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Meeting Minutes - PC

Town of Leicester

Planning Commission Meeting Minutes

Wednesday, August 12, 2009




** See subsequent minutes for any changes


Members Present:  Donna Swinington, Chair, Pete Fjeld, Tim Johnson, Gerry Flint, Jeff McDonough


Others Present:   Kate Briggs, ZA and Sandra Trombley, Secretary


Call to Order & Review Agenda:  Called to order the Planning Commission Meeting at 6:00 p.m. by Chair and roll call. 


Donna stated that we would proceed with Kate’s part of the agenda.


Old Business:


Kate stated she keeps running into situations where people either don’t know much about zoning, these are primarily out of state property owners, or claim to have trouble getting in touch with people, or whatever.  It seems like we have a window of opportunity to put a notice in the tax bills which are about to be mailed.  This will be a third of a page.  This will give people contact information, remind them that we do have zoning that covers just about everything they might want, warns them that there could be 90 days between their application and the time they could begin construction.  It seems fair to let them know that if they are planning construction that they get the permitting process started early.


A secondary thing is that she hopes that sometime in the foreseeable future our zoning application will be on line so they can download the application.  Not fill it out on line, but download the application.  The out of state people need access to the application, access to the by-laws.


A third thing that we might mention in this notice is, we could probably still do some kind of survey if we did an on line survey instead of one we had to mail.  We could let them know where our web-site is and say that sometime after the first of the year there will be an on line survey that we would like them to participate in and get their input in regard to the Town Plan. 


Donna asked if the Selectboard were on board with putting something in with the tax bills.  Kate answered yes; she had presented that at a Selectboard meeting.  The expense of doing a separate mailing is somewhat high, so a third of a page and Julie is prepared to get that done but we have a small window.  Kate wanted to be sure that the Board was in agreement with some of that content of it. 


Pete asked if we had the ability to do the survey on line.  Kate explained that we don’t have the capability now for them to complete it on line, but we have the ability for them to see it on line, complete it and mail it back to us. 


Out of state property owners are more apt to do things on line than local residents who come in the Town Office. 


Kate stated she will make the commitment and bare the expense of getting this done, whatever the technical expense is to do this.  She will find people to do it, volunteers, contributions and she will make sure that it actually happens.  Julie has got a lot of that going on already. 


Donna stated that Elizabeth Golden is prepared to help us come up with the survey.  Donna explained a little bit about who Elizabeth Golden was and Addison County Regional Planning to Jeff McDonough, a new member to the Board.


Kate is not talking about the content of the survey, just the procedural process.  Kate asked the Board to get back to her as to what they would like to see in the notice.


The zoning application format is not really the issue.  Shelley Glassner did a really good job in making it look a lot better and she sent it to Kate so that  she can work on it and refine it. 


Donna stated that they need to start using the new application ASAP.  We should take a vote tonight.


Kate asked if they could discuss the application a little bit before voting. 


Kate states that the current application gives the applicant a number of choices about what they are going to do.  Are they applying for an ordinary permit, a standard permit, or are they looking for an application to the ZBA, etc. etc.  In other words, it’s a permit that covers almost every eventuality.  This permit only looks like it’s a standard permit and then it makes the assumption that we are going to follow the procedure which was, she believes the procedure at one time in Leicester,  that’s pretty much been abandoned by most towns, which is all applications go to the ZA as ordinary permit applications.  The ZA denies those which are for variances or waivers or conditional uses which would have to go to the ZBA.  In her opinion, that builds a lot of negativity and time into the process.  She thinks it’s silly to tell a person who’s doing something clearly the ZA cannot approve…


Before you adopt it, she thinks you should add that unless you want a separate application. 


Donna stated that the Selectboard wants us to have the least confusing application that we can have and Donna agrees with that.  We want to be user friendly. 


Gerry stated that we want to be user friendly and still have all the pertinent information necessary to show the path that we are taking to process the permit.


Donna asked if that was the only problem with the new application.


Kate stated that was one, and that is not a big one and is easily remedied. 


Pete mentioned the change for the year.


Kate mentioned the other piece, as part of the Town; we have to do a census bureau sample where they have to do a monthly report for the data base for new housing starts.  If a permit is granted, they need to report the size and scope in dollars.  She thinks we need to put that on the permit application for new construction.  We don’t really have a choice.  This is an approximate value for statistical purposes only.


Tim had a question about what Kate wants to cut and paste.  Tim doesn’t know what the difference would be with cutting the top of that and putting it on here, than what’s here.  At the bottom, you have where it goes to the ZBA.


Kate stated that this format has to do with the fees.  When they apply they pay a fee depending on if it is going to the ZBA.  If it goes to the ZBA they pay a higher fee.  Up here they say it’s standard.  And so, there’s no place to say, no I already know it’s not and I’m going to pay the higher fee.  So, this makes it sound like the only reason it’s going to you is because she rejected it and she doesn’t want to do it that way.  She doesn’t want to reject it.  She wants to refer it.  She wants to say, let me go over it, see if it’s complete, help you with it, and refer it immediately to the ZBA. 


Tim stated that what he always thought would be so much easier for people to do was they come in to see Kate, or they mail it or do it on line.  They come to you and say i.e. I want to rebuild a bedroom in my house on the lake.  You know that it’s a nonconforming lot and you are going to turn it down, so instead of…  We keep getting these permits where it’s got the standard zoning.  When we communicate with the people that are doing the permit, you as the ZA could say, you already know because of the circumstances that it’s not going to be a standard zoning, so we need to go down to here and check this block that it’s going to the ZBA for a variance, and this is the fee for it.   That would eliminate us doing this part up here and saying no and then making them do another one like we did with the Cameron’s where they had to keep redoing them.  It would be right from the beginning.  You would say no it doesn’t meet a standard zoning and you need this.  Tim thinks that would be a lot smoother. 


Kate said it would be, but how would we coordinate that with getting the money from them?  Sometimes they drop it off with the check.  Kate had an incident where she didn’t get a promised check.


Pete said in theory you submit your application and you have figured out whether you need a variance or not.  That’s up to you


Kate stated in larger towns, the burden is totally on the applicant.  The applicant does all the research, the applicant provides all the proof that they sent by certified mail notification to the abutting landowners, etc.  They bring back the receipts.  Or, they produce the envelopes with the proper postage on them for the Secretary to send them out.  It’s all on the applicant.  Kate has gone too far in the other direction in doing too much for the applicants, partly because our applicants were treated so badly by the previous ZA, and second of all, so many of the applicants aren’t here themselves and it’s a burden to make them… and I don’t think the Town wants to pay the postage to send those big heavy books to people.  We try to work with people, but she thinks there is a middle ground there.  We want them to be a little more independent. 


Gerry stated before an application comes before the ZBA, the check needs to be in hand.


Tim stated that if someone sends in a permit, they send it to Kate.  She looks at it.  Then she gets back to them telling them what they need and the fee. 


Kate asked what if we did this.  What if we revise the instructions to guide them through the application process?  Say, this is how you fill out the form and put in there clearly, if you meet all the blah, blah, blah, it’s probably a standard zoning permit and the fee schedule would be part of the instructions.  However, if it falls in any of these categories, it’s probably a variance, blah, blah, blah.  Better instructions that went with the form that summarized some of the issues would be helpful.  We could at least highlight the common situations. 


Jeff asked how much money they were talking about.  Kate gave him a fee schedule.


Gerry commented that this form was not created by any one person.  It was a form that was standardized by the State of Vermont.  A lot of towns are very similar.  This form is more open as far as spacing. 


Tim said an easy instruction included in this and just something explaining the process would be helpful.  Have instructions in there prior to any fees being collected, this is what needs to be done and it’s up to the ZA to say.   People from out of town and even locals don’t know what permit they need.  Have directions in here prior to classifying which permit you need.  That would be up to the decision of the ZA.  They either need to check with her.  Either sends her one and says which one I fall under.  In other words, they shouldn’t check I need a standard zoning permit and send her $75.  The applicant shouldn’t do that because they don’t know.  It saves a hassle for a person from out of state sending this in with a $75 check, Kate getting it and denying it and saying no it’s got to go to the ZBA.  I think we could make a little instruction paragraph to clarify.


Kate stated that we have instructions that go with the current permit.  There are three pages plus a sample plot plan.  Kate is proposing that we go with the application as is, with that one little addition with the approximate cost for statistical purposes only, and Kate will revise the instructions and add a paragraph.  One of the problems with the application is there is almost too much instruction on the application itself. 


Tim thinks the checking of the blocks should be the ZA’s job and not the applicant’s job.  They don’t know what they are up against. 


All were in agreement that the application is not officially filed until the check is received.  That starts the clock ticking.


Tim recommended special instructions and the fee schedule is included in the packet.


Pete asked about the plot plan.  Should it be a minimum of 8 ½ x 11? 


Tim stated the plan to scale doesn’t happen. 


Kate thinks it should be a one-sided application.


Pete said he would like to see the application in PDF format.  He would like to see that by January 1st, he would like to see it on line.  Even if they don’t have a computer, they could go to their Public Library.


Gerry would like someone to summarize what we like to do so everyone is on the same page and someone make a motion.  

·         Use the form

·         Modify form with language for the addition of approximate value for statistical purposes

·         Around “fee” area include language i.e. for official use only, or something like that, type of fee will be determined by ZA

·         Language should read referred and not denied by ZA

·         Reason it is being referred

·         Header of application should have the applicant’s name and permit # on each page


Gerry made a motion to approve the permit application form with the above changes.  Second by Pete.  All in favor.  So approved. 


Kate brought up the written notification issue.  We have not been providing notification to all parties. 


Kate shared a Findings Form that she thinks would bring us into compliance. 


Donna said we would put this on our next agenda.


Update on Planning Grant Money:


Tom Barker indicated that there would be no planning grant money at the last Selectboard Meeting.  Kate called Elizabeth Golden.  Elizabeth Golden was not hopeful that there would be money.

She said we should still go ahead and do an application.  There might be some money and we could do part of it.  She started talking about the alternative ways we could do this questionnaire to revise the Town Plan.  There is a statutory regulation that the Town Plan be revised every five years and we are way overdue on that.  Elizabeth felt that was not particularly urgent, and she felt the lake issues were a better way to get grant money.  We are concerned about the lakes and being consistent with Salisbury, and that’s a much better way to get the money. 


Donna asked what happened to the $485,000 in the first email.


Kate said the State has now added up their checkbook and the Governor has said they have far less money than they thought. 


Donna stated that she will check with Tom Barker and Elizabeth Golden about the email about grant money.


Kate said she doesn’t think our Town Plan needs a lot of revisions.  She thinks it needs more clarification on issues. 


Kate and Donna will meet with Elizabeth Golden at a later date.


Approval of Minutes of July 15, 2009:


Motion by Gerry to approve minutes of July 15, 2009.  Second by Pete.  All in favor.  So approved.


Tim asked about meeting minutes. 


Sandy stated that the hard copy minutes are at the Town Office, but the voice recordings are on her PC.  Sandy needs to get them downloaded and on a disc to be housed at the Town Office.  Tim offered to help.


Jeff asked if the individuals on the Board are covered by insurance.  Donna said she thought so, but it’s a question worth asking.


Tim wanted to bring up a couple points on our permit process.  Perhaps it should be brought up at the ZBA meeting and not here at the PC meeting.  Donna said we should table it for the ZBA meeting.


Donna also had something she wanted to bring up at the ZBA meeting.


Tim wanted to bring the certified mail issue up at our next ZBA meeting.


There was some discussion.


Next PC meeting September 9, 2009 and next ZBA meeting August 25, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.


Motion to adjourn by Tim.  Second by Gerry.  So approved.  All in favor.


Adjourned at 7:10 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,



Sandra L. Trombley

Planning Commission Secretary