Pittsford Planning Commission Meeting
August 27, 2020
Board members in attendance; public participation via conference call.
Board Members Present: Kevin Blow, Mark Winslow, Rick Conway, Mark Pape, Derek Blow, Chuck Charbonneau
Others Present: Jeff Biasuzzi, Will Veve
1. Call to order
The meeting was called to order at 7:04PM by Mark Winslow – Chair.
2. Approval of Agenda
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by Kevin Blow to approve the agenda. The motion passed unanimously.
3. Approval of Minute
May 28, 2020 Meeting
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Derek Blow to approve the minutes of the May 28, 2020 Planning Commission meeting. The motion passed with one abstention – Chuck Charbonneau.
4. Public Comments
There was no discussion held.
5. Plains Road Solar Project Presentation
Will Veve, developer for the solar project at the GHR recycling facility, formerly Brown’s recycling. Mr. Veve and his brother have been developing solar projects for 5.5 years. They met with the Pittsford Select Board a month ago and have filed a 45-day notice that had been emailed to the Town Administrator. Mr. Veve was present to introduce the project, answer questions and obtain comments from the Planning Commission. A printout of the project was provided to the members. The proposed project is a 500kw net metered project, ground mount with nothing moving. It will occupy 4.5 acres of the 6.5-acre facility that will still be operational. There will not be a storage component and the owner will continue to operate the recycling. The project will be a reuse of the unused property that has been cleaned up and is going through the BRELLA process at the State level. This is a listed brown field that allows for this size project. There will be 2200 panels that will run in an east to west orientation. Their design considerations are out of sight out of mind and this is well suited because it is well screen and is an existing business. Once construction is finished, it will not be seen from any vantage point. They are following all PUC and ANR rules. Since Mr. Veve met with the Select Board, they have done a wetlands engineering study, an RTE study and as of right now, the initial field report indicates there is nothing there. There was discussion with the Select Board concerning vegetative management and ability to maximize production of the site by managing some of the trees on the shared property line. They have an agreement with the Select Board to take heights and tag trees that indicate would be the ones to potentially take down to increase the production for an overall better project. Mr. Veve would like to do this in coordination with the Town. From his field work, there are a lot of trees that have been taken down and an updated survey is underway that historically had not been done that will provide a fully engineered survey and identify exact property lines. The abutting property owners are a handful of houses and the majority is Town property. Yesterday the electrical engineering request was approved by Green Mountain Power. They are working on the application to have completed close to end of the 45-day notice, along with the additional work to be done. The Town will receive a copy of the application and the Planning Commission has party status and will have the ability to comment during the process. Mr. Veve was looking for general support of the project and to answer any questions or concerns so that after filing the application, it will be an easier process. Once the PUC issues the permit, they will have one year to construct the project. This would be a 25-year asset with the potential to 35-years. The panels will produce electricity from a renewal source and the renewable energy credits are retired back to GMP to go towards the State’s energy goals. There are net meter credits produced that GMP gives back at the State residential rate minus certain adders. Kevin Blow asked if the credits will be received in Vermont. Mr. Veve advised they are a tier one credit and they get retired to GMP, which stays in the State. It was noted the developer owns the panels. Within the permit, there is a requirement to have a decommissioning plan and there is a plan to return the land to former glory. It was also noted that bonding is not required. The output of the panels is 450–watt and with around 2200 panels it will provide about one megawatt of direct current. Jeff Biasuzzi was unfamiliar with the project and had not seen the statutory warning to the Planning Commission. Mr. Winslow confirmed he received the warning. Mr. Biasuzzi asked if the developer had completed other projects in Vermont and Mr. Veve advised they have completed other projects in the State, but this would be the first in Rutland County. Mr. Veve noted there was a general agreement of support from the Select Board with additional work to be done that will take a second meeting where he will present the engineering that was done. Mr. Veve was looking for a general consensus of support, but a letter of support was not required. He noted this is part of the petition process as the PUC wants to know if the developer has met with the select board and planning commission in the area. Mr. Biasuzzi stated this is a preferred solar site as it is on a brown site, but his concern was the maintenance requirements for the project. Mr. Blow questioned whether the proposed battery bank was too close to a property line. It was noted the panels have to be set back 50 feet and other equipment can be within the 50-foot setback. The Town has a 25-foot setback and the project is going to follow the setbacks to assure that it does not violate a building code. Mr. Biasuzzi noted the property is in the rural zone but has commercial use. Mr. Veve advised Act 248 overrides Act 250 as it is renewable energy and telecommunications and is strictly an Act 248 project. Mr. Veve noted the State has set a goal of being 100% renewable by 2050 and this project will positively add to the ambitious goal that has been set. Mr. Veve stated there is quite a bit of renewable activity happening in Pittsford and this is one more project towards the goal. Rick Conway noted residents in this State pay some of the highest electric bills in the country and this area has only one power supplier that is owned by a company in Canada. He stated we need to have someone doing some bargaining. Mr. Veve agreed and stated solar projects do not work without tax credits. There will ultimately be off takers who will take a percentage off their electric bill. He stated we have a highly regulated foreign–owned utility. On the utility side, GMP took over CVPS and Vermont Electric Co-op. There is Washington Electric Co-Op and 14 municipally owned electric departments who were born out of the gas-light district. None are working right because the rates keep going up every year and businesses are leaving the State because the electric rates continue to increase. Mr. Conway stated this topic needs to go before the legislators. Mr. Veve advised the project would provide additional tax dollars of about $10,000 that would be split between the State and the Town. Derek Blow asked if there would be a regular maintenance crew for the project. Mr. Veve advised the project would be monitored remotely and 4 times a year they would come in and do a full technical inspection. There would not be much mowing in this project, and they will hire locally for that work. Mr. Biasuzzi asked in the event of an emergency issue if there are provisions for training local responders. Mr. Veve advised that would be coordinated through GMP and they will provide boxes for keys for the emergencies. GMP will do the final inspection prior to it going into operation. Mark Winslow thanked Mr. Veve for considering a site like this. Mr. Conway thought it is a good project and good use for the site. Chuck Charbonneau supported the project as it is a perfect location for a solar field. Kevin Blow agreed and Derek Blow agreed it would be a good fit for the Town and appreciated the transparency of the presentation. Mark Pape was impressed with the project. Mr. Winslow summarized the Planning Commission was in favor of the project and requested the developer keep the Planning Commission updated as additional information is received.
6. RRPC Update
There was no discussion held.
7. Grant Opportunities – Jeff Biasuzzi
Jeff Biasuzzi provided information to the Planning Commission on grants now available. It was noted there is a process that has to be followed to apply. Usually the grants are written by town managers or the boards themselves. Mr. Biasuzzi suggested checking with the RRPC to see if they want to do the legwork for applying. It is up to the Planning Commission to determine which grants to apply for. Mr. Biasuzzi suggested sidewalks for recreation and walkability in the village. Mark Winslow noted the grant process opened August 1st with a deadline of September 1st. Mr. Biasuzzi stated if there is not a focus project, it is not appropriate to apply, but noted the grants are available at other times of the year. Mr. Winslow encouraged the board to review the information and determine if there is something the Planning Commission would want to consider. Rick Conway stated the Select Board has been talking about sidewalks and Mr. Haverstock is working on this. Mr. Biasuzzi stated the Welcome to Pittsford sign just north of Parker Road will be removed due to the Route 7 project and suggested the Town could get money to move it and find a place to reset it. Mr. Biasuzzi noted towns can apply for multiple grants and the State evaluates how many grants a town receives in total number of dollars. He stated the Town has not applied for a grant for a while. Mr. Conway suggested reaching out to John Haverstock as he has had discussions about sidewalks due to the Route 7 project.
8. Village Future – Economic Opportunity?
Mark Winslow stated there have been comments made to him about abandoned houses. There has been discussion about village opportunities, and this may be a subject, along with the sidewalks, to include as items the Planning Commission is looking to get done. Rick Conway stated there has been some improvements done in the village and it is nice to see that some people are purchasing the houses and doing improvements. Chuck Charbonneau noted there are big plans for Evelyn Parker’s house near the Rec Center. Mr. Winslow suggested the board members think about possible suggestions where the Planning Commission could help for discussion at the next meeting.
9. Energy Plan Summary Review
The Planning Commission members reviewed the Pittsford VT Enhanced Energy Plan Guidance Form that included the changes previously discussed. Mr. Winslow suggested under Item #6, the first sentence be put in bold. Mr. Winslow stated once the Plan is approved by the Planning Commission, it will be submitted to the Select Board. Chuck Charbonneau stated he has not seen where the Select Board has asked the Planning Commission to submit this document and Mr. Conway noted this request came through an email from John Haverstock. Jeff Biasuzzi stated the Select Board had appointed a subcommittee to research substantial defference in an energy plan. Mr. Winslow requested the Committee complete the process and he will discuss this item with Mr. Haverstock. Mr. Conway requested a confirmation of the Public Service website to assure that it is correct. Mark Pape noted there had been discussion of including Omya in the document relative to natural gas. Mr. Conway stated the ZBA has approved Howard Marcel to install a 30,000-gallon propane tank so there will be a propane dealer in Pittsford. Mr. Pape stated if Omya brings a line of LNG to their plant, it could benefit the Town and if the Town coordinates an effort for natural gas, it will benefit the entire area.
A motion was made by Kevin Blow and seconded by Derek Blow to approve the Pittsford VT Enhanced Energy Plan Guidance Form as amended with the two changes discussed. The motion passed unanimously.
The Plan will be updated and sent out to the Planning Commission members. It was the consensus of the Planning Commission to request this item be added to the Select Board meeting agenda for presentation.
Rick Conway thanked Mark Winslow and Tom Markowski for the work that was done on the Energy Plan.
10. Other New Business
Kevin Blow has been asked to serve on a Hazard Mitigation Committee. He stated in 2016 a document was adopted by the Select Board. He noted there has been discussion of a River Corridor being added to the Plan. Jeff Biasuzzi advised this is an Emergency Plan that is for FEMA Funding Disaster Relief and there has been a push by FEMA to get the plans updated. Steffanie Bourque of the RRPC is assigned to write the plans. There is a template based on FEMA requirements and Ms. Bourque is required to get towns’ input to address facilities that may be at risk. Information is obtained from water, sewer, fire and rescue departments, members of planning commissions and select boards. Ms. Bourque runs a very organized meeting and needs to satisfy FEMA. There is an additional 7.5% FEMA funding with the plans. Mr. Blow noted concern there are not minutes taken at the committee meetings and it was made clear to him that they were not going to take minutes. Rick Conway stated the Open Meeting laws apply to all public bodies that include municipal boards, councils, committees, and subcommittees and talks about posting of minutes. Mr. Conway stated from what he understands, what is contained in the Mitigation Plan should be included in the Town Plan and the draft is supposed to be submitted to the Select Board and Planning Commission and ultimately to FEMA. Mr. Blow was appointed by the Select Board. Mark Winslow noted Mr. Haverstock had asked him to be on the Committee and he suggested Mr. Blow. Mr. Conway suggested reaching out to the VLCT to determine if there has been a change. Mr. Biasuzzi stated there is a checklist of specialty areas that have to be addressed. Mr. Blow advised there is an agenda provided for each meeting, but there has not been any voting. Mr. Conway stated the Hazard Mitigation Officer is authorized to work with the Plan that is to be updated every five years. The Select Board will appoint an EMD who will chair the meetings with other members to include the Zoning Administrator, Fire Chief, Constable, Planning Commission members, Health Officer, and other town organizations such as the Historical Society. There are criteria outlined for the Plan. The Select Board holds a public hearing on the draft plan and once it is adopted it will be posted on the Town’s website and forwarded to FEMA for final approval. The Town will ensure public participation and provide information on how to access the plan and provide feedback. Mr. Biasuzzi stated when hiring the RRPC to develop a plan, they have a template that is used and when indicating specifics in a plan, it provides the opportunity to obtain funding from FEMA. Mr. Winslow thanked Kevin Blow for serving on this Committee. Mr. Biasuzzi noted fluvial erosion hazard zones are being replaced by river corridors.
11. Schedule Date/Agenda for Next Meeting
September 24, 2020 @ 7PM – Regular Planning Commission Meeting
A motion was made by Rick Conway and seconded by Derek Blow to adjourn the meeting at 8:47PM. The motion passed unanimously.
The Pittsford Planning Commission