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Meeting Minutes - PC

Town of Leicester
 Planning Commission Meeting
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
** See subsequent minutes for any changes
Members Present:  Donna Swinington, Chair, Pete Fjeld, Jeff McDonough, Jim Russo
Others Present:  Kate Briggs, Ron Fiske, Ken Young, Brad Lawes, Diane Benware, Tom Barker, Claire Tebbs, ACRP, Gerry Flint, Sandra Trombley, Secretary
Call to Order & Roll Call:  Donna called the PC Meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. with roll call.
The Board went right to the Town Plan Revisions so they could hear what the concerns of the Selectboard were.
Ron commented that he took the time to get copies of Shoreham’s, Sudbury’s, Whiting’s, Salisbury’s and Leicester’s old Town Plan.   Most town plans have general things.  This one isn’t.  There are mandates in it and very specific things that Ron does not think should be in there.
Donna asked what portion Ron was talking about.  Ron thought there was nothing wrong with the front half, but it was the back half.  Ron mentioned one portion that states that we are going to form committees to teach people how to run washing machines.  There’s an area about wood stoves and teaching people to take five minute showers.  Things like that.
Kate asked the question that why this year do we have the format of goals and actions.  Peter asked; why wouldn’t you have goals and actions?  Ron stated that we’ve had goals and actions, but they were worded differently and not so specific.  These actions are so specific that they say “we will” put certain things in our zoning.  If you put it in the Town Plan, you are supposed to put it in your zoning.  Kate stated that she doesn’t think other towns have this to such specificity.  Kate wanted to know if this was something new from the state or what.  Kate wanted to know if Donna could speak to this.  Some of our confusion here; is actions that are very, very specific.
Donna stated that the Selectboard will have the final say.
Jeff commented that he voiced his opinion very strongly that the Plan is the general basis for your desire for the Town and the Town’s feeling; unless something very specific comes up and needs to be taken to a vote.  You can’t write a Plan so specific.
Brad commented that the draft said the Town of Leicester appoints an Energy Coordinator.  Brad stated that we don’t have one now and the draft says we “will” appoint one.  Brad doesn’t agree with this and doesn’t want to appoint one.
Ron mentioned that when you get into that; we will enforce State laws.  Ron commented that goals are ok, but when they are so specific, that’s a problem.
Jeff stated we should start with the goals and actions and go through them. 
Start with page 15 which all looked good to everyone because it’s a generalized statement.  Brad doesn’t think we should push conservation easements.  It is implied in his mind and he would not be in favor of it.  It’s not a mandate, but it implies it a little bit.
Claire Tebbs from Regional Planning arrived and was introduced to those who did not know her.
Jim asked about the goals and actions after every section.  Who is responsible for maintaining that the goals are implemented and the actions are taken?  Is it the Planning Commission?  Are we going to be policing these goals and actions?  He stated that he is new at this and is just throwing the question out so that he understands.  Why even are these goals and actions in there?
Ron stated that these control your zoning.  You do it through zoning.
Jim stated he understood about the zoning to certain ones.  But after each section there are goals and actions, but who is the policeman to these goals and actions in the Plan? 
Ron stated that we don’t have anyone.  We are a little town and can’t afford someone.
So, my question is; why.  Are we just making it so everybody reads, oh this is what the Town plans to do, and it doesn’t happen.
Claire explained that goals and actions in a plan, they are mostly your ideal vision.  They are not something to be policed; it’s not the appropriate word necessarily.  They are to guide your planning decisions.
Peter thought a good example was under Utilities and Services #3 up-to-date communication technology did not fit within our zoning regulations.
Kate wanted to make a general point where these actions fit into regulatory structure that already exists with the Town which is through zoning, through the role of the Road Commissioner, in approving certain changes; those are very easy to incorporate.  What Kate is concerned about is our actions.  She agrees with Jim about that.  Who is to take those actions and if they are not taken, who is responsible?  Kate felt it was grandiose.  99% of these things are not going to be done.  We know how hard it is to have five planning commission members to find people to run for any town office, to volunteer to do anything.  We are looking at a five year period, somewhat strained economic circumstances; it makes us look foolish to have grandiosity in our plan.  Kate sees a lot of grandiosity here in this draft.  Some areas where we can add it to our regulatory structure makes sense, in other cases, its wishful thinking.
Claire commented that in the beginning of the Plan it does say that the actions are not supposed to be read as mandatory steps to take.  They are there to guide you.  Plans should have goals and actions in them.  You as the Planning Commission have been working on this Plan for a year.
If there are goals and actions that go beyond the spectrum of guiding your zoning or planning process; then take them out. 
Kate stated that if we have a goal or action and have no reasonable way to accomplish it, what is the advantage of putting that in?   No way of paying for it; or finding someone to do it.
Claire stated that she thinks they need to look at it in a little bit broader spectrum.  Is there funding out there for the future?  Is this something that you would want to do in the future?  If it is; great.  If no one in Leicester agrees with it and says no, and they wouldn’t want to do it down the road, then you should remove it. 
Diane stated that they were looking at goals and actions page by page when Claire came in to determine if they were reasonable. 
Peter stated that we made it through one.  Peter commented that they had a little concern over the conservation easements; whether that was pushing landowners to do it.
Jeff stated that we are getting too specific in the Plan.  There is no way to enforce it.  It is a guideline.
Claire encourages the Boards to go through the goals and actions and determine what should and shouldn’t be in there.
Kate stated that we have a sense of what our town is like.
Donna asked if we could go to the part that Claire was here for, so she could get home to her kids.
Claire came prepared to talk about the Conservation District boundary and where to change that.   She brought a map with acreage and the slope map.
Claire asked to be brought up-to-date with where everyone is at and put the maps up for everyone to view to refresh everyone’s memory.
Claire explained that this map was showing the red line as 400 feet from the center line of the road.  Claire asked Kate if when she talked with Adam; was it 400 feet from the center line of the road.  Kate didn’t remember.  Claire stated that typically if you do a distance, it should be from the center line of the road not the edge of the road.
Kate stated that that was not really how they did it.  What it was; was an expansion of what had been Lake 2.  So, it was really actually from the lake, in effect.  It was not from the road, the road was irrelevant to that.  There are some points where the road is in Lake 1 and some points where the road is in Lake 2.  Kate said initially the line was not drawn, when we looked at it.  Claire asked who is “we”.   Kate stated, Adam and I; and then Kevin and I. 
Claire stated that the word from Kevin and Adam is that this line is set back 400 feet from the center of the road.  Kate stated that was not what we did originally.  Kate stated that this was changed after she met with them.
Claire asked Kate if she thought that it was set back 400 feet from the high water mark.  Kate stated that they talked about bringing it back.  They talked about what we were doing in Lake 2; not Lake 1.  It was really more about the contour of Lake 1 and Lake 2 and not exactly the road.
Claire stated that for this discussion right now, this line right now is measured 400 feet from the road.  You can see it follows the road.  That’s the rationale that they put it there.  We can talk about if that is rational or not. 
The bright purple is over 30% slope, the darker purple is 20% - 30% slope, and the brown is 15% - 20% slope.  There was discussion about the sloped areas and the plateau area.
Claire printed the map that has the line and the acreage.  All in the light green is in Lake 2. 
Kate stated that at the last PC Meeting she was at, the question was; do you bring the Conservation District down to the 400 foot line or further down to 200 feet from the road.
Kate stated that they had originally talked about 200 feet.  That was not so much we had talked about it, but the landowners who came in were very concerned because it is right at the back of their properties.  Kate stated that Adam Lougee’s concern was; did we want to do something in the Conservation District that would create so many non-conforming properties.  He felt it was better to have it back further.   
Peter mentioned the discussion they had about the triangle at the end of Fern Lake.  Does that stop there or does it continue on?
Kate stated that it keeps going and we don’t see any reason to keep going.  We really were concerned with the slopes.
Ron stated that a couple of Selectmen were at a meeting awhile back that Adam Lougee was at.  Tom and Ron made a suggestion that we follow the contour line so you don’t zone people out of usable property.  You are talking about hundreds of acres of very flat land.  Ron agrees that you should not be building in the area of a 30% grade.
Claire wanted to bring up some points that the Board should be thinking about.  There are also some other areas that it may not be the best rule of thumb to just follow a 400 foot line.  The reasons that you mentioned that are good are you are not interfering with a full line of properties that she pointed out.  If you did go to 200 feet, you would have a lot of people up in arms and it may not be necessarily based on slope.  What makes sense is if you follow a contour line or the line could follow behind properties that were five acres and more.  Claire explained why some options may not be good.  You want something that is consistent all the way down.
Kate stated that one issue along there, until you get down to the end of Fern Lake, is in fact, that is already all developed along the road.  The issue is; there is steep stuff in between the plateaus.  There are places you could possibly develop, but once you start doing that they will be cutting down more trees and the next thing you know you are drowning someone out.  One of the problems is that if we make it too easy to develop that property, we have absolutely no way to protect it in the future.  Every time it happens, we have those problems like on Hooker Road.
Peter wants to review the two properties on the slope map that are concerned about development behind them.  Kate showed her property and the other properties.  Kate stated that it’s not just development, but it’s cutting everything down.
There was discussion about Act 250 and subdivision.  Not everyone was in agreement about the rules.
Claire mentioned the other side of keeping the 400 foot line, that if residents such as yourselves, knows the property and if it seems it is a consistent condition all the way through, no matter what the map looks like, then that’s fair enough too, but you also could do it by contour elevation.  The other option that you could do; instead of bringing the Conservation District down, you could say that everything east of 53 in Leicester is an overlay district with hillside overlay district.  It gives you more opportunity to write it out in your zoning regulations.
Peter stated that it seems to him that we are discussing one thing and arguing about another.   They are discussing where to put this specific line, but yet our concern is steep slope development and run off; which does not occur just on that road. 
Kate said they need to address it in other ways in other places.
Peter stated that he would be very upset if that was his property and you were taking away his right to develop it. 
Ron was concerned about the value of someone’s property; as well.  Ron stated that it needs to be consistent; that they can’t have a hodge podge.  If you follow the grade, it’s consistent.
Jim stated that the main thing right now is where they draw the line for the Conservation District.  Regardless of whose property is there, what’s available to develop, who’s in favor, who’s not going to like it, it’s our place here to draw the line.  Where does the Planning Commission want to propose the line to be drawn for the Selectboard to vote on it, yeah or nay?  That right now, is the question.  Jim stated he was in favor of doing the slope; staying with the slope and the conservation line goes with the slope.
Kate asked if he meant not changing it.  Jim stated not 200 or 400 feet.  He’s saying to base it on the slope.
Claire stated one other thought to put out there is; your Conservation District does have conditional uses that include one family, two family dwellings.
Kate stated that the lot size is the issue. 
Kate wanted to clarify that this isn’t something to protect her own property.  She stated that her property is developed.  It’s a farm.  There are tremendous water runoff problems that don’t affect her as much as her neighbors down the road.  Any further development on that slope, this includes the logging that other people have done, increase the water runoff down the road.  We had problems with the Watsons.  We’ve had problems on the other side of the lake.  She thinks it is something that we have to address.  Kate doesn’t want everyone to think that this has anything to do with her and development.  It’s more about trying to minimize the damage that she knows cutting trees cause.  There is a lot of water that moves through there.  The more you get rid of the barrier of trees, the more water problems you have.  In some way it needs to be addressed whether it is done through individual zoning regulations.  Ultimately, the town is paying to deal with all this water that is heading toward these roads.  Kate stated that we can’t just send the water off into Lake Dunmore.  She wanted to be clear that that is more her concern.
Diane was clarifying that whatever is decided, we need to be consistent.  Claire stated it should have the same rationale that stands behind it.  That doesn’t mean that you are going to wimp out on making a good decision.  You just want to make sure that it has a rationale behind it and that you’re protecting what you want to protect, as a town.
Motion by Jim that the Conservation line follows the slope line 30% straight down. 
Claire pointed out that the Conservation line starts out at a lesser slope than that.  Discussion about the conservation district on the map and the slopes.  Claire thinks they may want to look at a contour map before they make this decision because they may not have all the information they need.  ACRP can provide the contour map.
Kate stated that maybe we should leave well enough alone; and address it through zoning. 
Peter thought Kate’s idea would be more inclusive.
Claire explained a little about overlays.
Jim decided to amend his original motion.
Motion by Jim to leave the Conservation Line as is for the next five years; and address issues through zoning regulations.  Second by Jeff.  All in favor.  So approved.
Peter stated that we need to put an action item in the plan that we are going to deal with steep slope development.
Diane stated that that she is ok with the recommendation as it has been made, but we cannot sit and not have something happen for five years. 
Claire asked if anyone needed to look at a contour map.  Peter stated that we don’t need it to do the Town Plan, but they would like to see it for future work on the zoning regulations.
Claire clarified that the Planning Commission would like the dotted line taken out of the map and Conservation District remains the same for now.  The Selectboard can go ahead and continue this discussion as far as what you might see down the road.  ACRPC can arm the Board with a contour map to have it in your toolkit.
Diane asked who provides the technology and know how to do overlays and who pays.  Claire stated that ACRP can provide that and it is part of your zoning.  It’s something to mention in the Plan as a guiding action.  Claire stated that the cost of the overlays does not fall under the Municipal Planning Grant; it’s a zoning issue.
Kate asked, playing devil’s advocate, wondering if overlays wasn’t even more controversial than just moving a line.
Jim referred to page 53 of the Plan draft for Conservation Goals & Actions.  Goals and Actions can be found throughout the Plan.
Claire clarified that the Selectboard wanted a contour map.
Claire will come to the next PC Meeting with the final edits.  She will provide copies prior to the meeting.
Claire thinks that steep slope development is addressed in other areas in the Plan, but she will review and she recommends that the Board also review to make sure it is in appropriate places.
Claire will provide examples of overlays.
Claire left at 7:00 p.m.
Kate wondered how others felt about Claire’s comment of broad goals.
Ron doesn’t want specific mandates in actions. 
Peter stated that maybe we just change wording.
Diane read the definition of action.  Jim stated that goal and action definitions were being reworded and simplified in prior editing.
Revisions of goals and actions.
Page 18 Utilities & Services:  delete #3 under goals and delete #2, #3 under actions.
Page 20 Emergency Management goals and actions are ok with Board.
Page 21 Community Facilities: add action:  to routinely check roof and foundations of municipal buildings.  Come up with a routine maintenance plan.
Page 23 Recreation goals and actions are ok with Board.  Branbury State Park & Falls of Lana are already edited to come out.  Paragraph 3, Branbury State Park in Leicester should come out.
Page 25 Education actions: delete #1.
Page 26 Existing Infrastructure and Traffic Patterns:  2nd sentence in paragraph 1, change “less” to “more”.
Page 29 Transportation Actions:
(3) Road Maintenance becomes a category and not an action.
New Roads #1:  clarify “strengthen”
New Roads #2:  question what “major development” means.
#5 (the former #8) should be reworded.  “Prohibit” is probably not the right word.
Road Sharing:  #1 should read “if funds are available”.  Delete #5.
Page 32 Energy Goals:  Delete #3.  Energy Actions:  Delete #5 & #6.
Page 35 Forestland Goals & Actions are fine.  Wildlife Habitat and Corridors: Delete Paragraph 2.
Page 36 Wildlife Actions:  Delete #3.
Page 37 Soil Actions:  #3 Delete part of sentence that reads “or restricted in the Lakes District.”
Page 38 Earth Resources goals and actions ok with Board.
Page 39 Air Resources Actions:  Delete #1 - #3
Page 43 Water Resources Actions:  #2 change wording to: Encourage the preservation of woody vegetation and not regulate the removal.
Page 45 Scenic Resources Actions:  Delete #2
Page 46 Historic Resources Goals & Actions:  ok with the Board
Page 49 Village Center Goals & Actions:  ok with the Board calling it Town Center instead of Village.
Page 50 Lake District Goals & Actions:  ok with the Board.
Page 52 Route 7 Corridor Actions:  Delete #4
Page 53 Industrial Area & Conservation Area:  ok with the Board.
Page 54 Residential & Agricultural Area:  #1 under Actions should read “possibly” including:
Motion by Jim to approve minutes of October 20, 2011, December 8, 2011 and February 8, 2012 as written.  Second by Jeff.  All in favor.  So approved.
Motion by Peter to adjourn at 8:15 p.m.  Second by Jim.  All in favor.  So approved.
Respectfully submitted,
Sandra L. Trombley
PC Secretary