The Harrisville Conservation Commission met at the Town Offices on September 7, 2016
Present: Winston Sims, Andrea Polizos, Jay Jacobs, Doug Gline
Absent: Harry Wolhandler, Les La Mois
Meeting opened: 7:00 pm
Agenda read by Winston Sims.
Discussion of edits to August 3 Meeting Minutes.
Winston Sims had asked the group to read all the materials forwarded to them and that are housed in the office files in order to keep up to date with conservation issues, including the original Cucchi application, which Doug Gline and Andrea Polizos stated they had not reviewed because they didn’t believe it was a matter currently before the board. Winston Sims reiterated a summary of what Ned Hulbert had stated in his letter to Mr. Cucchi about Con Com input on applications and Andrea Polizos stated she would ordinarily agree but the situation with the Cucchi application history and matter was different and that, given the nature of it, the Con Com should wait until the application is fully complete. Mr. Sims reiterated his belief that potential issues should be looked at at the earliest opportunity and Ms. Polizos responded that with most things she would agree.
In reviewing the minutes and following a suggestion by Winston Sims to edit a phrase, Jay Jacobs stated his feeling that the minutes are not to be used to clarify a position that was not initially stated during a meeting and that the minutes should stand as they are.
Motion was made to accept the revisions. Accepted by Andrea Polizos and Doug Gline. Jay Jacobs voted against.
Seaver Reservoir Application (for Con Com acknowledgement rather than for a decision). Winston Sims requested the board members’ view on one particular matter regarding a “large section along the upstream facing section of the dam will have a grassed slope similar to the historic dam above the waterline which was inadvertently stated as ‘permanent’ impacts in the original permit but now had been changed to ‘temporary’ impacts.” Mr. Sims question surrounded the grassy slopes because of the issue of the geese in the area and their love of grass. Discussion surrounded the limited options of what to put there instead. Andrea Polizos suggested letting the geese have that grass and the group agreed. Given the lack of opposition Winston Sims stated he would provide a signature on the application on behalf of the Con Com. All voted in favor.
Community Conversation. Winston Sims read the agenda of the meeting to be held on Monday, September 12 and wondered if anyone would be going. Andrea Polizos stated she planned to attend anyway but wondered why the topic was on the Con Com agenda. Mr. Sims responded if anyone wanted to raise any conservation related issues as a prospective subject for a community conversation and listed possible subjects to be preservation of water resources and prevention of invasives. Andrea Polizos stated she felt the Community Conversations group already was spread thin going in 4 different directions and theoretically the Con Com existed to handle conservation issues.
Charges for water testing. Winston Sims stated the Con Com had approved payment for VLAP water testing for lakes and ponds that do not have lake associations, citing that the Con Com had been particularly successful with Chesham Pond and Child’s Bog. Now HCC is getting bills for Russell Reservoir, which has had a pond association. Questioned whether the Con Com should pick up this tab. (Total of $60 for 2 ecoli tests 8/4 for Russell Reservoir). Andrea Polizos stated she felt it wasn’t fair to pay for some but not others. Doug Gline added that he believes the Con Comm should pay for it all. Jay Jacobs stated he agrees with Winston Sims that HCC should cover for water bodies that don’t have designated lake associations with adequate budgets to cover.
In terms of the second bill involving Sunset Beach for testing done 8/4/16 (total of $60 for 2 tests), Winston Sims emphasized that this is the town beach but that, on the other hand, Harrisville Pond has its own pond association. Jay Jacobs questioned why Winston Sims received this bill since the town, through the recreation committee, picks up the bills for Sunset Beach. Jay Jacobs made a motion for the Con Com to pay for testing for Child’s bog and Chesham Pond and the town to pay for others. Andrea Polizos seconded. All voted in favor.
Winston Sims then referenced two bills – one for $60 and one for $120 that he received but wasn’t sure what they were for and that he would inquire and make sure they were forwarded to the town if appropriate.
Matter of recusal. Winston Sims stated it was proposed that anything related to Mr. Cucchi not be addressed by the HCC chairman or the HCC and stated that Jay Jacobs had stated that this had been agreed to by the Select Board. Winston Sims said he read through all the Select Board minutes for 2016 and couldn’t find any reference. He also stated he had no recollection of it. Winston Sims questioned the authority of the Select Board to recommend that any town body have nothing to do with a particular applicant and that he feels boards exist to serve the applicants.
Regarding recusal, Doug Gline stated he thought Jay Jacobs had asked for Winston Sims’s recusal and Andrea Polizos stated that’s what she had understood as well. Both board members stated they did not recall that the HCC itself was included in that request. Jay Jacobs stated he did not remember that either and that he had specifically asked Winston Sims and that he had stated he felt the HCC was more than capable of investigating anything that Winston Sims would about the Cucchi matter. Andrea Polizos agreed it wasn’t about the board and Doug Gline restated his position that he agreed that Winston Sims should recuse himself and trust the other board members to act in the board’s best interest.
Winston Sims stated that the fact that it’s in litigation means there is an application on the table. Andrea Polizos asked if it was completed and Mr. Sims responded no. Jay Jacobs asked that the board talk about recusal first. Winston Sims stated he distributed information from the New Hampshire Municipal Association. Jay Jacobs and Andrea Polizos and Doug Gline stated they had read it and Jay Jacobs continued to say that it was informative and that the bottom line is Winston Sims decides whether or not to recuse himself. Winston Sims responded that this gets back to his discussion with the Select Board and Mr. Sims’s request that the board identify any instances of anything Mr. Sims had done that indicated a conflict of interest or where he had exhibited any prejudice or discrimination against Mr. Cucchi.
Mr. Sims asked Jay Jacobs if he had found any statements that indicated Mr. Sims had a conflict of interest or had exhibited any prejudice or discrimination against Mr. Cucchi. He said he had not.
Doug Gline stated that he didn’t believe anybody felt Mr. Sims had done anything unethical but hat he is a lightning rod when it comes to Mr. Cucchi. Mr. Sims asked on the basis of what. Mr. Gline responded that that was his interpretation of it given everything he’s ever heard about Cucchi and the Con Com. Winston Sims stated that the Select Board had received a letter from Mr. Cucchi in which Mr. Cucchi allegedly makes a number of comments as to why Mr. Sims should recuse himself. Mr. Sims stated he doesn’t have a copy of that letter and asked Jay Jacobs for a copy. Jay Jacobs said he can ask but that he didn’t know which letter he referred to given the amount of correspondence the Select Board has received from both Mr. Cucchi and Mr. Sims. Mr. Sims requested a copy of anything from March onward that mentioned anything related to recusal or Mr. Sims. Jay Jacobs stated that wouldn’t happen because it was an example of petty nonsense and that the board has chewed up so much time locating this or that document and that the matter had dragged on way too long and that the more agitation there is in the process, the longer it takes to come to a conclusion. Doug Gline asked what Mr. Cucchi is trying to do. Jay Jacobs responded he’s right where he was 11 years ago when he came in for a 4-lot subdivision. Winston Sims stated that when he bought it, it was one lot. Then he had it subdivided to 2 and then subdivided to 4 and then back to 2 and now it’s 3 and he’s asking for a 4th. Jay Jacobs stated it’s in Mr. Cucchi’s right to ask for it and the board’s right to give him the forum and the process to do it, whether it’s approved or not. Doug Gline asked if he’s applied for variances and Jay Jacobs stated he has applied for this and that and has changed his mind and Winston Sims stated that he had applied for a variance for his lot on Skatutakee Lake Road and it was determined he did not meet the criteria. Jay Jacobs explained that 3 times his request for a variance was heard and that two times it was approved. The third time the request kept being heard because of either mistakes by the Zoning Board in notification or minutes or appeals by abutters and the third vote they voted it down which resulted in the lawsuit which the town has been involved with for over a year. It went to Superior Court and it was turned down (the court would not hear the case). He appealed at the Superior Court and was again turned down. It’s currently before the State Supreme Court on the variance and now he’s suing the Planning Board over his recent application. Jay Jacobs stated that it has taken a toll and it is one aspect of why he’s asking Winston Sims and to consider what is best for the town and if the town could move this along if he is possibly the one causing agitation and exacerbating the situation. Jay Jacobs asked again, out of respect for the town, for people who work in town and who serve on the boards, if Mr. Sims would step aside. Winston Sims stated that what he’s concerned about is that this request was coming from John Cucchi. Mr. Jacobs assured him that the request was not coming from John Cucchi and that that had nothing to do with his request of Winston Sims to recuse himself. Jay Jacobs stated that it was based on what the town staff has stated, what other board members are going through. Doug Gline stated he had already made his opinion known and that it was up to Winston Sims and Winston Sims reiterated that he wanted any letter from Cucchi that mentions him since March. Jay Jacobs responded that he could ask the staff but he would not guarantee that.
Mr. Sims stated he didn’t believe any previous recusals had the slightest effect on Mr. Cucchi and wondered why his recusal would be any different. Jay Jacobs responded that given his longtime experience with the town and his sense of how things go he was asking Mr. Sims with all due respect yet again to do it for the good of the town and that, if not helping the town, at least would keep the situation from escalating.
Winston Sims proposed a meeting of the land use board heads and the Select Board to discuss application procedures and acceptance or rejection. Jay Jacobs responded that he could ask for it but that it wouldn’t happen right off because the boards have priorities and that the boards have had a process in place for years and, though maybe not perfect, the town has done alright.
Mr. Sims asked if the SB had accepted the statements Jay Jacobs had made tonight. Mr Jacobs encouraged Mr. Sims to attend the next SB meeting to ask his fellow board members and that he keeps his board members informed.
Winston Sims stated that at the August 11 Select Board meeting when they discussed what exactly had happened with the application and the specifics over whether or not the Cucchi application remained in consideration, that Mr. Jacobs stated if Mr. Sims did not recuse himself that he could expect to be removed or fired from the Conservation Commission, after which Mr. Sims asked if that represented the views of the Select Board and both Andrew Maneval and Jon Miner said no. Jay Jacobs asked if that was in the minutes and Mr. Sims said no, that it was in his notes. Mr. Jacobs stated that he was quite upset that night and much more upset than he was tonight. Mr. Sims stated he believed the issue relates to the important issue of governance and the procedures of all the boards and that in the case of the Con Com he doesn’t believe they’re very well established. He doesn’t believe the issue of recusal should be swept under the rug and that it deserves better understanding and discussion. Jay Jacobs stated that he made his point and was afraid he’d just get more frustrated. He departed the meeting.
Andrea Polizos asked what Cucchi was asking and if it was about subdividing. Mr. Sims stated that he had not seen his application, that he had seen the map, and that on Skatutakee Road he has approximately 357 feet, give or take, and that in order to subdivide lots, he has to have 200 feet of road frontage and that he doesn’t have that amount for two lots and that in his first request, he sought a variance for the needed difference in road frontage which was rejected. As Mr. Sims now sees it, Mr. Cucchi is going to the Planning Board and Mr. Sims has several questions about it: 1) Should the PB even entertain the request because, if the ZBA has said no and if the Superior Court has said no, can or should the PB even consider the question; or 2) if the PB says yes to everything, does that mean the PB has gone behind the back of the ZBA and around the back of the Superior Court and come out with a decision that had in effect been expressly rejected. What Mr. Sims didn’t know is if Mr. Cucchi’s second request is identical to his first. He thinks the answer is no but he thinks the measurements are the same. After the group discussed the matter and the outreach by Mr. Maneval of the Select Board to approach Mr. Cucchi to settle the matter out of court, the Con Comm members all agreed they believed it was a matter for the PB and the ZBA and the Select Board to address the matter of Mr. Cucchi’s appeal.
What is a conservation plan? The group decided it was best to adjourn and give it some thought
Doug Gline motioned to adjourn. Andrea Polizos seconded.
Meeting adjourned: 8:40 pm