The Harrisville Planning Board held a public hearing on Wednesday, November 27, 2018, at the town office building located on Chesham Road. The subject matter was proposed amendments to the Harrisville Zoning Ordinance from the Broadband/Cell Committee and the Ordinance Review Committee.
Members present: Ryan Stone Co-Chair, Lisa Anderson Co-Chair, Courtney Cox
Members absent: Jonathan Miner Selectman, Peter Thayer Alternate
Noel Greiner Alternate, Ned Hulbert
Members of the public: Andrew Maneval, Winston Sims, Carol Ogilvie, Sherry Sims, Brian Foucher, Kathy Scott, Don Scott, Harry Wolhandler, Pegg Monahan
Ryan Stone opened the meeting at 7:03 pm. He explained that no decisions would be made on the proposed amendments under consideration, but that the purpose of the hearing was to solicit public input. He added that the committees have been at work since the last Town Meeting, and even prior to that, to prepare their draft language for review by the Planning Board, and for vote by residents at Town Meeting this coming March. While this was the first formal public hearing on the Draft Zoning Amendments, two Community Conversations on the topic were held in this fall. Copies of the draft language were shared at those gatherings, distributed tonight and exhibited by Mr. Stone on the projection screen. Copies also remain available at town offices and on the home page of the town website.
Broadband/Internet/Cell Service Committee
Representing the Broadband/Internet and cell service committee, Andrew Maneval outlined the background work of the committee and the thinking behind their proposal to remove the existing Article XIX and replace it with a new Article XX, Personal Wireless Facilities. The purpose of the amendment is to create opportunities in town for broadband internet coverage that currently do not exist, while keeping in mind the sensitivities of prospective abutters, the Historic District interests and the importance of maintaining the town’s scenic beauty.
The article itself regulates the erection of infrastructure related to personal wireless facilities, pursuant to authority conferred by the Federal ‘telecommunications Act of 1996 and to applicable NH Statutes, and facilitates access to wireless services in furtherance of economic development and vitality, public safety /emergency management, and leisure.
Mr. Maneval summarized the language in the proposed article, including the regulation requirements and review process for proposals for facilities in each zoning district. He also described and exhibited photos of the types of infrastructure that could be proposed. He noted that the PB would be reviewing the broadband committee’s final version at its next meeting, allowing for another opportunity for public input.
Mr. Maneval reiterated that the existing ordinance precludes the possibility of providing adequate telecommunications services for residents and local businesses. The proposed language allows for some options for telecommunications providers while instituting oversight of the process by the Planning Board, Building Inspector and the Historic District Commission.
Mr. Maneval noted that the appendix would not be included in the committee’s final version to the PB, as the committee feels the technology will change over time and it doesn’t want to limit or distort the available technological options. He cited some examples of what infrastructure designs can look like.
There were no questions concerning the proposed article other than the terminology surrounding personal wireless service facilities. Committee members noted it grew out of state and federal language related to telecommunications services but that the ordinance does not differentiate between services offered to private subscribers and public entities nor between public vs. private locations for infrastructure.
Home Based Businesses/Home Occupations
Harry Wolhandler explained the proposed amendments to provisions related to home-based businesses and home occupations, noting the intent is to recognize the growth of home-based work and business activities in town and to streamline the process for home occupations that have no external impact. The most significant proposed change, related to home-based businesses, would allow the ZBA to determine the number of non-resident employees depending on what was appropriate for a particular business.
Extensive discussion occurred surrounding the relationship, or potential conflict, between the language in Article 6.1.7, which reads, “Home produce or products may be bought and sold and exposed for sale in this district” and the home occupation/home-based business clauses in 4.1.18 and 4.1.19 which read, respectively, “the activity results in no external evidence” and the business “shall have no outdoor display of goods.” The group raised options for clarifying the sale of agricultural and more discreet products versus large scale items, such as machinery, out of character with a given neighborhood. They also debated whether or not addressing the perceived potential conflict should be done in the home-based business/home occupation provisions or in Article VI. All acknowledged that language in Articles 6.1.6, 7.1.7, 8.1.7 and 10.1.7 would need to be modified or deleted accordingly.
Sherry Sims suggested some grammatical changes and Mr. Maneval suggested adding “full time and or part time” to 22.214.171.124 as related to the number of employees allowed. Further discussion surrounded the desire to promote economic growth, while preventing “ongoing yard sales.” ORC members noted the proposed amendments are based on reviews of other towns’ regulations and stem from the recognition of changes in the traditional business model, the growth of e-commerce, and the predominantly residential character of the town. The ORC would consider this matter further at its next meeting.
Article V – Nonconforming Uses, Lots and Structures
Lisa Anderson offered background to the proposed changes, citing the goal to clarify, make more consistent, and make more specific the language in these provisions and in the definition of nonconforming, thereby facilitating the process for applicants and the ZBA. The intent remains to allow natural but limited expansion, as defined and upheld by NH case law but, in its iterations of draft amendments, the ORC believed that including language about such allowances added confusion.
The group reviewed the drafting process leading to the proposed amendments and discussed the various means for allowing the public to understand how the changes were arrived at. It was decided that the clearest method for presenting to the public proposed deletions from the ordinance is through the use of strikethroughs and for exhibiting proposed additions and clarifications is through the use of bold italics. Carol Ogilvie will finalize the Draft Amendments, using this technique, for the December 12 public hearing. All comments and ideas factored in the importance and the challenge of engaging the public prior to Town Meeting.
Andrew Maneval raised the idea of introducing the Warrant with an explanation of how the proposed amendments were drafted and which public bodies, such as the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Select Board and several committees, have endorsed them, so voters understand the extent of the review process. All agreed that having paper copies of the proposals available at Town Meeting and beforehand, with someone on hand to answer questions, was a good idea. It was again noted that the Draft Amendments as they now exist are available at Town Offices and on the website, and that an article will appear in Common Threads. For ease of public review, it was proposed that substantive changes be grouped together and separately from grammatical or non-substantive changes. Lisa Anderson also suggested communicating that zoning amendments are an ongoing project, and not one that ends after Town Meeting.
Don Scott provided the intent behind the proposed amendments to the definition of impervious cover and language related to the 20% cap. The amendment proposes to allow an excess of 20% impervious cover if a property owner demonstrates the implementation of acceptable stormwater management and water infiltration techniques.
Extensive discussion ensued with disagreement over the issue of including a cap, what number makes the most sense, and whether or not the proposed language is too flexible. Concerns related to the relaxing of standards and risk of damage to adjacent properties or properties at lower elevations. Winston Sims expressed significant concern in the wake of the August 2018 rainstorm and urged stricter language. There was a difference of opinion on whether or not, and how, language related to stormwater management should be included and how this relates to impervious cover and surfaces. All agreed stormwater management was an important, but bigger and longer-term, issue that should and will be addressed separately by the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Select Board. All also agreed in the importance of encouraging infiltration techniques that mitigate damage from runoff.
Suggestions were made to draft language related to the purpose of the amendment and to the requisite burden on the property owner seeking relief from the 20% cap, proposed as 126.96.36.199.1. The ORC will consider the suggestions for the next public hearing.
Article XXVI – Definitions
Lisa Anderson explained that Amendment #5, proposed changes to the Definitions section, includes deletion of definitions referenced nowhere else in the ordinance. The full list will appear in the next draft prepared for the December 12 hearing.
The meeting adjourned at 9:11 pm.