Meeting Location: Town Offices
Date: August 3, 2016
Meeting Opened: 7:00 pm; Meeting Adjourned:8:58 pm
Present: Doug Gline, Winston Sims, Andrea Polizos, Jay Jacobs, Les La Mois, Harry Wolhandler
Minutes for July 6, 2013 – Revisions suggested by Winston Sims, Doug Gline and Les La Mois. Revised by Andrea Polizos. Question regarding Wetlands Report done by SVE. Jay Jacobs stated that Mike Wilder has copy of report.
Addressing applications – Les La Mois asked for clarification. Winston Sims explained it refers to applications which Con Comm has an interest in.
Question regarding town website and who is working on it? Jay Jacobs stated work done by last group is complete. Question regarding posting of minutes remains under discussion.
Minutes accepted and approved. Andrea Polizos to distribute to group.
Report on the Select Board Meeting of July 28, 2016 – Jay Jacobs explained that he asked Sherry Sims and Ned Hulbert to respond to his question about the recent special meeting. Jay Jacobs asked them if they had been asked to address Con Comm about the Cucchi application and they said no. Prior to the July 28 meeting, Jay Jacobs and Winston Sims had discussed at the Select Board meeting that, given the fact of problems over the years dealing with John Cucchi, the board asked Winston Sims not to get involved unless specifically asked by the Planning Board. What Jay Jacobs sees as pertinent had been discussed and the relevant studies done. Jay Jacobs continued that he felt the board and Winston Sims were in agreement but, subsequent to that, a special meeting was held which Jay Jacobs believes was neither necessary or appropriate. At the July 28 Select Board meeting, Jay Jacobs addressed Winston Sims about his actions. Jay Jacobs wanted to know why the special meeting was called and was it one person’s interest (the Chairman’s) or the decision of the whole board? Jay Jacobs emphasized he feels it’s a disservice to the community and potentially problematic if it was a one-person decision.
Winston Sims responded that he agreed but there was more. He was asked to recuse himself voluntarily. Jay Jacobs agreed that he asked that. Winston Sims asked Jay Jacobs to clarify on what grounds he was being asked to recuse himself, and in what way his conduct had been unprofessional or inappropriate.
Harry Wolhandler then asked for the issue to be opened up to the whole table. Said it was the sense of the committee that the special meeting was not needed, that the Planning Board had refused the application and had thoroughly reviewed it already and that the other committees’ work and time should be respected. Reiterated that there was no actual proposal, thus believing a special meeting was premature and that he believed Les La Mois and Doug Gline agreed. Further stated the need to disengage from Cucchi unless/until something specific was before the board and the need to focus on Con Com’s concerns (water, ponds, aquifers). Objected to expansion of margins/bounds of committee.
Les La Mois then stated he was bothered that the special meeting was set up and already discussed (to be attended by Planning Board Co-Chairs Sherry Sims and Ned Hulbert) and that he hadn’t heard about it. Got impression that the town attorney had already advised that nobody in town get involved with potential applicant.
Andrea Polizos asked if there was any reason to meet on any formal application before it’s submitted.
Harry Wolhandler responded no because there are no materials on file to review. Felt Winston Sims wasn’t listening to committee.
Winston Sims stated that Con Com had a verbal agreement with the Planning Board going back to last year, and that Ned Hulbert had written to John Cucchi explaining that the Con Comm “can see PB applications before they are accepted so that the Con Com can give input before an application is accepted by the PB. The Con Com’s role,” according to the letter from Mr. Hulbert to Mr. Cucchi as read by Mr. Sims, “is to give the PB advisory input on any applications that have steep slope, wetlands or other water-related concerns. The PB is required to hear Con Com input and work with it, but always with PB final decision authority on applications. The PB was advised last year that a number of towns in the area have such agreements between PB and the Con Com in order to expedite applications so they are not slowed down by Con Com input later in the game. The PB does not want to slow down an application after it is accepted by the PB with Con Com concerns which the PB may not have seen earlier in the application process.” Winston Sims believes such work ahead of time could allow the Planning Board to more fully discharge its duties and he noted that a number of towns in the area have similar agreements between Planning Boards and Conservation Commissions to avoid potential delays later on.
Harry Wolhandler and Les La Mois asked why the Planning Board had not forwarded the application and immediately stated because there isn’t one. Both Mr. Wolhandler and Mr. La Mois then requested that copies of all applications be provided to all board members prior to permits’ being issued.
Jay Jacobs explained that the submitted application was rejected but will be submitted again at some point. Mr. Jacobs stated he believes the determination of whether or not copies should be provided is up to each specific board.
Les La Mois asked about the Frasier property. Claims Mr. Frasier got a variance but Les La Mois wanted to know how the building permit was granted? He believes there is still a wetlands issue. Jay Jacobs explained that the ZBA reviewed it and felt it complied so it granted the variance.
Winston Sims addressed the issue of the permitting process. He hopes for more progress and cooperation among town boards. He asked Jay Jacobs for his thoughts.
Jay Jacobs replied by stating his desire to return to the recusal issue on any Cucchi issues, but addressed the matter of the permitting process by emphasizing that the Con Com’s role is as an advisory group. For Con Com to get really involved, he feels that they should comment on an application they’ve been privy to or, better yet, respond to the Board that has asked for its input. Regarding the Frasier issue, Jay Jacobs stated that the ZBA works differently and acknowledged he doesn’t always agree with how they do things but that they do follow the process. They assess an applicant’s adherence to the zoning ordinances.
Jay Jacobs, reverting to Les LaMois’s request that all Con Comm members receive copies of any application, stated he believes it should be determined by each board (except regarding a shoreland issue which, by statute, requires Con Comm review) what and who receives copies of applications; that it’s up to each board and each board chair, that it is a matter that will have to be agreed upon by all boards. Jay Jacobs further stated it wouldn’t happen if the community perceives the Con Com is excessive in its oversight and causes excessive delays on minor issues.
Doug Gline and Les La Mois stated that, regarding the Frazier decision, they’d been approached by a couple of residents wondering what happened and why a permit was granted. Andrea Polizos stated she believes it’s a flood plain.
Jay Jacobs explained that Clough Harbor did the soils work on the Frasier property and that wetlands were not delineated and that DES conducted on-site inspections. Further stated that the Frasier issue was a good example as to why boards need more interaction to make decisions.
Harry Wolhandler stated that, to get environmental success, you have to be willing to compromise because there are always other considerations to take into account. Conflict resolution is part of that process to handle the practical concerns of all interested parties.
Winston Sims stated that none of the test results on Frasier, nor the application itself. was seen by Con Com so the committee wasn’t able to interject a voice of any kind.
Les La Mois stated that the DES said the Minnewawa Brook on his property was not on the shoreline. Winston Sims stated that was true and that he believes the State looks at shoreline in terms of the size of a body of water and that it does not relate to stream bed.
Jay Jacobs explained he believes that finding refers to the fact that the brook on the Frasier property doesn’t fall under the Shoreland Protection Act.
Returning to recusal issue, Winston Sims asked how the subject arose. Jay Jacobs responded saying he wants board input not just input from the chairman. He stated his belief that the perception is it’s just Winston Sims acting, not the whole committee. He sees Winston Sims as a lightning rod. Results in bad behavior in a public forum. Believes it’s time Winston Sims takes himself out of the fray and relies on his board, which is more than capable of addressing pertinent matters.
Les La Mois stated he fears the perception that the board is inapproachable. Wants community to want to approach the board and to feel they can approach and work with the board.
Jay Jacobs asked if Sherry Sims had recused herself, and reminded the board that it can’t force Winston Sims to do so but that he hopes he will for the sake of the integrity of the board. Winston Sims offered that the Cucchis first attacked the Planning Board and then the ZBA but not the Con Com. Jay Jacobs replied that it’s because Con Com has no voting power to turn him down. Harry Wolhandler suggested waiting until there is a concrete plan on the table before the Con Comm examines it and deals with it. Jay Jacobs stated that for eleven years he has haunted the town and its boards
Winston Sims noted that, at times, questions have to come through the chairman; that, at times, things need to be diffused. Jay Jacobs explained that twice Winston Sims went over the top: first, after agreeing with the Select Board not to pursue anything with Cucchi unless asked by the Planning Board and then a week later set up special meeting; and, second, by contacting Cucchi’s engineering firm directly to request maps and materials. To Jay Jacobs and Select Board this is one person fighting a battle by himself. Winston Sims responded he did not understand that and he did not find it in the minutes.
Harry Wolhandler addressed Winston Sims stating he felted Winston Sims had overstepped the committee’s bounds in corresponding with applicants and making specific requests outside of what the Con Comm had discussed or intended. Additionally, Mr. Wolhandler stated his belief that Mr. Sims’s gets overly involved in issues in these ex parte communications and the need for the Con Comm to remain in an advisory capacity – not a judicial one.
Doug Gline stated his belief it is in the best interest for Winston Sims to recuse himself and trust the Committee to make decisions regarding Cucchi and trust that the other boards will provide the Con Comm with the relevant information. Mr. Wolhandler agreed, adding his encouragement of Mr. Sims to continue pointing out any relevant issues on the matter to Con Comm members.
Winston Sims stated he did not believe this reflected a clear understanding of recusal and that he would reread the Select Board minutes and find out exactly what Jay Jacobs was referring to. He further stated that the Planning Board initially gave him the topo map – ultimately obtained from Clough Harbor via Silver Direct – and that he didn’t believe he engaged in any surreptitious behavior.
Jay Jacobs offered that this was Winston Sims acting alone; that nobody on the board knew, which is not how a board works; that Winston Sims’s acting as a lone ranger is hurting board. Doug Gline disagreed he was hurting the board but did agree it was hurting with respect to the Cucchis.
Winston Sims stated he understood what Jay Jacobs was saying, but doesn’t believe he has done anything specifically with respect to Cucchi himself.
Next issue: Governance. Winston Sims asked the group what governance should mean regarding the functioning of the Con Com.
Harry Wolhandler stated he sees them as closely related. When there’s interest in a property, or are approached about a property, he feels it’s appropriate to say either it will be put on the agenda and discussed, or it’s a matter for another board, but not appropriate to begin engaging fully in the matter. Harry Wolhandler expressed hope the chairman would only act on matters already mutually agreed upon by the Committee. He further stated what the Committee had said regarding Cucchi was different from how Mr. Sims acted and what was reflected in his letter. Matters should come to the group first before the chairman represents the Con Comm elsewhere. In too many cases, he believes, Winston Sims commented on issues that haven’t been discussed before whole board.
Winston Sims stated if an applicant has an interest in conveying conservation easement this would be up to land trust to manage, not the Con Com. A land trust will only ever look at a piece of land that is registered with county registry and an appraisal has been done.
Harry Wolhandler stated Winston Sims off topic. He asked what is role of Chair? To fulfill what board has come up with. To represent accurately and honestly what group has decided. Not what you individually want done.
Winston Sims replied that the role of Chair is one important aspect of governance
Harry Wolhandler further stated to Winston Sims that his actions outside of the room (e.g. in letters and communications to outsiders) also should reflect what’s discussed and decided among group.
Jay Jacobs added that he sits on a 3-member board where all are equal. When he addresses an issue he does what he can to make sure what he says reflects everyone’s thoughts, not just his own. As for governance, he agreed with Harry Wolhandler. Winston Sims’s position as chair has to be what group as a whole has decided.
Andrea Polizos stated regarding the Cucchi matter, she believes the Con Comm needs a fully completed Cucchi application before we do anything on that matter and should stay away until then. Winston Sims asked Andrea Polizos – any other issues in terms of governance? Andrea Polizos replied, notwithstanding Winston Sims’s level of knowledge, it still comes down to the group. Communications that are disseminated should reflect the group.
Jay Jacobs asked for an update on invasives, noting that boating season was nearly over and he didn’t know what had been done about invasives to justify the money put into the program. Winston Sims noted he didn’t think that was a fair statement.
Doug Gline offered that he and Les La Mois have purchased material, taken state signs and put them at three or four bodies of water, getting ready to put brochures out. Kiosk will be built for Harrisville Pond. Les La Mois clarified they have materials for one kiosk not two. Jay Jacobs noted he stands corrected on the matter.
Winston Sims added that Andrea Polizos was working on the Watershed Warriors Program. Andrea Polizos explained that they’ve linked the two lake association programs which are now in conversation. Skatutakee Lake Host person was not as available as they had hoped but is now connected with the Silver Lake host. Also, they had an additional table (from NH Lakes) at Old Home Days.
Winston Sims added that the question came up at Old Home Days regarding a conservation commission for kids. Interest is there.
Andrea Polizos added they were hoping to get a 3rd lake host program (covering 3 other lakes coordinated by the Con Com) but they decided too late (trainings start March 15). Harrisville Pond Association will start its own lake host program. Not a total win but more win than loss. Winston Sims noted the progress on education and awareness for boaters, particularly related to drying of boats.
Back to governance topic, Les La Mois stated he feels Con Com has a role providing critical and useful input but doesn’t govern. Would like to see more cooperation between boards and the commission. Would love to see a rule implemented that no permit is issued until all boards sign off, and not until everyone sees what’s being approved. Stated he believes the Chesham road incident makes the whole town look bad.
Winston Sims offered that it is the RSA from which Con Com derives its mandate and that that is the most important in terms of scope, though doesn’t advise how. Believes the Con Comm needs its own rules and procedures (e.g., chair shouldn’t act without clearance from full body). Need to tend to values like integrity and fairness under which the committee operates and how we conduct ourselves in meetings and with those who come before the committee. Winston Sims recommended more discussion needed regarding regular meetings v. special meetings and the need to be involved in issues at the earliest possible time in order to offer the most fruitful input.
Harry Wolhandler suggested that when a board has something upcoming, maybe our role is to ask if Con Com can look at it so that Committee approaches it not only from the standpoint of offering advice, but also asking for the opportunity to comment on it and also wanting to respect other boards’ time. Discussion ensued over when and under what circumstances special meetings should occur. Harry Wolhandler stated special meetings should only be for very special circumstances.
Jay Jacobs stated that before a chair calls a special meeting he should get consent from a quorum of members. Harry Wolhandler agreed.
Winston Sims added that the Con Comm agendas are another key aspect of governance. Need sense of the important issues from the Committee’s perspective and putting them in the best order.
Harry Wolhandler stated the Con Comm would be well advised to have 2-4 items as core agenda items and then an “other business” category to list other topics which would then be decided upon. Doesn’t make sense to have 11 item agenda when impossible to get to all during the course of a meeting. Andrea Polizos and Les La Mois agreed. Winston Sims stated that sometimes there are issues where we need give and take and additional data.
Harry Wolhandler raised the question whether or not it was okay for committee members to work on documents outside of meetings that will be brought before the full committee for review or whether that raised a Right to Know issue.
Group agreed that work could be done on documents outside of meetings that would be shared with the whole board and not acted on individually.
Other Governance Items to be discussed in the future include:
(I) Interactions with Other Groups and the Con Comm’s participation; (II) The Planning of Con Com’s Work; (III) Policy decisions; (IV) Site visits; (V) Feedback; (VI) Has what Con Com done been useful/effective?; (VII) If not what / how do we do it differently?
Winston Sims asked Jay Jacobs about the next meeting of Land Use Board Heads regarding permit and application processes. Jay Jacobs responded that no meeting is scheduled yet and won’t be until it’s possible to.
Harry Wolhandler offered he would like to think if the Committee establishes a standard, it will help vis a vis communication with all the boards and Con Com’s level of involvement.
At 8:58 pm, Andrea Polizos moved to adjourn meeting. Seconded. All responded in favor.