Fall 2017 – Montpelier (Kevin Blow, Richard Conway, Dave Mills)
Spring 2018 – Rutland (Kevin Blow, Richard Conway, Dave Mills, Theron Malay)
Fall 2018 – Montpelier (Kevin Blow, Richard Conway)
Fall 2018 – Rutland (Mark Winslow)
Mr. Mills noted the cost per person for training is $90.00 and is funded through the Town. Almost all RRPC meetings also have training on different subjects and the Planning Commission is represented at the meetings. Mr. Mills advised both he and David Soulia are delegates to the RRPC. Trish Lewis suggested recapping some of the things that are learned from the educational training. Rick Conway advised that information that is received from the seminars is available on the trainer’s websites and suggested interested parties could view the training on their sites. Jeff Biasuzzi noted the presentations are generally placed in electronic version and the VLCT has links to the seminars that they have had. The Board members that do not attend the seminars are provided the information from the seminars, but they are not on the Town’s website. Rick Conway noted there is no one present from the RRPC, State or the abutting towns and no one has provided direct feedback on the proposed changes.
Chip Greeno stated it is giving landowners rights back that they had in the past and he did not see where that should be an issue. It seems like the Board is forward thinking in trying to keep the solar panels off the highways. He hoped the Planning Commission will vote to pass this. He noted it is not right to take rights away from people and hoped this change can be done in a timely fashion. Ms. Rasmussen stated companies have approached them with regard to placing solar panels on their property; however, the companies do not want to place them on buildings, but rather on the ground. Chris Clark stated the Town fought against wind towers, but it has to adapt to change somewhere. Ted Gillen advised he is against the changes, but it is not because of anyone in the surrounding areas because residents are doing a great job of respecting their neighbors’ and the Town’s land. He is concerned with the people that do not currently live here and who may not respect the Town of Pittsford. He would be in favor of a list of uses that the existing property owners want. Dave Mills stated with the expansion of the Industrial zone to where the quarries are would help keep Omya in Town and suggested the Town of Pittsford should do things to encourage Omya to stay here. David Soulia stated he initiated the conversation about the expansion of the Industrial area as this is where quarrying is supposed to occur. It was determined where there are quarries in Pittsford that should be zoned Industrial and the map was corrected to reflect the change. It was noted the quarries are pre-existing and are grandfathered in. Jeff Biasuzzi stated if a quarry operation is to be expanded; it helps facilitate the change in an Industrial zone. T. J. Turner thought the land should be changed back to Commercial to help homeowners make changes to their land before going to Act 250. Rick Conway thinks the residents are good stewards of the Town. Mike Getcha stated there has been a lot of work put into these changes and thought what has been proposed will open up opportunities for those that own commercial land. He thinks it is a smart move and he is definitely for it. Bev Peterson asked the process for quarries going through Act 250 if the area is zoned Industrial. Mr. Biasuzzi stated it would be a conditional use and there would be a hearing and people could provide comments at that time. He noted that Omya has met many conditions for landowners.
Gary Kupferer advised the Planning Commission would schedule another hearing for this subject on January 24th to provide the public an additional opportunity to give further comments.
Chuck Greeno noted for the record he will not be present for the meeting, but is in favor of the changes.
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Kevin Blow to adjourn the hearing at 8:30PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission