Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
February 27, 2020
Board Members Present: Kevin Blow, Mark Winslow, David Soulia, Rick Conway, Chuck Charbonneau, Tom Markowski
Also in Attendance: Jeff Biasuzzi – Zoning Administrator, Ralph Meima – Green Lantern Solar
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:03PM by Mark Winslow – 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 Minute
. January 23, 2020 Orin Thomas Hearing
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Kevin Blow to approve the minutes of the January 23, 2020 Planning Commission hearing. The motion passed unanimously.
. January 23, 2020 Meeting
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by David Soulia to approve the minutes of the January 23, 2020 Planning Commission meeting. The motion passed unanimously.
. December 19, 2019 Meeting Minutes Amendment
Kevin Blow recommended an amendment to the December 19th meeting minutes removing David Soulia from the Board Members present, as he was not at the meeting.
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Rick Conway to amend the minutes of the December 19, 2019 meeting removing David Soulia’s name. The motion passed unanimously.
4. Public Comments
There was no discussion held.
5. Review of Site Visit – Corn Hill Colburn Solar Project
Mark Winslow requested a review of the site visit at Corn Hill that was held today. Rick Conway stated for the public record there was a quorum of the Planning Commission members present, as well as Rick Coburn, Jeremy Owens and Ralph Meimi. The site visit began at 4:00PM and all left the site at 4:37PM.
Ralph Meimi thanked the Planning Commission for doing a site visit and provided an updated sketch map of the proposed array. He updated the “Preferred Site” letter the Planning Commission is being asked to sign with an updated date and reference to the site visit. Mr. Meimi stated Green Lantern is requesting the Town’s Select Board and Planning Commission and the Regional Planning Commission designate this as a “preferred site”. On the “Preferred Site” map, the project is in an area that has some color as a primary site for solar. The Coburn lot also has a designation for secondary solar as it is within one mile of the power lines. Mark Winslow asked if the map is a draft and Jeff Biasuzzi advised the map was from when the Planning Commission was considering submitting for substantial defference. Rick Conway advised the maps are dated June 19, 2019 and are part of RRPC’s Energy Plan. Mr. Meimi stated these are not zoning maps but are guidance maps for where to look for solar projects. Mr. Conway stated the Town has what is in the RRPC Energy Plan, it has been decided to opt out of what the State wanted to do, and the Town is developing their own Energy Plan. Chuck Charbonneau stated things have changed in that location from when the maps were drawn up, as there was no 3-phase power and it may become more viable when it is realized there is 3-phase in the area. Mr. Meimi noted they have all the interconnection for the project. Mr. Meimi advised Green Lantern had been talking with the landowner before the map was seen and prior to knowing that the RRPC had this area as a preferred solar location. Mr. Winslow stated the property line does not match up on the map with what was discussed at the site visit. Mr. Meimi advised that the property line is what was recorded on the owner’s deed; however, the next phase of the process will include a full-on survey with on the ground measurement for the permit application. This is basically a preliminary drawing and will be confirmed when the application is submitted. Everything that is known would suggest the solar footprint will remain the same. A survey and title study will be done to assure that all easements and rights of way are taken into consideration to a fine level of detail. Any uncertainties, including missing boundary lines will be confirmed at that time.
Mark Winslow noted for the record that he is an adjourning landowner. Mr. Winslow did not recall the Planning Commission receiving prior requests to sign a “Preferred Site” letter for solar projects. Ralph Meimi stated prior to July 2017, no one would have made the request as the “preferred site” concept was just included in the PUC Rule 5.100. Mr. Meimi stated Rule 5.103 is the definition section in the PUC document and is the net–metering rule outlining how it is supposed to work. Mr. Meimi will also be appearing before the Town Select Board and the RRPC. Mr. Meimi noted the letter is a document that is used a lot and is proven to be reliable, with a number of towns’ attorneys having reviewed it. It was the consensus of the Planning Commission to sign the “Preferred Site” letter.
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Tom Markowski to authorize the Board Chair to sign the letter regarding designation of a proposed solar site as “preferred site” under Rule 5.100. The motion passed unanimously.
Mark Winslow requested a copy of the proper laid out plan be forwarded to the Planning Commission once completed. Mr. Winslow thanked all members of the Planning Commission for attending the site visit today.
6. RRPC Update
David Soulia reported the RRPC cancelled last month’s meeting due to weather.
7. Energy Plan Summary
Mark Winslow advised that he has taken all information received from the Commission members and developed a summary as a starting point to draft the Town’s Energy Plan. Tom Markowski advised that he still has to provide information regarding LNG (liquified natural gas). He used Omya as an example and the only plan with this information was from the Northwest Regional Planning Commission. He noted from the time Omya converted to LNG, they are looking at a 15% reduction in CO2. He stated other counties seem to be moving away from it, but there is good cost savings and is cleaner energy than fuel. He noted there are incentives on equipment when converting to this source and it would provide the opportunity for people to have assessments done on their homes. Jeff Biasuzzi reported he received a request regarding the installation of a 30,000 gallon propone storage facility. It is not a permitted use in the Table of Uses and will have to go before the ZBA, which will be warned for a March hearing. It is not a permitted use, but there is an exemption clause to ask for a conditional use review due to a similar application already in place in the commercial zoning area. Mark Winslow thought LNG is important to be included in the Energy Plan. Mr. Markowski advised he has information on the cost savings. Mr. Biasuzzi noted at a recent seminar, there was a consultant who was a proponent of electric that predicts propane’s use will be diminished because the electric motors will be improved.
Rick Conway stated the Planning Commission’s site visit was a very good process to have outside of having a current Energy Plan. Jeff Biasuzzi noted this project does not have many areas that would be affected, however, Mr. Conway noted there is one abutter to the south that will be in the direct view. Tom Markowski stated if the project follows the criteria of the Town’s Plan, the Planning Commission would make the decision accordingly. Chuck Charbonneau agreed that it is a very good process.
Mr. Winslow requested a volunteer to draft the Energy Plan from the outline that he developed to include information, or attachments of data, that had been provided by the Planning Commission members. Tom Markowski volunteered to put together the information. Mr. Winslow reviewed the outline developed that included the encouragement of using Efficiency Vermont when possible, encouraging strategies to reduce energy and exploration of other options for power, establishment of solar project guidelines, encouraging the use of other renewable sources of energy, encourage deregulation of electricity in Vermont and encourage new construction to consider energy efficient standards.
Rick Conway noted the Zoning Board has the option to require a bond for decommissioning of a solar project. Mark Winslow noted the Planning Commission is determining a plan for what it would like for solar sitings, however he is not aware of anyone that has posted a bond for decommissioning. Jeff Biasuzzi noted there is a bond requirement for decommissioning. Mr. Winslow stated some of the solar project guidelines could include following the Town regulations and “Quechee Test” and final approval from the RRPC prior to the ruling from the PUC. Mr. Biasuzzi stated town road access and signage should be applicable to zoning rules and a project should provide a performance deposit for landscaping and maintenance. It was noted the decommissioning requirement is relatively new.
All information for attachments to the Energy Plan were provided to Mr. Markowski for inclusion in the draft. Mr. Winslow requested the draft cover the major items in an effort to move the Energy Plan along. Mr. Biasuzzi stated it will require amending the existing Town Plan, however, Mr. Winslow advised this will be more of an Energy Statement and will not be included in the Town Plan.
Tom Markowski questioned whether LNG should be included in the plan or is the plan designed to steer towards other renewable sources. Rick Conway noted the townspeople did not encourage large commercial wind but would encourage small projects. Mr. Conway noted biomass would also be an energy option. Mark Winslow noted LNG is not going away and did not think it could be excluded. Mr. Conway will contact Steve Shields of the RRPC to get clarification or get an overlay of the Solar Siting map with the Zoning map. Mr. Conway suggested placing asterisks on any information that was taken from the RRPC Energy Plan to note those sections that were taken from their Plan.
8. Other New Business
Jeff Biasuzzi provided a statutory warning from the Brandon Planning Commission as they are amending their zoning regulations that currently have Flood Plain regulations but will be enhancing the Plan to include the newest language that FEMA likes to see that includes River Corridor regulations.
Mr. Biasuzzi advised VLCT has provided a Save-the Date for the upcoming Planning and Zoning Forum for May 29th in Ludlow.
Rick Conway suggested the Vice-Chair be given authority to sign on behalf of the Planning Commission in the absence of the Chair or if the Chair is unable to sign, similar to what is done on the Town’s Zoning Board.
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by David Soulia to authorize the Vice-Chair to sign documents in the event the Board Chair is unavailable. The motion passed unanimously.
Mark Winslow advised that Representative Shaw has provided the Board Chair a document outlining the RRPC’s funding that was shared with the Commission members. Mr. Winslow noted any questions concerning the report could be directed to Representative Shaw. Mr. Winslow noted the RRPC can lobby organizations for jobs. Mr. Shaw will provide a copy of the RRPC audit for anyone who would like a copy. Mr. Conway requested a copy of the audit.
David Soulia reported H688 – Act 250 2.0 bill was voted out of Natural Resources and has gone to the Ways and Means Committee as they are looking for $650,000 in funding. The bill indicates there would be one State panel and would eliminate having district commissions. The regional districts would remain but would have only minor approval authority. Mr. Soulia noted it is not sure where this will go now. Jeff Biasuzzi stated they would need 15 people on staff. Rick Conway stated the district coordinator has the ability to rule an application as a minor application and involves the commission if it a major application. Mr. Soulia advised this authority would be eliminated and there would be one statewide commission. Mr. Soulia stated theoretically it got voted in, but not funded. Mr. Biasuzzi stated the VLCT has been following this and there have been some revisions suggested that make sense, but there are some that they do not agree on. They want to now include agriculture and silviculture under their jurisdiction and taking the acreage component and changing it to environmental impact. Mr. Biasuzzi advised that designated downtown districts are exempt from Act 250 and there is some movement on positive control. Mr. Biasuzzi noted any bills in committee by mid-March will have to wait for another session.
David Soulia reported there will be a press release about the climate caucus in Montpelier on fyivt.com. Tomorrow is the final cut off for testimony regarding the Transportation/Carbon initiative.
9. Schedule Date/Agenda for Next Meeting
March 26, 2020 @ 7PM – Regular Planning Commission Meeting
A motion was made by David Soulia and seconded by Rick Conway to adjourn the meeting at 8:27PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission