Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting – DRAFT
February 28, 2019
Board Members Present: Dave Mills, Kevin Blow, Ted Gillen, Rick Conway, Tom Markowski, David Soulia, Chuck Charbonneau
Also in Attendance: Barbara Noyes-Pulling, Tharon Malay
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM by Dave Mills – Chair.
2. Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Kevin Blow to approve the agenda. The motion passed unanimously.
3. Approval of Minutes
. 01/24/19 Planning Commission Meeting
. 01/24/19 – Planning Commission Zoning Amendments Hearing
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Kevin Blow to approve the January 24, 2019 Planning Commission meeting and January 24, 2019 Planning Commission Zoning Amendment hearing minutes, as amended. The motion passed unanimously.
Dave Mills noted a change in the Enhanced Energy Plan discussion in the Planning Commission meeting minutes to reflect that that he did not talk directly with Representative Shaw, but was advised by the Select Board.
4. Public Comments
There was no discussion held.
5. Presentation by Barbara Noyes-Pulling on Enhanced Energy Plan/Questions
Barbara Noyes Pulling from Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) was present to discuss a proposed Enhanced Energy Plan for Pittsford. Ms. Pulling provided a draft of the proposed plan that would become part of the Town Plan. She noted the Planning Commission could develop one in its entirety or use the proposed energy plan and adapt it to Pittsford. It would need to be determined how the Town wants to choose the sites where they do or do not want energy projects. The RRPC has been working on enhanced energy plans for several months and is familiar with what needs to be included in them. Pittsford has an Energy Section in the Town Plan, however, to enable the Town to have more input on proposed plans, there would need to be an enhanced plan included. The PUC has come up with a 14-page checklist that is based on State law. The largest change is the goal of the State being 90% renewable by 2050. The towns need to reduce overall energy consumption, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and develop renewable energy sources locally. In the plan, the State hired the Vermont Energy Corporation to figure how the State will reach the 90% by 2050. The big part of the process is determining where and where not to put energy projects. Pittsford currently has 3.7 megawatts of renewable energy in solar. It was determine through mapping and acreage that Pittsford could generate 1600 megawatts with solar and some small-scale wind. Most towns are going the solar route. David Soulia asked with the solar, if there is a plan for storage. Ms. Noyes-Pulling advised there is not at this time and it will be mostly household use, however, with the Energy Plan being part of the Town Plan, it will be revisited periodically. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated if the Town wanted to go just solar farms, the 2050 goal would be about 100 acres of solar panels. The State wants to set aside much more land than what the Town needs to, due to potential wetlands. The RRPC thinks technology will advance and solar will be on many of the houses in the area and it is hoped that over time, it will not be necessary to set aside as much land. Ms. Noyes-Pulling noted that biomass is the most efficient. Maps have been created with data from the State that provides prime resources and secondary resources. A listing of know constraints and possible constraints was provided to the Planning Commission. Ms. Noyes-Pulling noted the maps are complicated and suggested 24 x 36 maps could be provided by quadrant. The Town has the authority to change the maps, as there are lands that may not be available for development. If the Planning Commission wishes to use the template, the preferred sites and constraints, such as the town forest, conservation lands, recreation area and Fish and Wildlife Preserve areas will need to be added. In the current Plan, there are also references to various peaks and the Conservation 1 and 2 areas as sites where energy development is not wanted. There is also a 55-acre area noted in the Historical Society that is a natural area that restricts development. Rick Conway asked who would approve the Town’s plan and Ms. Noyes-Pulling advised the RRPC has the authority to approve it now that the Region has an enhanced energy plan. Mr. Mills advised the enhanced energy plan can be added to the Town Plan or do it as a stand-alone plan. Ms. Noyes-Pulling noted it would still be considered part of the Town Plan and if a stand-alone, it would be referenced in the Town Plan and would have to go through the same approval process. Mr. Conway questioned whether the RRPC could deny a project if the Town and developer were in agreement. Ms. Noyes-Pulling advised the RRPC reviews projects and submits a letter to the PUC when a developer is applying for a Certificate of Public Good. Mr. Conway stated there had been training sessions regarding substantial deference and it was his understanding the Town was relying on the RRPC to deal with any issues, as the Town did not elect to do an energy plan. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated all towns’ plans are different and the Regional Plan is broad and does not specify sites. Once there is regional approval, a town’s plan would be the ruling plan. The RRPC is asked to weigh in on projects in the Rutland region as to whether they support them, but it would be an opinion only. Mr. Conway noted the Town does support this, but noted concern that it needs to be figured out how this can work for everyone as this can affect private property rights. Zoning and regulations can be an infringement on property rights and he has a concern with the Town’s liability. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated part of her job is to review the energy plans and go through the State’s checklist to assure that the plan is correct. The State will look at the enhanced energy plans and will give a higher standing when the projects are being decided at the state level. Ms. Noyes-Pulling advised there are different ways to determine sites, noting Sudbury did a peer-to-peer type process in looking at the maps and discussing with individual property owners. Brandon placed an ad in The Reporter to find people who were interested in being a preferred site. Dave Mills stated Pittsford has plenty of capacity in its lines to take more power. Ms. Noyes-Pulling noted rooftop solar can be included in the plan. Mr. Conway wants to be sure the Town is headed in the right direction and noted concern of what to do with solar panels at end of life. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated this is all part of reviewing the plans going forward with some things already in statute. If the Town wants to keep the current plan, the Town would not receive the elevated level of substantial deference. David Soulia asked if a developer wants to put in wind towers and the Town did not have the enhanced energy plan, would the Town have any say in it. Ms. Noyes-Pulling advised the Town would have the Regional Plan, as it does not want any industrial scale wind and what other towns have done is to also include their own language. She noted that wind, solar, biomass and hydro have to be included. Dave Mills stated if the Town stays with what is currently in the Town Plan, there would only be the RRPC’s enhanced plan, but if the Town does an enhanced plan there would be both the Town’s and the RRPC’s plan to provide more of a voice. David Soulia asked if there have been any studies done with regard to fair market. Mr. Conway stated from a zoning perspective, he is concerned with spot zoning. Ms. Noyes-Pulling advised this has been vetted by the PUC. When choosing sites, it has to be fair and across the board with not just energy projects. Dave Mills suggested preferred sites could potentially be in the industrial zones, but not restricted in other areas. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated the PUC still has the authority to overrule a town’s plan. A developer usually begins with a town’s Planning Commission and Select Board, with the proposal being submitted to the RRPC to obtain a letter of support. Chuck Charbonneau noted concern this is the start of forcing people to make their homes energy efficient when it will not be affordable for many people. Dave Mills stated part of the reason for the Enhanced Energy Plan is to show people what can be done, though not mandatory, in providing a guideline and allowing the Town more say in the PUC process. Mr. Mills suggested all Committee members review the draft plan, mold it to what Pittsford desires and submit the changes to Ms. Noyes-Pulling for review. It was suggested input be obtained from the public. Mr. Charbonneau noted the Town has conservation zones that will now be changed in restricting property owners even more. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated the only requirement of the Town would be to do a few paragraphs, but the 14-page checklist is not required. Mr. Mills noted this would not restrict people from putting solar on their houses. Ms. Noyes-Pulling also noted that it is not saying that developers cannot develop in areas that are considered restricted. She noted that various State agencies provided data that was used to determine areas that are either restricted areas or favorable areas for energy projects. Ms. Noyes-Pulling will have the maps enlarged to 24 x 36 and create the maps by quadrants in the same size for the Planning Commission’s use. David Soulia asked if the 2050 energy goal is a State or Federal mandate and it was confirmed it is State-driven. Tom Markowski asked what will happen if the Town reaches the goal for solar by 2050, with some being at end-of-life. Ms. Noyes-Pulling stated it would be up to the developer to determine if they want to recycle and there will be decommissioning language in the plans required by the developers. Tharon Malay stated with many of the older solar fields, there was not decommissioning language included, which will need to be included in future development plans. Ms. Noyes-Pulling will email the presentation to the Board Chair. Mr. Malay and Mr. Mills will meet to discuss points to be provided at Pittsford’s Town Meeting.
6. Report from Sub-Committee on Enhanced Energy Plan
Tharon Malay stated the Sub-Committee held a meeting regarding this subject; however, he wanted to make sure that efforts were not duplicated between the Committee and the Planning Commission. It was suggested the Sub-Committee and Planning Commission review the draft plan prior to the next Planning Commission meeting and come prepared to discuss. Mr. Malay will display the larger map the RRPC had provided him at the Town Office.
7. Discuss Enhanced Energy Plan and How to Proceed
Dave Mills reiterated the Planning Commission and Sub-committee will review the proposed plan, mark it up as each member sees fit for discussion at the next meeting. It will be determined at the next meeting whether it will take additional meetings to review the plan and provide the public the opportunity to review and provide input. Mr. Mills noted following the Select Board’s review of the Zoning amendments there could potentially be an agenda item to discuss this subject at the next meeting.
8. Schedule Date for Next Meeting
March 28, 2019 @ 7:00PM at the Pittsford Town Office
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Kevin Blow to adjourn the meeting at 8:45PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission