Planning Commission Meeting Minutes – Draft
May 23, 2019
Board Members Present: Kevin Blow, Mark Winslow, Chuck Charbonneau, Ted Gillen, Rick Conway, David Soulia
Also in Attendance: Jeff Biasuzzi – Zoning Administrator, Tammy Hitchcock, Gary Kupferer, Joe Gagnon, Ken Gagnon, James Carvey, Sharon Breznick, Mark Breznick
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:02PM by Mark Winslow – Acting Chair.
2. Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by David Soulia to approve the agenda, as amended. The motion passed unanimously.
Following Item 5 – add Gagnon Subdivision Deliberation
3. Approval of Minute
- April 25, 2019 – A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Rick Conway to approve the minutes of the April 25, 2019 Planning Commission meeting, as amended. The motion passed with one abstention – David Soulia.
Add under Item 7 – Energy Sub-Committee Report, note that it is Tammy Hitchcock and Tharon Malay’s input only
4. Public Comments
There was no discussion held.
5. Gagnon Subdivision Hearing
The hearing opened at 7:04PM.
Mark Winslow read the hearing notice. All parties who would participate in the hearing were sworn in. The Planning Commission had received the information and the Zoning Administrator provided an outline. The request was for a 4-lot subdivision and is a minor subdivision that is subject to review under Article 4 for setbacks. Article 10 also notes the Planning Commission has the authority to review for the confirmation of setbacks. Because there are improvements to the property, State wastewater permits are required. The Zoning Administrator found the request conforms with Article 4. Rick Conway stated the setbacks in red are the scaled measurements of the buildings that are the result of the surveys and are all in excess of the minimums. Mark Winslow wished to disclose that he is an abutting landowner.
Ken Gagnon stated this is long-term family planning. Joe Gagnon advised that he is requesting the changes to hopefully avoid future problems and all property will stay within in the family. All changes are taking place on the west side of Corn Hill Road and the biggest portion is still going to be the same as it has been. Rick Conway noted there was a waiver request in the original application. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the Zoning regulations allow a waiver in Article 1001 and in the original letter, the engineers on behalf of the applicant had a list of some of the finer points to waive. There was a full set of engineering plans provided. The original application was for 3 lots and the updated version came to the Zoning Administrator’s attention that the large acreage is naturally subdivided by town roads. When bisecting a piece of property, it creates a natural subdivision, but it is not a legal subdivision. In terms of it being two parcels, when discussing it with the engineer, the property owners indicated they would like to create two somewhat smaller, but still large parcels.
Jim Carvey noted he borders the property on the west side and asked if any structures get built, do they have to obtain their own private water supply. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the Town exempts structures 150 square feet or less and anything larger than 150 square feet requires a permit. If there is a structure with water and sewage, there is no exemption from obtaining a wastewater permit from the State. The Town requires any structure be reviewed for State regulations and State regulations trump the Town regulations.
A motion was made by Chuck Charbonneau and seconded by David Soulia to close the hearing at 7:19PM. The motion passed unanimously.
6. Gagnon Subdivision Deliberation
Rick Conway stated it was a very well-presented application.
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by David Soulia to approve the Gagnon subdivision application. The motion passed unanimously.
7. Election of Officers
This item was postponed to a subsequent meeting when all Planning Commission members are present.
8. RRPC Report
David Soulia reported the RRPC has a new subcommittee for the river corridor subject and an Energy subcommittee. Dave Mills attended the geomorphic river subcommittee. There was discussion that Furnace Brook is considered to be impaired. It was also discussed that the Town of Pittsford does not have language for future planning for the ebb and flow of the rivers and the ramifications of not having the language is that Pittsford may lose out on funding after flooding. In the Regional committee, they discussed solar panel installations and solar/slate discussions. In the general meeting, Efficiency Vermont provided a presentation on energy uses in the hopes of trying to help residents of Rutland County make their homes more efficient. Jeff Biasuzzi stated a promotion is starting that provides free home energy audits until the end of the year. There is no obligation to make changes but is designed to point out weaknesses.
9. Energy Plan Questions and Clarifications
Mark Winslow stated the Planning Commission has been charged with the possibility of creating an energy plan. There is also a Town subcommittee that has been working on this item. At the last meeting, a representative from the RRPC was present to provide information on a proposed plan. The Planning Commission has some concerns about the items that are mandatory, and they would like to go back to the Select Board for clarification.
Gary Kupferer advised that he reviewed the information that was provided by Mr. Conway. There was some confusion about the plan. as one can adopt it separately and do an amendment to the Town Plan or the Town Plan can be reopened and placed in the Plan and readopted. The Town Plan must be readopted every eight years and if the Town Plan is reopened it starts the clock over for another eight years. If it is done as an amendment, the clock would not restart, and the eight years would continue from the 2018 date when it was adopted. The Town does not have to do an energy plan, but the Town would not have a say in any energy projects that are being proposed. If an energy plan is inserted into the Town Plan and designated areas are noted for solar projects, it would be a point to consider.
David Soulia asked whether there could be a legal issue if a project is shut down when there are preferred areas outlined in an energy plan. Mr. Kupferer noted that anyone can come forward with a lawsuit, but he doubted they would win. Mr. Soulia questioned whether the Planning Commission was insured against lawsuits, as he knew that the Town Manager and Select Board are covered. Mr. Kupferer suggested asking the VLCT regarding the Planning Commission’s insurance coverage, however, he thought they would likely be covered.
Rick Conway stated that in January, the Planning Commission was sent information and was asked to develop a solar siting plan. The Planning Commission wants to obtain clarification, as they were not directed to develop an energy plan. Mr. Kupferer stated with the energy plan, the Town could be an interested in party in a proceeding and it could be a factor in denying a project, but it would not be a town regulatory issue. Mr. Conway stated the RRPC has adopted an energy plan. The Planning Commission was provided a checklist of items that would be required to develop the Town’s own energy plan, if the Town wanted to obtain substantial defference. The RRPC can approve a town’s enhanced energy plan now that their plan has been approved. The RRPC reviews solar projects in surrounding towns and from what he was told, the delegates from the member towns vote on it. He was under the impression the Town decided not to go with an enhanced energy plan. Mr. Kupferer noted the RRPC had adopted a regional plan, however, other towns such as Sudbury and Benson have developed their own energy plans. Mr. Kupferer suggested if the Town is going to develop a plan, they could review some of the other towns’ plans that have been adopted. Mark Winslow advised the Planning Commission has already done this; however, the checklist is substantial and there are some concerns with liability. Mr. Winslow provided a couple of examples of concerns in the checklist. Mr. Kupferer stated as a municipality, and as a practical matter, he questioned who would enforce many of the items outlined in the checklist. Mr. Winslow stated the Planning Commission wants to make sure this is not something that is going to come back on the Town regarding enforcement. Mr. Kupferer stated there is a question of how there is going to be the ability to verify and enforce some of these items. Chuck Charbonneau was concerned when a property is being sold, whether someone can come back on the seller if there is not compliance. Mr. Kupferer stated it is going to take a long time for something like this to take effect because it is a town-adopted plan and there are varying criteria. Mr. Charbonneau suggested it will start today as guidelines but will go further with State requirements going forward and he does not see this taking hold for years as a practical matter, as there is so much that is not enforced. Jeff Biasuzzi has talked with the ANR enforcement officers and was advised they have limited resources in terms of manpower. Mr. Conway noted concern with the Town Plan if an energy plan is incorporated in the plan as statute indicates that plans must comply with the goals and objectives outlined. David Soulia agreed as municipal town plans will be reviewed based on the action items.
Rick Conway advised the RRPC representative indicated it could be a separate document, and if it was a stand-alone document, the zoning stays in effect when the Town Plan expires. Mr. Conway also noted concern with opening the Town Plan again, as it was a big hurdle getting the Town Plan passed by the RRPC.
Jeff Biasuzzi advised that he gets questions from solar developers concerning the Town’s regulations regarding solar. The project owners submit their projects through the PUC and the Town can participate as an interested party, but the PUC makes the ultimate decision. The PUC does not do enforcement on violations and there is no track record of what substantial defference does for towns in the hearing process. Mr. Biasuzzi stated there have been some standards imposed by the PUC regarding setbacks and the number of recs that one can sell. Mr. Winslow expressed concern if the Town moves forward with the energy plan according to the checklist if it will be setting up townspeople for something else that will be done in the future. Mr. Winslow stated the Legislature came up with the energy plan that has now been changed by the VNR and questioned whether the Town would be doing what the Legislature wants or the VNR. Rick Conway noted he had a conversation with Representative Shaw and was advised that the Legislature is proposing to add a tax to diesel fuels to assist in funding energy improvements for homes. He noted many people in Vermont could not afford to do the efficiency improvements to their homes.
Tammy Hitchcock asked if anyone has approached Sudbury or Benson concerning the qualification of their plans and Mr. Winslow confirmed they have not been contacted. Mr. Winslow questioned what the Planning Commission would like to bring forward to the Select Board, suggesting that the Commission should clarify how the Select Board would like them to proceed and noted that perhaps the Planning Commission could develop its own energy plan to address some of the items outlined.
Chuck Charbonneau noted concern with opening the Town Plan for re-adoption after what happened with the last approval process and the Select Board should be made aware of this. Rick Conway stated the Town cannot regulate residential solar and if the RRPC is already reviewing commercial projects, a Town Energy Plan would put additional burden on the project person. Jeff Biasuzzi noted the PUC has been dismal in granting cooperation to towns that have substantial defference who have opposed projects. David Soulia asked if there is a way to quantify the success of substantial defference. Rick Conway stated projects must go along 3-phase power lines and there has been no one at the meetings regarding issues with solar projects. Mr. Winslow noted Barbara Noyes-Pulling had indicated the Town could potentially put solar projects in the industrial or commercial areas and Mr. Winslow is concerned that this puts restrictions on the public. Mr. Biasuzzi advised that the PUC can overrule any local rules, unless there are flood plains or wetlands. Ted Gillen suggested representatives from the Planning Commission go to the Select Board to advise that the RRPC has an Energy Plan and that the PUC has the authority for the projects. Mr. Winslow agreed that instead of reopening the Town Plan, given the RRPC will weigh in on projects and the PUC has the ultimate authority.
Rick Conway suggested there should be more accountability at the RRPC level, as their minutes are minimal. David Soulia advised that he films the main meeting. Mark Winslow suggested asking the RRPC to film all their meetings. The Planning Commission members agreed.
A motion was made by Ted Gillen and seconded by Chuck Charbonneau to ask the Select Board reevaluate the instruction to the Planning Commission to produce a solar site plan due to concerns the Planning Commission‘s time might not be efficiently used due to existence of an RRPC Energy Plan and the fact the PUC has the ultimate authority, with the Select Board to provide clarification whether they want an enhanced energy plan or solar site plan. The motion passed unanimously.
10. Other New Business
Jeff Biasuzzi reminded the Board members about the June 18th VLCT Zoning forum. Mark Winslow advised that a “save the date” has been received concerning the Clean Water Advisory meeting and a Local Energy Committee forum. He advised the presenters will be Brad Long, Barbara Noyes-Pulling, Ian Hitchcock and the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network (VECAN). The VECAN is a non-profit non-government organization and Mr. Winslow reached out to the President of the organization. He is not sure why the organization is present, and he encouraged the Planning Commission to look at this organization. Mr. Winslow encouraged board members to attend but wanted to advise the members that VECAN is not a government organization.
Mr. Winslow advised that there was a question raised by Ed Bove of the RRPC about how the last meeting was conducted. A review of the meeting’s audio tape was done, and it was noted that there was not an issue with the meeting. Mr. Winslow was not sure why the question was raised.
Mark Winslow stated the next item for the Planning Commission’s discussion will be the river corridor. He was advised by a resident of Chittenden that there was a complaint that there is a water issue with Furnace Brook. Rick Conway advised that Steve Shields had mentioned that river corridors should be included in the Town’s Plan. Mr. Winslow stated Furnace Brook was tested, and the results were fine. Mr. Winslow noted this may be something that will come to the Planning Commission level in the future. David Soulia stated that Trout’s Unlimited has been involved in this area and there has not been a problem.
Rick Conway requested the Zoning Administrator provide the Planning Commission members a copy of the Zoning document that was just amended with the maps included. Mr. Biasuzzi advised the map is in the zoning regulations on the Town’s website. Mr. Conway stated all Zoning Board members need a copy and the Planning Commission Chair needs to sign the map. Mr. Winslow will connect with John Haverstock to complete this task. Mr. Conway noted the Zoning regulations should be dated April 11, 2019 to assure the correct version is used. David Soulia advised that he will complete the final document and requested the map be emailed to him.
11. Schedule Date/Agenda for Next Meeting
June 27, 2019 – Regular Planning Commission Meeting
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Rick Conway to adjourn the meeting at 8:49PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission