Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
December 19, 2019
Board Members Present: Kevin Blow, Mark Winslow, David Soulia, Rick Conway, Chuck Charbonneau
Also in Attendance: Jeff Biasuzzi – Zoning Administrator
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:05PM by Mark Winslow – Chair.
2. Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Rick Conway to approve the agenda. The motion passed unanimously.
3. Approval of Minute
. October 24, 2019
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Chuck Charbonneau to approve the minutes of the October 24, 2019 Planning Commission meeting. The motion passed unanimously.
4. Public Comments
There was no discussion held.
5. RRPC Update
Mark Winslow suggested the Planning Commission request a brief summary of future Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) meetings from the Pittsford representative who attends the meetings. Dave Mills or David Soulia usually attend the meetings, however, neither attended the last meeting. Alicia Malay attended as the representative from Pittsford.
Rick Conway advised Barbara Noyes-Pulling is now the Energy Planner for the RRPC. It was noted there has been discussions concerning the funding received with regard to energy. Mark Winslow advised there is no outside funding received and was advised by Representative Shaw that the RRPC can lobby for extra work in this area to obtain additional funds, but there is no private funding. Representative Shaw provided Mr. Winslow a breakdown of the budget.
6. Work on Energy Plan
Mark Winslow noted his charge was to look into electricity and de-regulation. Mr. Winslow stated “The PUC and the State of Vermont should be encouraged to deregulate electricity. Vermont has an excessive cost to electricity that is putting an unnecessary burden on citizens compared to our neighbors to the west in New York. Comparing actual costs for September 2019, a home in Pittsford is paying .178 cents per KWH while the actual bill for a home in New York using similar power is paying .115 cents per KWH. That 35% savings would save the Pittsford homeowner $62/month or $746 per year.
The New York PUC oversees the Choose Energy Program in the state. The power company that carries the power and maintains lines receives around 6 cents per KWH and the individual that buys the power chooses their supplier, rate, and term of contract. Roughly a dozen suppliers and options are available for a power buyer to choose from at a given time. These rates vary from .05 – .08 cents per KWH. This also would allow the buyer of power to choose a “greener” source of power or a traditional source of power without a single power company dictating where the individual must get their power or forcing individuals to use expensive power from poorly negotiated power contracts.
New York has had this program for quite a few years with great success. We encourage the State of Vermont and Vermont PUC to move quickly to provide this program to Vermont residents.”
It was noted that a privately held Canadian firm holds all share of Green Mountain Power, which is another reason to deregulate. Mr. Winslow noted many states that include Ohio, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Connecticut and New York are going this route. It was suggested that the inability to choose a supplier is an issue, as well as the fact that Vermont’s power is coming from a foreign country. Mr. Winslow encouraged the Board to view the website, chooseenergy.com.
Kevin Blow reported his charge was to provide information regarding siting of solar panels. Mr. Blow reviewed Vermont PUC’s recommendations and read the following excerpt from the PUC’s Rule 5.100 – Rule Pertaining to Construction and Operation of Net-Metering Systems.
“5.112 Aesthetic Evaluation of Net Metering Projects: A. Quechee Test – in determining whether a net-metering system satisfies the aesthetics criterion contained in 30 V.S.A. 248(b)(5), the Commission applies the so-called “Quechee test” as described in the case In Re Halnon, 174 Vt. 515 (2002) *mem.), set forth below:
- Step one: Determine whether the project would have an adverse impact on aesthetics and the scenic and natural beauty of an area because it would not be in harmony with its surroundings. If the answer is no, then the project satisfies the aesthetics criterion. If yes, move on to step two.
- Step two: The adverse impact will be found to be undue if any one of the three following questions is answered affirmatively:
- Would the project violate a clear, written community standard intended to preserve the aesthetics or scenic, natural beauty of the area?
- Would the project offend the sensibilities of the average person?
- Have the applicants failed to take generally available mitigating steps that a reasonable person would take to improve the harmony of the proposed project with its surroundings?”
Jeff Biasuzzi noted the Zoning Board and DRB have applied the Quechee Test. Rick Conway stated it is open-ended to interpretation and obsolete, and cases have been overturned in court. Mark Winslow stated Ted Gillen was going to provide suggestions of what to do with sitings and will follow-up with Mr. Gillen to determine if he has information to add to the Energy Plan. Mr. Winslow noted the Planning Commission could provide suggestions, such as natural barriers be established at the start of a project.
Rick Conway provided information on wind, hydro and biomass for the Energy Plan. Mr. Conway pulled the sections from the RRPC Energy Plan that related to those items as the source of information. Mr. Conway noted that the RRPC weighs in on any project in the area. The information also included site maps that provided the Town’s total usage of power. Mr. Conway stated the usage is high mainly due to Omya’s usage, but the breakdown was not known. Mr. Conway noted the information is from 2018 and the RRPC has adopted all of these plans. Chuck Charbonneau will research Omya’s energy usage to determine the Town’s usage.
Mark Winslow will obtain information from Tom Markowski and Ted Gillen on the sections they were researching prior to summarizing the information for the Energy Plan.
Rick Conway read an excerpt from the hydro power section and noted he did not know how any type of hydro could be put in. He stated Act 250 is obsolete and suggested looking at what can be done to use hydro. Mark Winslow noted there are a lot of good resources in the area for hydro. Mr. Conway stated the website, Energy 321, indicates the biggest thing they are looking at is nuclear power and there are some power plants that are being renovated.
7. Year-End Report
Jeff Biasuzzi provided a draft Planning Commission Report for the Town’s Annual Report. Mr. Biasuzzi noted there is a vacancy on the Planning Commission with the resignation of Mr. Gillen and also suggested it would be good to have an Alternate. Mr. Biasuzzi suggested the Year-End Report would be a good place to indicate the vacancies. Kevin Blow suggested Mark Pape could potentially be interested in serving on the Planning Commission. Mr. Blow will reach out to Mr. Pape to determine his interest. Mr. Biasuzzi advised the report provides information about the activities of the last fiscal year. Mr. Biasuzzi suggested the Planning Commission could also include information about the Sub-committee’s activities. Mr. Biasuzzi advised the Year-End Report has to be submitted to the Town by January 1st for inclusion in the Town Report.
8. Other New Business
Jeff Biasuzzi advised the Town received a letter from the FCC on December 6th outlining the cell tower that has recently been discussed. Mark Winslow stated ATT has filed for the location that had been discussed. The Select Board had voted 4 to 1 against the current location and did not support the use of the site. It was noted additional information was requested, but ATT did not attend the second meeting. Chuck Charbonneau had received an email that they were going to check other sites. Mr. Winslow stated the filing came through for the original location and it appears they are moving forward with that site. Rick Conway noted it is for a 5g tower. Jeff Biasuzzi advised that it is a dual-purpose tower with first responder use being the major point. Many of the neighbors have written letters to PUC and the Select Board requested another balloon test, but the ability to do the test is dependent upon the weather.
Jeff Biasuzzi reported John Haverstock had a meeting with a representative from Green Lantern Solar on Wednesday. Mr. Biasuzzi noted this company is headquartered in Waterbury and is very active in Vermont with small commercial industrial solar. They are going to propose a 500-kilowatt array on Rick Coburn’s land on Corn Hill Road. Green Lantern would like to meet with the Planning Commission to provide information and answer questions. They have not issued their 45-day warning announcement and currently the meeting would be for information only. This project is a reasonable distance from a transmission line and Green Lantern has applied for the use of the line from Green Mountain Power. John Haverstock will provide additional information to the Planning Commission and Green Lantern will be invited to attend the next Planning Commission meeting on January 23rd. Rick Conway stated the RRPC had voted on the Thomas’ solar project and it would be good to have a voting record from the RRPC so that the Town knows what is going on. Mark Winslow agreed that a more detailed report is needed from the RRPC. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the neighbor to the south of the Green Lantern project would be the most impacted neighbor. Mark Winslow asked if Rutland Town has been notified and Mr. Biasuzzi advised that they are currently doing fact-finding at this point. Mr. Biasuzzi noted the proposed project is on a preferred solar site map. Mr. Haverstock provided Green Lantern Mr. Winslow’s information to schedule the meeting.
Jeff Biasuzzi advised the Town has received a subdivision request from Orin Thomas and Sons, Inc. for property they own on Parker Road. They have requested to divide the 73 acres into two parcels. Mr. Biasuzzi provided the Planning Commission information on the request and suggested they review the information and schedule a hearing at their January 23rd Planning Commission meeting. Rick Conway thought this should go before the Zoning Board. Mr. Biasuzzi noted that the Planning Commission may want to refer the site plan review to the ZBA, but suggested they review the information and provide their comments to the Planning Commission Chair. Mr. Biasuzzi will need to know how the Planning Commission would like to proceed, noting there is a ZBA meeting scheduled for January 26th. Mr. Biasuzzi noted he will schedule a hearing for a site plan review with the Planning Commission for January 23rd in accordance to Section 1102. Mr. Biasuzzi noted this property is in two zoning districts. If a lot is in one or more districts, one can extend the less restrictive lot 35 feet into the restrictive area, however, the majority of this lot is in the conservation zone and they are creating a new situation under today’s rules, though the lots were likely set up prior to the conservation zones.
Mr. Biasuzzi reported he attended a VLCT meeting December 4th concerning code enforcement of zoning regulations. Most attendees were zoning administrators, however, there were also select board members, constables and health officers in attendance. There was discussion about using judicial tickets. There was also a discussion about towns’ ordinances and plans with regard to minimum language, non-conflicting language and illegal language. VLCT offered to do reviews or suggested referring to the regional planning commissions or hiring an attorney to do a review of the ordinances and plans.
9. Schedule Date/Agenda for Next Meeting
January 23, 2019 @ 7PM – Regular Planning Commission Meeting
A motion was made by Chuck Charbonneau and seconded by Kevin Blow to adjourn the meeting at 8:37PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission