Town of Pittsford Select Board Meeting April 18, 2007
Allen Hitchcock, Vice Chairman, acted as Chair in Thomas "Hank" Pelkey's absence. A. Hitchcock opened the meeting at 6:30 p.m. Select Board members present were: Joseph Gagnon and David Markowski. Thomas "Hank" Pelkey and Thomas Hooker were not present. Also present were Michael Balch, Linda Drummond, Robert Forrest, Thor Konwin, Tom and Kathy Brown, Todd and Mary Grant, and Tom Carrara. Michael Fraysier and Shawn Good arrived at 6:35 PM.
Baird Morgan and Lisa Connell arrived at 6:40 PM. John Eugair and Don Nickless arrived at 6:45 PM. Steve Pytlik arrived at 6:45 PM. Bob Harnish arrived at 7:00 PM.
The Select Board minutes of April 4, 2007 were reviewed, discussed, and approved.
The orders of were reviewed, discussed and approved in the amount of $29,959.60.
TOWN MANAGER'S REPORT
Mike Balch reported on the following:
There have been eight applicants for the Assistant Town Clerk/Treasurer position to date with the deadline for applications set for April 30, 2007.
At 5:00PM on April 18, 2007, Governor Douglas arrived and was briefed by Charles "Butch" Shaw, Assistant Fire Chief of the Pittsford Fire Department and Shawn Erickson Supervisor of the Pittsford Highway Department reporting on the damages in Pittsford; and a senior representative from CVPS reporting that 5 to 10% of services were still out in Pittsford. All the roads are open except for a few Class 4 roads because there are trees down mixed with downed wires. The State representative from FEMA was present and figures of Pittsford damages will be compiled and reported to them to find out if Pittsford is eligible for FEMA help.
There is Legislative alert on House Bill 532. House Bill 532 proposes that the two assistant judges for Rutland can borrow long-term money for capital expenditures on behalf of the Towns and then bill them for the bond without having a vote of the Towns.
M. Balch reported that a letter had been received from Dr. John McGarry concerned about speeding on Sangamon Road. M. Balch has already started a process on determining what the issues are and will compile a report for the Board.
M. Balch did draft a lease for the Town owned parcel to the Carpenters.
M. Balch did check out the condemned house situation on Route 7 but there are issues waiting for a court decision. There are disputed ownership rights on the property.
M. Balch did send out the letters of appreciation to the highway department and police department as he was instructed at the April 4, 2007 Board meeting.
Town of Pittsford Select Board Meeting April 18, 2007
Todd Grant stated that the wind storm destroyed the Buro's dog kennel next to his property. He inquired as to whether or not the Buros can rebuild the kennel. M. Balch stated that the zoning ordinance would determine if they can rebuild and he will have to review the ordinance in order to give Mr. Grant an answer. Mr. & Mrs. Grant departed at 6:45PM.
Consider additional information by Michael Fraysier, Director of State Lands, for proposed sale of Forrest property
Allen Hitchcock, acting Chair for the Board, asked Michael Fraysier, Director of State Lands, to discuss the possible acquisition of the Robert Forrest property, how the property will be handled, maintenance of the property, what the State will do with the property, and to give the Board a base to raise questions. A. Hitchcock stated that even though he was acting Chair tonight, he would be asking questions and raising issues in regards to this proposal as if he was just sitting on the Board as the other members are tonight. He asked if there were any objection to his participation, that it be made known at that time. There were no objections.
Michael Fraysier stated that one of Dept. of Forests, Parks, and Recreation's programs is the Wetlands Protection and Restoration Program. The new program is part of the Clean and Clear initiative to clean up Lake Champlain and to improve its phosphorus levels. Background on the process is that it is a volunteer program with a willing seller and willing buyer. The program provides funds for a landowner with a wetland or impaired wetland property which is a candidate for wetland restoration. The program provides funding for protection and/or restoration of the wetland property. Protection can be provided through conservation easement or State acquisition.
The Forrest property was reviewed through the agency's Land Acquisition Review Committee which recommended State acquisition because of its various values which include its 130-acres with 3500 feet on Otter Creek and is very wet. There are a number of ditches that need to be cleaned out and is fairly marginal as farmland. The owner has expressed interest in selling this property. There is a potential partner in this project with Natural Resource Conservation Service which is interested in participating in this property. The property if acquired by the State would be managed directly by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. It would generally be a wildlife management area open and available to the public. M. Fraysier expressed that the Department wants to be good neighbors to communities and be in communities who value public open space and view the State lands as an asset to their community.
Shawn Good, Fisheries Biologist, Department of Fish and Wildlife, discussed the theoretical plans for the Forrest property. There is no set management plan in place as the property has not been purchased yet. It may not be at first as actively managed as the Pomainville property which had different objectives to meet. Initially the Forrest property would have passive restoration to recolonize the fields into natural state. The natural habitat will benefit wildlife in the area.
The primary goal of the management of the property is to restore the flood plain wetland that was there before. Passive restoration along with some planting of quick growing trees to secure the creek river side to slow sediment from flowing down the creek.
Allen Hitchcock expressed his concerns about first the statement the Select Board made several weeks ago in regards to the proposed property action. A. Hitchcock stated from memory the Select Board supports Bob Forrest's right to sell or handle his property as he chooses as long as it is legal. A. Hitchcock agrees with that statement. The remainder of the statement says that the Board will not make a precedent of supporting a position in this case with the ultimate determination of the benefits of the Town. A. Hitchcock does not believe the statement tells the State anything and the statement doesn't help the State to know what the Town is in favor of. A. Hitchcock asked Mr. Fraysier his opinion of the statement. If the statement only covers Bob Forrest's property, A. Hitchcock feels the statement is discriminatory. The State deserves a clear opinion one way or another from the Board. A. Hitchcock cited other Town property sales that were once prime agricultural land and have had a change in use through zoning and planning regulations without any objections from the Board and he feels Bob Forrest has the right to sell his property as long it is done legally.
D. Markowski stated that the Board's intention was not to restrict the sale of the Forrest property to the State. The question that came in from the State was that they would not proceed with the purchase of the Forrest property without the unanimous endorsement of the Pittsford Select Board. At the time of the statement, the Board did not want to have any input on whether Mr. Forrest sold his property to the State or to anyone else. There were concerns that the State would not have to go through any permit process to change the use of the property from prime agriculture to wetland. Any other property owner would have to go through the Act 250 process to change the use of a property. The Board's intent was not to say that Bob Forrest could not sell his property to the State of Vermont. The Board did not want to take a position and set a precedent to other Towns for this program and that towns have to endorse this type of sale. The State stated that they do not need to go through any permit process to change the use of the land when anyone else purchasing the land would have to go through Act 250.
M. Balch asked for clarification on the statement made by the State that the property would never be able to be farmed again. M. Fraysier stated that the funding of the purchase is to restore the wetlands. The property would be converted from its current use to a natural flood plain forest use.
T. Carrara asked what the Department of Agriculture says about this program with the change of use from prime agriculture to wetlands. M. Fraysier cannot speak on behalf of the Dept. of Agriculture but that department is a partner in the Clean and Clear program and part of their overall mission is to participate in different programs.
A. Hitchcock stated that the current appraisal of the Forrest property of the 134 acres under consideration for sale is $39, 200 in current use. Robert Forrest pays $77.00 and the State pays $104. If the State buys the land, the pilot program pays 1% of the appraised value of the land which is $392.00.
Baird Morgan stated that at the Annual Town Meeting in March 2007 he sensed the public support for this project was positive and the public would like the area to continue to have the open view. The Board mentioned the potential for farming in the future and that the land may give way to brush without any management. B. Morgan would like to see management of the property similar to the Pomainville property with trees and shrubbery planted in a way to maintain the view.
D. Markowski stated that the land left natural would grow into scrub or brush as the State management plan would be minimal initially as M. Fraysier and S. Good stated earlier in the meeting. M. Fraysier stated that the primary goal of the program is to restore the natural wetland community that used to be there and he does not know what portion of the site would be affected yet as there is no management plan in place.
S. Good stated that the management plan would probably include plantings for erosion control along the river bank. Probably the rest of the fields would be wetlands or open fields.
D. Markowski asked at what point someone would determine to maintain the property as open land. Earlier in the meeting it was stated that nothing would be done to the property initially
To clarify the process of the State and what they are looking for from the Town, M. Fraysier stated that they are required by statute to meet with the Town on a proposed acquisition and they are also required by statute to ultimately secure the Governor's approval for any State acquisition. The Governor wants to see the position of the Town and sometimes towns elect not to take a position.
The Governor takes into consideration the Town’s position into his decision and the Governor makes the final decision.
D. Nickless concludes personally that the current owner can go ahead and do whatever he wishes whether farmland or wetland. It was an established area before and let the land go back to its natural state.
J. Gagnon stated that he is in favor of Bob Forrest selling his property to anyone. He is not in favor of the State of Vermont acquiring this land. He asked M. Fraysier, S. Good, and S. Pytlik how many acres in Vermont are publicly controlled either through State ownership, Federal government ownership, and easements such as Land Trusts. M. Fraysier responded that the State owns about 343,000 acres of land and also hold easements 140,000 which is about 7% of the State's land base.
The Federal government is also about 7% as well of the State’s land base. Private land trust is also about 7% with a total of about 20% of the State's land conserved. J. Gagnon states that he feels there is enough publicly controlled land.
J. Gagnon asked S. Pytlik, Natural Resources Conservation Service, if the money for purchasing the Forrest property was coming from the Clean and Clear. S. Pytlik stated that the Federal money will purchase the easement for the rights to the value of the lands current use which is the right to farm the land before the land is sold to the State. The State money through the Clean and Clear program will purchase the land. S. Pytlik reviewed the soil maps for the Forrest property. One third of the property is prime agriculture.
J. Gagnon stated that the Board was told that the land would be returned to historical wetlands with no activity at the previous Board meeting. April Moulaert from the Wetlands Program had expressed to the Board that it would be a passive management strategy. There has been no conservation management plan developed. Discussion was held as to the type of approach whether active or passive approach for the property. Also at the first meeting in regards to any permit process from changing the prime agriculture land to a wetland, the Board was told that the State did not have to go through any permit process to change the land use. Anyone else purchasing property and changing the current land use would have to go through a permit process.
A. Hitchcock asked M. Fraysier how he interpreted the Board's statement. M. Fraysier replied that the statement seemed neutral. The proposal is consistent with the Town Plan.
D. Markowski stated that there was one request from Thomas "Hank" Pelkey as to whether there was going to be consideration for mosquito control. M. Balch stated that the Town had received an unquantified statement that if mosquitoes became a problem the State would do something about it.
M. Balch needed to clarify that the USDA will buy the farming rights and the State will own the fee simple rights will go to the State. The State could not ever decide to farm that land unless the Federal government were to sell the State back the farming rights or vacate their easement.
J. Eugair questioned the no permit process. Steve Pytlik stated that because of the passive historic restoration to wetlands none would be needed.
B. Morgan stated that there are sections in the Town Plan regarding wildlife habitat and open spaces that support the proposed Forrest sale to the State and he suggested using the Town Plan to modify the Board's statement. A. Hitchcock agreed with modifying the statement and stated that there would not be a Board judgment tonight. The other two Board members need to review the minutes of this meeting and jointly make a decision. B. Morgan suggested reviewing the minutes from the Town Meeting to be sure all of the issues expressed from the townspeople are answered.
Discussion was held in regards to the Clean and Clear program which sent out letters to landowners in the Otter Creek Basin stating that the State is interested in talking with willing landowners about their program.
Robert Forrest stated that his farmland flooded five times last year and at least 30 acres are flooded year round.
D. Markowski stated again that the Select Board never said that they were against the sale of the Bob Forrest property to the State of Vermont. The Select Board took a neutral position that was a request from the State when April Moulaert came to the meeting and stated that in order for the State to pursue the acquisition of the Forrest property, they needed the endorsement of the Board.
The Select Board opted in the statement to take a neutral position. The Board repeatedly said that Select Board wished Bob Forrest the best of luck to whoever he sells his land to. The Board did not to want to get involved with the decision process with Mr. Forrest or anyone else in Town to sell their property to whomever. A. Hitchcock will recommend to the Select Board to use the first phrase of the statement and to leave off the second phrase.
M. Balch stated that it is not a statutory or ordinance requiring that the State get approval from the Select Board and that is an administrative procedure that the State adopted. The State could actwithout the approval of the Board but with the approval of the Governor purchase the Forrest property. It is an administrative issue not a statutory issue. A. Hitchcock stated that the Board will notify the State as soon as a decision is reached possibly within the next 4 weeks. The absent Board members will review the tapes of this meeting along with the minutes.
The Select Board recessed as the Select Board and convened as the Water Board at 8:10PM.
The Select Board reconvened at 8:20PM.
The Select Board recessed as the Select Board and convened as the Sewer Board 8:20 PM.
The Select Board reconvened at 8:25 PM.
Consider payment request under utility relocation agreement
M. Balch received a copy of the May 19, 1999 Utility Relocation Agreement for project on April 12, 2007 from Susan Cochran of the VTrans Budget & Financial Operations Billing Unit. M. Balch and Gordon Delong had been unable to locate a copy of the agreement for which the Town was just recently billed.
Hitchcock made a motion to pay the VTrans bill dated February 28, 2007 for the work done in 1999 on the changing elevation of sewer manholes, rehabilitation of sewer manholes, and adjusting the elevation of valve boxes per agreement #F20819-01 for $16, 350.00. J. Gagnon seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Consider investigation of minimum security correction facility location ramifications
A.Hitchcock heard about a 100-bed minimum security correction facility to be located in Rutland County on a radio show. He has asked M. Balch to look into this issue. M. Balch shared his involvement and experience with a correction facility located in a neighboring town to where he worked in Connecticut. M. Balch will do some research to see where a correction facility in Rutland County is being considered and will report back to the Board.
T. Carrara stated that Fair Haven has been approached to have a correction facility and this may be the same one that A. Hitchcock heard some information about.
In regards to the House Bill 532, the Board's consensus was against passing the bill. M. Balch was instructed to write a letter to the Town's legislators expressing the Board's opinion against the bill.
A. Hitchcock made a motion to go into Executive Session for Personnel and D. Markowski seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
In accordance with 1VSA 312(b) where premature general public knowledge would clearly place the Municipality or person involved at a substantial disadvantage, the Board unanimously agreed to go into Executive Session for Personnel at 8:30 PM. John Eugair was asked to stay and all others departed. The Board came out of Executive Session at 9:30 PM.
M. Balch was instructed by the Board to write a letter to the editor of The Reporter to express its appreciation for the outstanding job done by all of the Town employees and volunteers; as well as other volunteers and residents and rallying together during the wind storm that struck Pittsford on April 16th. Extra special thanks to the Pittsford Fire Department, Town Highway Department, CVPS, the VT Police Academy, and the Pittsford Food Shelf.
Without any further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:30 PM.
Linda Drummond, Recording Clerk
Thomas "Hank" Pelkey, Chair - Absent
Allen Hitchcock, Vice-Chair
W. Joseph Gagnon, Selectman
David Markowski, Selectman
Thomas Hooker, Selectman - Absent