The Harrisville Planning Board held a public hearing on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 at the town office building located on Chesham Road. This was the second public hearing related to 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, Peter Thayer, Ned Hulbert, Jon Miner, Courtney Cox
Members absent: Noel Greiner
Members of the public: Winston Sims, Harry Wolhandler, Andrew Maneval, Don Scott, Charles Sorenson, David O’Neil, Heri Tryba, Scott Neary, Kate Neary, Mary Day Mordecai, Barbara Watkins, Lee Baker, Erik Anderson, Max Boyd, Carolyn Pockett, Carol Ogilvie
Meeting opened at 7:04 pm.
Ryan Stone stated that the voting members present included himself, Lisa Anderson, Jon Miner, Ned Hulbert and Courtney Cox.
Mr. Stone noted that new business on the agenda would include matters related to access to the O’Neil Sandpit and a brief report from the Transportation Committee. Mr. Miner moved to approve the agenda as amended. Ned Hulbert seconded. All voted in favor.
Minutes of previous meetings 11/14 and 11/27
Lisa Anderson moved to approve both sets of minutes as written. Ned Hulbert seconded. All voted in favor with Mr. Hulbert abstaining due to absence.
With the absence of the Cucchis, Mr. Stone stated that this agenda item would move to the end of business.
Zoning Ordinance revisions
The board shared hard copies of the latest draft amendments, which incorporated feedback from the first public hearing. Mr. Stone opened the public hearing on the following:
Broadband/Cell Tower amendment– Andrew Maneval noted that no additional changes had been made to the proposed broadband/cell tower amendment and that, as noted at the last public hearing, the appendix was removed. There were no issues or concerns expressed about the proposed provisions.
Home based businesses/home occupations– Initial discussion surrounded the existing language “outdoor display of goods”. Mr. Maneval noted a Supreme Court case of a few years ago, and a decision handed down, related to sign ordinances in towns. In Mr. Maneval’s view, the current Harrisville ordinance comports with the new law, if not in its exact language, but he hoped to remind the PB to keep the matter on its radar for next year in the event questions arise from applicants wishing to post signs. No additional questions or comments were made.
Nonconforming uses, lots and structures– The group discussed language related to height restrictions and under what conditions a special exception is required. Ultimately it was agreed that height is addressed in the general provisions and that the words “either volume or” could be removed from 5.3.3 and 5.4.1.
Additional discussion surrounded the definition of footprint and structural footprint, and under what circumstances decks and porches are incorporated or not and could be replaced as of right or not. Following additional comments, it was agreed that the phrase “in kind”, rather than “footprint”, was most suitable for 5.3.1.
Next, relating to use of lots and structures, the meaning of the word “discontinued” was raised and if “discontinued” and “abandoned” had different meanings. The group discussed a variety of scenarios under which the different terms could be applied. Given time constraints preparing for Town Meeting and given larger questions at hand, including whether or not the town’s intention is to grandfather discontinued uses on nonconforming lots indefinitely, the matter will be taken up next year by the Ordinance Review Committee.
Impervious cover– Proposed language allows for exceeding the 20% limit on impervious cover if property owners demonstrate, with adequate and scientific technical support, the use of proper infiltration techniques. Winston Sims voiced deep concern that opening the door to potential excesses of 20% in impervious cover was both illogical and inappropriate. He called for more restrictive measures, in the general provision addressing impervious cover as well as elsewhere in the town ordinances, to prevent water runoff from all properties onto other properties and onto town roads. He also addressed enforcement of shoreline vegetation buffers. Mr. Sims cited the August 2018 storm as an example of the damage that can result from insufficient regulation. Committee members responded that the proposed amendment still requires proof of adequate infiltration and that its purpose is narrow; restrictions related to shoreland development are addressed elsewhere in the ordinance. The larger issue of stormwater management will be taken up in 2019. Though Mr. Wolhandler is a member of the Ordinance Review Committee, Mr. Sims stated he doesn’t believe the Conservation Commission has taken a position on the amendment.
Definitions section– The ORC proposes removing certain definitions that either are duplicated or not referenced anywhere else in the ordinance and modifying those definitions affected by the proposed amendments so that language is clear and consistent throughout.
With no additional comments, at 8:15 pm, the PB moved to close the public hearing. The board will take up the matter of moving the ballot of proposed zoning amendments at its January meeting.
Heri Tryba, who attended the NH Municipal Association law lecture on solar arrays and zoning, summarized the presentation for the PB. Towns are enabled through NH RSAs to regulate solar arrays, typically through a conditional use permit, both for residential and commercial applications, but towns cannot prohibit them. Mr. Tryba left the materials distributed at the seminar for the board’s reference. He noted that visual impact was the most addressed aspect. The board thanked Mr. Tryba and stated that discussions would continue in the coming year.
Ryan Stone and Lisa Anderson recused themselves for the following two matters:
O’Neil Earth Excavation Permit (Jaquith Road)
Ned Hulbert explained the administrative changes that needed to be made to the approval granted on the extension permit. The changes were recommended by the NHMA attorneys who advised they be made based on the language in prior approvals of the PB. Referring to conditions #4, #5 and #7, Mr. Hulbert read the new language (shown in italics) as follows:
- The only access for heavy equipment vehicles, loaded or unloaded, will be through the adjacent Town Gravel pit on Hancock Road. Permission to use the Town Gravel pit must be granted in writing by the Selectmen by January 1, 2019and a copy of that letter must be attached to and made part of this permit.
- The duration of the permit will be for seven (7)years, from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2025, if the conditions herein are complied with.
7. The O’Neils will post a performance bond in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) to cover reclamation costs, annually, starting January 1, 2019, and a copy will be submitted to the Planning Board.
A new copy of the notice will be sent to the O’Neils within five days.
Jaquith Road residents
Mr. Hulbert noted that a couple of abutters were concerned after town trucks were using the Jaquith Road entrance/egress to the O’Neil sand pit to haul sand. Jon Miner explained that the allowance was made due to safety concerns and due to immediate winter maintenance needs for all town roads and for public benefit. Mr. Miner further explained the unique sand situation and the regulation in RSA 155(e)4II allowing the town to use the access not allowed for private or commercial reasons.
Residents spoke to truck activity in prior years that they had voiced concerns about and questioned that safety was an issue for town vehicles. They believe that Jaquith Road is challenging enough without extra, and large, trucks using it. Residents found it particularly frustrating given the recent O’Neil permit extension approval at the last Planning Board hearing where residents voiced strong concerns on this exact matter. Complaints were not directed against the Road Agent or the O’Neils but against the Select Board. Residents asked why contact wasn’t made with residents beforehand, or why caution signs weren’t in place.
On the question of jurisdiction over the matter, Ned Hulbert clarified that the PB is the regulator on excavation activities and that enforcement is through communication with the Select Board. Subsequently, residents expressed additional disagreement that the regulations exempted the town.
David O’Neil spoke to assure residents that there were absolutely no behind the scenes discussions between him and the town.
All parties agreed they would like to avoid a recurrence of this and that the crux of the problem is communication. Residents reiterated that they’re afraid the problem will be ongoing and requested assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. Mr. Hulbert suggested that residents discuss the matter with the Select Board at its regular Thursday meeting the following night. Before that, residents would meet with the Road Agent and a couple of PB members at 7:00 Thursday morning to express their objections. It was not immediately known whether or not the highway department had completed its hauling. All agreed with Mr. Hulbert’s suggestion.
Mr. Stone and Ms. Anderson returned to the table.
Mr. Stone noted no volunteers were readily available to serve as a liaison and all agreed to defer the discussion.
The board reviewed its proposed budget items for 2019. Ms. Anderson noted that attendance at workshops has been high but not excessive related to budget. The line item for Carol Ogilvie’s professional services, which includes and extra $500 for 2019, also was agreed to, and it was noted that money was left over from 2018. The Transportation Committee was requesting $1,000, for engineering work related to possible crosswalks at the school and in the village. Members had no concerns regarding the requests.
Mary Day Mordecai stated that the committee has been looking at transportation issues that affect quality of life and economic development in town. The goal of projects is to attract young families, who care about walkability and bikeability and to improve conditions on roads which, right now, are not designed for pedestrian and cycling traffic. Committee also would like to help meet needs of bikers and walkers through signage in the village, crosswalks and the Safe Routes to School project, which received a $5,000 grant. Use of trails, and connecting trails to roads, is also a priority. Barbara Watkins noted that SWRP has offered to help create trail maps at no cost to the town.
Ms. Mordecai added that the committee is seeking a longer-term commitment from the Select Board on the Complete Streets Resolution, approved by the Select Board last year for a one year term. The committee will attend the SB meeting Thursday night to request a 5-year commitment, given their feeling that a longer commitment would improve chances for grant money.
Andrew Maneval next spoke to the idea of $5 motor vehicle registration fee to raise money for transportation needs. He shared a draft Warrant Article proposing the fee and explained that the committee opted for language specifying the particular use of the funds, to go toward pedestrian and/or bicycle facilities, projects or uses within the town, rather than for general transportation purposes. The enabling legislation for the motor vehicle registration fee falls under RSA 261:153, section 6. Mr. Maneval asked if the PB would want to take a position on it, noting voters at Town Meeting ultimately would decide should the Warrant Article be presented. Mr. Hulbert noted that Peterborough approved such a vehicle use fee, which goes to a Capital Reserve Fund and goes toward multi-modal transportation, and that Swanzey has it as a Capital Reserve Fund, primarily for road repair. In Keene, funds go into the General Fund, also allocated for multi-modal transportation uses, such as bike lanes and speed bumps. The committee hopes for the PB’s endorsement.
Initial feedback from PB members was mixed, with several members opposed believing it’s equivalent to a tax and preferring a specific project with a specific price tag be proposed. Discussion ensued related to who would bear the tax and who would benefit, and whether a one-time hit was more preferable to a capital reserve fund. All agreed voters should decide how to spend the money.
Jon Miner requested to address the board to clarify that, in the matter of town trucks using Jaquith Road to haul sand, the Select Board acted for the good of the town as a whole and for the safety of town drivers. He reiterated that there was no deception behind the action or the decision, and that the board was being unfairly attacked by residents, when the board was acting on the request of the Road Agent on behalf of his employees. Mr. Maneval noted that one of the responsibilities of the Select Board, in addition to emergency needs, is the obligation to taxpayers, and, if discretion is to be used, the idea that the town could save $15,000 for a week or several weeks of sand removal, might be appreciated by the town, even if it caused concern regarding use of a certain road. All agreed the timing was unfortunate.
Meeting adjourned at 9:43 pm.