Historic District Commission
Wednesday, April 27, 2019
Members present: Doug Walker, Noel Greiner, Scott Oliver, Kathy Scott
Members absent: Tom Weller
Members of the public: John Keefe, Jean Keefe, Charles Owusu, Rex Baker, Erin Hammerstedt, Beth Healy, Anne Howe, Don Scott
Meeting opened at 7:02 pm.
Noel Greiner moved to approve the agenda. All voted in favor.
Minutes of April 5, 2019
Noel Greiner moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Scott Oliver seconded. All voted in favor.
Review application for completeness, HDC 2019-2 Charles Owusu, 20 Kadakit Street, Map 32- Lot 36
Doug Walker explained the process for accepting an application, scheduling a site visit, noticing of abutters and the scheduling of the public hearing. The board then heard a preliminary explanation by the applicant of his proposal, accompanied by a drawing. Mr. Owusu proposes to construct a trex deck behind his home, no higher than 10” off the ground and extended from the existing retaining wall, which he seeks to raise by approximately 1’6”. Following review of the submitted application materials, including the necessary fees, Scott Oliver moved to accept Mr. Owusu’s application as complete. Noel Greiner seconded. All voted in favor.
The board subsequently confirmed that a site visit will take place at 20 Kadakit Street at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, May 22, followed by a public hearing on the application at the town offices at 7:00 pm.
ZBA Meeting of April 17, 2019
Kathy Scott updated the HDC on the Zoning Board’s meeting of the week prior. She noted that at issue was the application of the Raynors to replace windows at 3 Main Street, and the question of board jurisdiction, whether the application should be heard before the ZBA or before the Historic District Commission. Ms. Scott noted that ZBA members Charles Sorenson and Andrew Maneval, in addition to herself as Select Board Alternate to the ZBA, believed the proper procedure was for the application to be heard by the HDC and not the ZBA. Other members of the ZBA, however, interpreted the August 1, 2018 motion of the ZBA to mean that any changes to the Raynors’ design plans, including changes to windows, were meant to come before the ZBA.
Ms. Scott then raised the question of procedural errors which could come up, and that she had been asked by people in town if the recording secretary could serve as a member of a board, in this case, the ZBA. The opinion Ms. Scott heard from an attorney with the New Hampshire Municipal Association, whom she consulted, informed her that it is a conflict of interest, stating a secretary could have access to information prior to a meeting, potentially influencing a decision. Ms. Scott stated the matter would be discussed at the following evening’s Select Board meeting. She emphasized that all of the boards in town should be following proper procedure.
Subsequent discussion included input from Mary Ann Noyer, Erin Hammerstedt and Rex Baker, all of whom attended the April 17th ZBA meeting. Ms. Noyer noted that she didn’t understand Kathy Scott’s reference to a recording secretary’s access to influential information, as any information related to an application is available to all board members and the public at large. Ms. Scott stated that, according to NHMA, it had to do with noticing abutters and procuring information for boards.
Erin Hammerstedt stated she agreed the debate at the ZBA meeting rested on whether the Raynors’ proposal was a new application or a continuation of the existing, but she believed the human aspect perhaps weighed in more than it should have given the history of this particular project, and that possibly at hand was the question of whether or not the HDC could review the application in a timely and fair manner. She believed this should not be part of the procedural consideration.
Don Scott added that an idea for a joint meeting was proposed, and seemed a logical and expedient option, but that the applicant, unwilling to risk a possibly lengthy application and appeal process, opted not to request a joint meeting. Scott Oliver agreed that he liked that idea of a compromise but believed that attorneys had spoken on behalf of both positions and he believed that the matter of the Raynor project should remain with the ZBA.
Anne Howe, citing RSA 676:2, stated that, in addition to an applicant’s right to seek a joint meeting of land use boards, the boards themselves have that right. She read from her copy of the regulations that, “…each board shall have the authority on its own initiative to request a joint meeting.” Kathy Scott further read from the statute that land use boards need to adopt rules of procedure relative to joint meetings and hearings, and that the town hasn’t done so.
Mr. Scott, along with Charles Owusu, argued that any new proposal coming from 3 Main Street should be looked at as a new application and therefore is the purview of the HDC and not the ZBA, or else should be reviewed jointly. Mr. Scott claimed the ZBA shouldn’t continue to make the same mistake hearing a new application on that property. Noel Greiner explained why he thought the ZBA should have heard the window application, differentiating between that type of proposal and a proposal that involved an expansion or major structural change.
Mr. Scott then suggested that the HDC draft a letter to the ZBA setting forth its position and that the HDC vote on that position. Mr. Greiner suggested forwarding the meeting minutes. Mr. Owusu suggested getting legal advice. Doug Walker agreed, stating clarification for both boards from an attorney would be helpful.
Rex Baker, speaking as a member of the ZBA, stated he believes the whole project is an aberration in the sense that this confluence of events is not likely to be seen again. However, he noted that, from review of his notes pertaining to the August 1 decision of the ZBA, and speaking for himself, windows were discussed and were part of the submitted plan and that the standards for rehabilitation were used to make the decision. He further noted that this review formed the basis for his motion that the ZBA allow the design with the condition that any changes be reviewed by the ZBA.
Discussion then turned to the HDC’s own rules of procedure, with Kathy Scott stating that, instead of drafting a letter to the ZBA, she preferred that the HDC focus on revising its regulations. Doug Walker asked if the HDC could look at adopting rules already in place with either the Planning Board or ZBA. Ms. Scott agreed that it would be a good starting point.
Kathy Scott then moved that each member of the HDC review Chapter 64, RSA 672-677, of the NHRSAs related to Local Land Use Planning with the goal, at the HDC’s May 22nd meeting, of dividing up the statutes into different sections for the HDC to modify for its own rules of procedure. Noel Greiner seconded.
Mr. Scott asked if this motion was in lieu of a decision about what happens with any new applications related to 3 Main Street. Kathy Scott noted that the HDC needs to have its own rules in place first. Mr. Scott stated he believes the ZBA has stepped on the HDC’s authority and that the HDC needs to reestablish that authority and that a letter is crucial to doing so. He agreed with Mr. Owusu that, if that doesn’t happen, any applicant will perceive that, if they’re turned down by the HDC, they’ll just go to the ZBA.
Anne Howe asked if such a letter to the ZBA wouldn’t cause further divisiveness. She stated to Mr. Scott that it seemed clear to him that the ZBA overstepped its bounds but that it wasn’t clear to everyone.Mr. Scott didn’t believe a letter would have that effect. Mr. Owusu believed sending a letter would be prudent for the HDC to communicate its authority and perspective.
Rex Baker commented that it is the ZBA’s obligation to abide by the regulations, and that, from his perspective, nothing about this has been personal but, instead has been about fulfilling the roles and responsibilities as members of the ZBA, and following the law.
Erin Hammerstedt requested to speak to the technical side, fearing that this was lost to the extra emphasis and worry on procedure throughout the 3 Main Street project. Kathy Scott noted that focus on technical standards also is underway, as part of the regulation revision process. Mr. Owusu again stated he believed the HDC should send a letter to the ZBA to prevent any further action on 3 Main Street from going before the ZBA.
Scott Oliver and Rex Baker noted that the appeal on the HDC decision caused the project to be dropped into the ZBA’s lap and that review of the Raynor window replacement application was not an attempt to usurp power. Mr. Baker then suggested a joint meeting of the boards, without an application, to discuss proper jurisdiction and guidelines in general.
The board then voted unanimously in favor of Kathy Scott’s motion to review the RSAs.
Following additional discussion about working together to improve the process and clarify jurisdiction, Kathy Scott moved to request a joint workshop meeting with the ZBA after the HDC has updated its rules of procedure and regulations, which it anticipates completing by July or August. Noel Greiner seconded. Members voted unanimously in favor.
The subsequent comments related to the 45 day review period allowed the HDC, with Doug Walker reminding members that the clock on Mr. Owusu’s application was in motion, having started the day it was submitted. Erin Hammerstedt suggesting revising the procedure, as she sees it as inherently flawed. Doug Walker then explained to Mr. Owusu how site visits are scheduled and how applications used to be reviewed prior to 3 Main Street, prior to formal scheduled meetings. Returning to the issue of the 45-day review, Ms. Hammerstedt suggested either designating a board member to check applications for completeness, or that the HDC require applicants to submit completed applications 10-days before the regular meeting. The board agreed it would update its application procedures.
Kathy Scott then moved to review its application procedure and update it at its May 22 meeting. Noel Greiner seconded. All voted in favor.
Recruitment of New Board Members
Prospective new members were in attendance. Anne Howe stated her interest in serving as an alternate member but not a voting member. The matter will be discussed with the Select Board. Regarding potential membership of Erin Hammerstedt, she noted the discussion about conflict of interest but offered to serve as a technical advisor, offering recommendations which the board could take or leave while understanding her advocacy bias. All agreed on the need and value of technical expertise, but also on the need for legal input on the question. In the meantime, all members agreed the HDC would greatly appreciate help researching the history and character-defining features of properties in the district and on the National Registry, whether original or not.
Meeting adjourned at 8:58 pm.