The Harrisville Planning Board held its regular monthly meeting at the town office building located on Chesham Road on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
Members Present: Sherry Sims, Ned Hulbert, Heri Tryba, Peter Thayer alternate, Courtney Cox, Selectman Andrew Maneval, Noel Greiner (alternate)
Members Absent: Nick Colony (alternate)
Members of the Public Present: Winston Sims, Anne Howe, Jonathan Miner (Selectman alternate), Donna Stone
Attendance and Voting Members
Mr. Hulbert stated that the voting members are Sherry Sims, Andrew Maneval, Courtney Cox, Heri Tryba and Ned Hulbert except on any vote of the Cucchi application in which case Sherry Sims would recuse herself and Pete Thayer will be a voting member.
Approval of Agenda
Motion to approve advanced by Mr. Maneval. All voted in favor.
Mrs. Sims offered great thanks to Anne Havill for her years of service to the Planning Board (PB). Applause and great acclaim offered by the whole board and attendees. Mr. Tryba asked why Anne Havill stepped down. Mrs. Sims stated that Anne has been an alternate for a long time and had always stated that, once the board had enough alternates, she would step down, and now that time has come.
Minutes of previous meeting (8/10/16)
Mr. Maneval moved to approve the slight change by Mr. Tryba of the verb tense used in relation to the drafting of the Master Plan Committee charter. Mrs. Sims seconded. All voted in favor.
Status of Cucchi Subdivision Application cont’d from 8/10/16: John J. Cucchi, Jr, Skatutakee Rd, 2-lot subdivision, Map 30, Lot 32
Mr. Hulbert asked Mr. Maneval to state the case before the board. To make the status clear, Mr. Maneval moved that the Planning Board decline to accept the application from the Cucchis regarding their proposed subdivision for two reasons: a) abandonment of it by the applicant; and b) failure to include all required information. Mr. Tryba seconded he motion and the Board discussed it. Mr. Maneval commended Mr. Hulbert and Mrs. Cox for their work on the early review of this application. After seeing all the relevant materials, Mr. Maneval, as a Selectman, contacted Mr. Cucchi to see if he would consider dropping his lawsuit and approaching the matter a different way. Mr. Cucchi declined to do so.
Referring to the minutes of July 13, in which the PB describes some of the issues that suggested that the big questions for the PB moving forward are what the PB’s subdivision regulations say, what the PB’s zoning regulations and application checklist say, and what procedures the PB has in place so that there is greater clarity. Mr. Maneval also suggested that all PB members be familiar with application procedures in order to prevent any scrambling in the event, for example, of a recusal situation.
After detailing his review of these ordinances and regulations, Mr. Maneval stated that the PB had a perfect and legitimate right and duty to reject the application and to tell Mr. Cucchi to come back. Mr. Hulbert noted that Mr. Maneval’s points relate directly to the August 10 Planning Board discussion on the difference between substantive and non-substantive reasons for acceptance or non-acceptance of an application.
Mr. Hulbert offered that he had communicated by email with Silas Little on the matter of the Cucchi’s request to table their application and it was Mr. Little’s opinion that if an application was not pending because the application hadn’t been accepted, it cannot be tabled. Mr. Hulbert noted that he also had a conversation with a New Hampshire Municipal Association attorney, Margaret Burns, who stated she understood where Mr. Little was coming from but she wasn’t sure anything should be done until the existing litigation between John Cucchi and the town has worked through. Ms. Burns recommended no action until the case was settled and the attorneys had perhaps come to a proposed solution.
Mr. Maneval stated he appreciated the input but didn’t want any confusion about what the record stated. When Mr. Cucchi goes to court and shows the July 13 meeting minutes as the grounds on which his application was rejected, Mr. Maneval feels the court is looking at the wrong grounds. However, Mr. Maneval does believe the Board had grounds for not accepting the application as complete.
Mr. Greiner then asked where the application stands now. Andrew Maneval responded that the PB could do one of three things: 1) deem it non-existing, along the lines of Silas Little’s response; 2) follow Margaret Burns’s approach and do nothing; or, 3), in Mr. Maneval’s opinion the best approach, for the PB to formally approve of its rejection of it – or refusal to accept it – for grounds stated more clearly.
Mr. Maneval reiterated that he did not believe the PB made any mistake in terms of not accepting the application but was perhaps a little off-point in not describing what the grounds for not accepting the application were. What Mr. Maneval believed the board did usefully was attempt to explain to the applicant some of the issues the board was concerned about. The applicant was the one who came in demanding to have his application accepted and, when that did not happen, turned to the courts to do it.
Following the discussion, Mr. Hulbert called for a vote on the motion, the Planning Board declined to accept the application from the Cucchis regarding their proposed subdivision for two reasons: a) abandonment of it by the applicant; and b) failure to include all required information. By a vote of 5-0, the Board approved it.
Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) – grant application status
Mr. Hulbert began by stating that Mr. Tryba had submitted the application on time and asked Mr. Tryba for an update. He explained that since the last PB meeting, with great help from the Conservation Commission, Sherry Sims Ned Hulbert, SWRPC, the School Board, Scott Oliver, and the Selectboard, the application was complete and was submitted to the DOT in a timely manner.
On record keeping for the application, Mr. Tryba asked that, while the application is on Dropbox so everyone involved remains aware of its status, he wondered where it should be housed within the town – both a hardcopy and electronically. Mr. Maneval stated it should go to Angela Hendrickson for recordkeeping within the Selectboard’s office, either a hard copy or digital copy. Mrs. Sims noted that because it’s under a PB umbrella, a hard copy should be kept in PB files as well. Given the formatting issues on the print version, it was agreed that a digital copy should be made available and that indication should be made on the hard copies that additional information is available on the digital version in the Selectboard’s office. Mr. Tryba asked if it makes sense to put it on the town website. Mr. Hulbert stated it was a good idea, maybe a condensed version with maps. Mr. Maneval suggested having a link inserted on the website which would take viewers directly to the whole application. He also stated that Gwen Ames offered to post items on the website, since the town is between systems at the moment, and suggested Mr. Tryba talk to her about posting the application. Mrs. Sims suggested including an introductory blurb. Mr. Tryba asked if the letters of support that were included in the application should be included in the public posting. Mr. Thayer noted that they are public and Mr. Maneval noted that they’ll be available and have to be available.
Mr. Greiner asked how much money the grant involves and Mr. Tryba responded $520,000. Mr. Maneval explained that it’s a reimbursement program, that if the Town gets the grant and uses it, the Town would have to spend $520,000 and request reimbursement for 80% of what it spends. Mr. Tryba clarified it would be reimbursement as the money is spent. The Town would not have to spend it all before recovering any of the funds. Mr. Maneval explained that, for example, if the Town is approved for the full $520,000 grant, and at the March Town Meeting it received a yes vote to move forward, the Town would have had to put in a warrant an expense item of $520,000 and a revenue item of 80% of that amount as being anticipated recoveries. When Mr. Greiner asked over what period of time, Mr. Maneval responded that the Town would have had to consider whether money should go into CIP as a projected expense, and that if it were a one-year proposition it wouldn’t be as complex. Mr. Tryba stated that, if gotten, it’s a multi-year process, involving engineering studies, bids, invoices and the process of seeking reimbursement from the DOT.
Mr. Hulbert reiterated for Mr. Tryba that approval was granted to make the TAP application available on the town website.
Complete Streets Program (aka Walkability working group)
Heri Tryba provided an update, stating he is working with Mari Brunner and Liz Kelly from SWRPC who have assisted four other towns in the county. A preliminary planning meeting included Mr. Hulbert, Mrs. Sims, Mr. Maneval, and Mary Day Mordecai and focused on the goals for the town and on getting SWRPC’s input on how to roll out the program, including offering guidelines, mapping tools and recommendations for the design.
Mr. Hulbert noted that the important point from an organizational standpoint is that the walkability program turns into the Complete Streets planning group. This is a subset of one of the Master Plan priorities, so it has to report on an ongoing basis to the PB to make sure Complete Streets is unfolding and involving the public appropriately. Mr. Maneval added that, like any actual or quasi subcommittee of the PB, any PB member is entitled to and welcome to join in any particular meeting. Mr. Hulbert added that they’d have to keep meeting notes. Mr. Tryba noted PB members or members of the public were welcome to participate on different individual aspects of the process and Mr. Maneval stated there would be outreach to relevant parties (e.g., to the Road Agent or Police Chief) regarding work related to the DOT or roads and that the PB will supervise the project/process and open it up to the public for comment for the ultimate purpose of presenting it at Town Meeting.
Harrisville Community Conversations
Mr. Hulbert stated that Complete Streets was one of the four items discussed. The general feeling was that Community Conversations was still worth doing with suggested improvements, including reduce it from four topic groups because it got too long and tiring. It was Mr. Hulbert’s view there was still good input from each of the tables. Mr. Hulbert stated they would need to get input on how to redesign following Conversations on the four topics. Mr. Maneval stated that he felt there was good energy and enthusiasm.
Regarding the gym/wellness center group, in a survey sent out by Oliver Strube, there were expressions of interest from over 90 people and $5,000 in donations or loans already promised, and over 50 people expressed interest in joining. Mr. Hulbert suggested recruiting some women to join the group and securing financial and legal advice on the ownership form. Historic Harrisville, which would rent the space to the gym/wellness center, has expressed concerns about the ownership form, insurance and liability. These are the issues the group will be dealing with into October, according to Mr. Hulbert. Mr. Greiner asked who the leader of the group is and Mr. Hulbert responded that, at this point, Oliver Strube, Gabe Washburn, himself and Mary Day Mordecai, but that he’d like to bring some other people in. He stated the need to find financial counsel and ownership form advice, i.e., is it an LLC, a club, an association, a co-op. The hope is to clarify these issues by the end of the year and work them out with Historic Harrisville as renters of the space on an ongoing basis.
Mr. Maneval then spoke about the Community Activities group, which discussed what it could and should do, with the biggest challenge being to get people to organize activities. The general sense, Mr. Maneval stated, was that the space is available and there were numerous activities suggested, such as discussion groups, cooking groups or classes, progressive dinners, particularly in the winter when isolation can be an issue. Mr. Hulbert commented that, as with the gym group, there must be some reaching out to generate more interest and participation. Mrs. Sims added that the contacts for this group are Ginny Brooks and Diane Miller.
Mr. Thayer then addressed the Board about the Broadband Group. He noted that the wireless providers see it as a burden, that Fairpoint Communications, which owns the telecom poles, is not interested in letting other providers use them. The need for investors is a challenge, as well as the fact that the industry is changing and ultimately wireless could replace cable and hardwire. Ned Hulbert added that a proposal or quasi-proposal was raised and Pete Thayer expanded on that to say a proposal was made for a feasibility study which would include $20,000 in funding by the town. The study might also include four to five other towns, so the cost could be shared.
Mr. Maneval added that there wasn’t much interest in Harrisville’s being the only town to fund the study and that one attendee had mentioned that Dublin was interested in doing a study. Mr. Miner asked what the study would tell the board and that he felt it was a control issue for the providers, limiting what they offer. Mr. Maneval stated that he had met with Historic Harrisville who expressed, in his words, a surprising level of interest as it would attract tenants to have hi-speed internet. Mr. Maneval stated the statistic of a $7,500 difference in home value to have hi-speed internet service, thus noting the potential relationship to property values. Given Harrisville’s goal to attract small businesses, he believes good internet is essential.
Mr. Hulbert asked who else could join the Broadband group. Discussion ensued regarding the need for additional people with the professional background and expertise to help. Mr. Greiner suggested submitting an item to Common Threads. He then asked how much it would cost per household to acquire Broadband since having that figure could help the group ascertain the level of interest in the community, which could be communicated to a provider.
The point was raised that in some areas of town, service is below the federal standard and in other areas it exceeds that standard. Mr. Tryba stated that the Broadband group had met with a government relations person from Fairpoint who said, given the existing service in the town of Harrisville, it wasn’t likely Harrisville would receive any broadband funding from the federal government. Money would go instead to other areas of New Hampshire with much less adequate service. Mr. Maneval urged anyone interested in joining to contact Lisa Sieverts.
Mr. Tryba requested a report on Regional Cooperation. Mr. Hulbert stated they are on the October agenda of the School Board with the goal of discussing long-term objectives and strategic opportunities for Wells Memorial School. Mr. Hulbert, Mr. Tryba and Mr. Maneval had a brief discussion with the School Board Chair the day before to raise the issue of the long term budgetary challenges of the school and to express the hope the School Board will begin to address these. They hope that discussion between the Board and town can occur in the most constructive way. Mr. Tryba added that they had also met in late August with Jack Dugan of Monadnock Economic Development who has experience helping Keene finance projects through tax credits.
They also discussed Broadband with Mr. Dugan, who had helped manage FastRoads, the fiber optic “superhighway” sold to a private company. Mr. Maneval commented on the ongoing thinking about regional cooperation at the Select Board level through its recent discussion with the head of the Fire Academy to discuss options for regional combination of fire services. There is as an imminent discussion with the Town of Nelson about possibilities. Mr. Hulbert stated he believes that, within five to ten years, the reality will have to be a lot more cooperating at the regional level because of the heavy tax burdens. Mr. Maneval stated that part of the issue is the level of professional competence and part of it is the level of voluntary service; either of those factors could weigh into the decisions on what gets regionalized and how.
Recommendations from Housing Committee
Mrs. Sims distributed to the Board a copy of the new NH law on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and had distributed the recommendations of the Housing Committee. Two of the members, Donna Stone and Anne Howe were in attendance. Mrs. Sims reviewed the areas of potential change since, in October, the PB will need to make some decisions about what zoning amendments they’ll propose to the Town. She suggested that the group just think about these things now rather than make an immediate decision on them. Accessory Dwelling Units is the term now used to describe what used to be called accessory apartments or mother-in-law apartments. The state, according to Mrs. Sims, passed RSA 674:71-73, which goes into effect June 1, 2017 and every town has to provide for an accessory dwelling apartment per lot in every district or zone that allows single family housing, as long as the expanded structure conforms with lot setbacks, septic, etc. Any town that doesn’t pass its own law will have to comply with the state law; the committee feels Harrisville would like to have its own law that’s particular to Harrisville.
Mrs. Sims explained why the law was enacted: first, to provide more affordable housing because, according to the new law, an ADU is attached to a single family home. The attachment can either be above a garage or attached in some way to the dwelling. She clarified that the town can establish a minimum and maximum size but cannot limit an ADU to less than 750’. In the housing committee discussions, the committee decided to recommended 1000’ as the maximum size..
Mr.Maneval asked why the town needs a new zoning ordinance when the existing ordinance can be modified. Mrs. Sims answered that, with this law, there are more things that have to be done now, which make the existing ordinance not user-friendly. Mr. Maneval stated that he, too, has been working on zoning changes and noted that what the law requires are minimum standards and our existing regulations were virtually entirely compliant so that what was being proposed were, in effect, restrictions. That is because anything beyond the minimums is a limitation, so what we’re adding isn’t broadening rights but limiting them.
Mrs. Sims responded that it is broadening them in some ways and that this was one of the conceptual things she wanted to talk about, less than the specifics. She’d advocate that it’s more user-friendly for someone who wants to have the requirements all in one ordinance. Mr. Tryba asked if, as Mrs. Sims had included in her email to the board, that this was for further discussion in October. Sherry Sims stated yes and what she wanted to convey tonight was to highlight the issues the committee thought the PB should also discuss.
Mrs. Sims continued to say that one of the restrictions of the new ADU law is that it deals only with attached ADU’s. Those can be granted in 3 ways: 1) By right, meaning a building permit would automatically be granted as long as the addition complies with setback and septic restrictions. The housing committee is proposing that it be done this way in the agricultural/residential district because the lots are bigger; 2) By going through the ZBA to obtain a special exception. This is the current process for an ADU in Harrisville now. 3) By the applicant obtaining a conditional use permit from the Planning Board. This is similar in procedure to the special exception from the ZBA but the Public Hearing and permit granting is done by the Planning Board. The committee recommends this procedure for residences in the village and lakeside districts because lots there tend to be smaller, and the lakeside areas tend to be more sensitive The Planning Board is in the best position to consider ADU’s in these two districts because of its familiarity with the zoning ordinances concerning these districts.
Mr.Tryba asked if this applied to attached or detached ADUs. Sherry Sims confirmed it would apply to attached ADUs in the village and lakeside districts but that the Housing Committee proposes bringing in detached because the law doesn’t.
Mr. Thayer asked if anyone can get an ADU and rent it out and make money without restrictions. Mrs.Sims responded that there are restrictions (setbacks) but that the state’s purpose in creating this was to increase the pool of rental housing and that these are considered workforce housing. Mr. Thayer asked if someone had a three-bedroom house with a three bedroom septic system, would they have to modify their septic system? Sherry Sims responded yes.
Mrs. Sims summarized that the housing committee was proposing these things while still allowing for only one single-family house per lot and only one ADU, and not a cluster.
In addition to discussing ADUs, Mrs. Sims mentioned that the Housing Committee discussed duplexes, and multifamily dwellings. Harrisville doesn’t currently allow duplexes in all districts; at this point they are permitted only in the village, commercial and industrial districts. The Housing Committee, after discussing duplexes in the residential and agricultural district, wants the PB to think about permitting the in this district. The committee proposes a minimum frontage of 250 feet, the current requirement, a minimum land area of 4 acres, requiring vegetative buffers along the road, and possibly specifying one entrance or parking on the side.
Multifamily dwellings may involve the same issues although the housing committee was less specific about multifamily lot size and did not reach a consensus. Mrs. Sims stated that the Committee doesn’t have a feeling about lot size for multiple dwellings, although it did spend time discussing an existing multiple-family dwelling on Lampman Road. The Committee does not consider it a desirable setup. Mrs. Sims wants the PB to consider how many occupants per dwelling should be allowed and whether the PB wants to allow the option of multiple family, the biggest question mark in the Committee’s minds.
Mrs. Sims stated that several of the ideas that came about were a result of research done with other towns. One of the major improvements, she thought, was Marlborough’s conservation subdivision ordinance, specifically the formula of how to compute the number of dwelling units for maximum development density. Article 16 of the Harrisville ordinance has 2 pages. Marlborough has 1 paragraph. The Committee proposes taking out Harrisville’s method of calculating and adding the wording from Marlborough’s ordinance. The Committee would also add the wording that “land required for new streets is also not considered developable land.” The committee will be following up with this in October, according to Mrs. Sims.
Mr. Maneval thanked Mrs. Sims and the Committee for their thoughtful work and stated he believes the idea of simplifying the conservation subdivision ordinance is critical. He then offered that, in his mind, the conservation subdivision ordinance ought to be an agreement where you can put more houses in a place, or apartments or dwellings, while including ample open space. The Committee’s proposed ordinance, in his mind, limits the number of units to the proportion of buildable lots. He believes what it ought to do is permit more housing not less. Mr. Tryba commented that his first response to the housing committee’s proposal is that it could be stronger in terms of proposing more density.
Mrs. Sims responded to say it was important for the Committee and also the PB to consider what pushback would come. She also stated she felt the proposal would allow for more density because of the lack of frontage required. Mr. Tryba asked for confirmation of Committee members names and Mrs. Sims named Donna Stone, Anne Howe, Courtney Cox, Anne Havill Doug Walker, and Dan Langille, who serves as Chief Tax Assessor for Keene.
Mr. Hulbert asked what Mrs. Sims sees as the timeline for finalizing the proposal and she responded that decisions have to be made in October or no later than November in order to have a public hearing. Mr. Maneval stated he would not be at the October meeting but that he will be proposing a broader number of changes in November.
Master Plan Committee
Mr. Hulbert stated that a one page “job description” or proposed charter for the committee, a subcommittee of the PB, was distributed by email to Board members. He read from the charter: “The task and focus areas of the Master Plan Committee will be: a) work on current and longer term Master Plan strategic priorities; b) provide research, analysis and support for Master Plan implementation; c) propose updates and revisions to the Master Plan on an ongoing basis; d) coordinate strategic concerns in Master Plan implementation with key town bodies like the Select Board and other town boards, town committees and initiatives; e) provide linkages to the community through dialogue and regular information about Master Plan goals and implementation. The work of the Master Plan Committee could also include proposed amendments to zoning ordinances and town regulations, participate in the annual preparation of town CIP to facilitate funding of long term Master Plan goals in the CIP; network with nearby towns and regional organizations to explore regional solutions,” with the overall goal of the Master Plan committee being to keep the long-term agenda in front of the PB.
Mr. Maneval motioned to accept the Master Plan Committee charter. Mrs. Sims seconded. All voted in favor.
Regarding the status of the CIP, Mr. Tryba proposed that the CIP gets delegated to the Master Plan Committee, who would then propose recommendations to the PB for the October meeting, followed by a meeting of the committee with the Selectmen. Mr. Maneval stated he believes that to the extent the PB will move forward with aspects of this, the PB as a whole needs to be on board, but disagrees that the committee should be the delegation that talks to the Select Board. Mr. Maneval stated he believes what makes the most sense is for the Select Board to organize the CIP work with respect to certain standard obvious issues of amortization of equipment and buildings with the forward-looking requirement to set aside a budget for those things. The PB is invited to participate as much as they want in this process. Given the potential for other areas of CIP, Mr. Maneval stated that those tend to be more controversial, new or innovative. They will require some forward research if they’re going to move ahead. This is where the Master Plan Committee could come into play.
Mr. Maneval then suggested the PB consider how it wants to communicate, as a PB, and take more of a laboring oar, with the Select Board. New CIP proposals will have tax implications, public hearing implications, budget hearing implications, items that have implications for both the Select Board and the PB. Mr. Hulbert and Mr. Greiner agreed.
To Mr. Hulbert’s question to Mr. Maneval that he was suggesting the PB should take more responsibility in the Master Plan Committee’s recommendations when presented in October, Mr. Maneval responded yes.
Aquifer Protection Ordinance
Mr. Thayer had done some research on what at least 3 other towns have done with respect to Aquifer Protection. Mr. Hulbert contacted two to three engineering firms and someone at DES who was involved with the earlier draft, and a couple of other local resources. Mr. Thayer and Mr. Hulbert will bring some thinking about next steps to the next PB meeting that offers some professional viewpoints before the PB has to address it in the spring.
Mrs. Sims asked, since water protection is such a big part of master plan, if advice on other water-related issues could also be part of the research/professional viewpoints on the aquifer issue. Mr. Maneval asked further if other towns have water protection ordinances that combine aquifer protection with wetlands, steep slopes, surface and groundwater issues as well.
Winston Sims asked what approaches the PB sees to the Con Com involving all the water-related issues. Mr. Hulbert responded that he believed the objective was to read the proposed ordinance again and decide whether they either would agree with it and support it; change it and support it; or reject it and not take any further action on it.
Winston Sims responded that in terms of current ordinances and proposed ordinances and modifications, he believed it would make sense to consult with the Con Com. Mr. Hulbert agreed it made sense to have a front-end conversation. Mr. Miner stated he believed the mission was more of a fact-finding to see if the proposed ordinance was realistic more than anything, not anything to do with redrafting. Mr. Hulbert stated their goal was to be informed and make some recommendations without precluding anything. Winston Sims added he believed it would be good if Mr. Hulbert and Mr. Thayer could go forward on some of the discussions and accumulated wisdom. Mr. Hulbert and Mr. Thayer responded that they haven’t gotten that far yet and will be in touch; they also are not interested in reinventing the wheel.
Website Procedure and Content
Mrs. Sims stated she believes the content is not up to date and should be edited. Mr. Maneval responded that the hope had been that the recording secretarial job would include for each of the boards, subject to the board’s approval, the posting of the approved minutes and in the case of the Select Board, the agenda. But there is also discussion that it might make more sense to have a “content master” to handle the website content related to non-board items but given the budgetary issue it probably wouldn’t happen until after Town Meeting. The interim solution is to have the recording secretary post the approved minutes of all the boards. For other content, the Select Board will talk about budgeting for a part-time position. Anything additional right now, Gwen Ames could be asked but may not have the time.
Ned Hulbert stated that the PB has lost Peter Crowell and Anne Havill and needs to think about replacing them. He will email to PB members the PB job role description, membership criteria and succession plan documents and ask members to think about people who may be interested in serving. New members would be discussed and proposed at the October meeting.
Mrs. Sims added that she distributed to board members a flyer on the Municipal Law Lecture series, including the topics of Developments in the Law, Conflicts of Interest and Code Enforcement and any board members interested in attending should deal directly with Angela Hendrickson to reserve. They begin this month.
Ned Hulbert adjourned the meeting at 9:25 p.m.