The Harrisville Planning Board held its regular monthly meeting at the town office building located on Chesham Road on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
Meeting called to order at 7:00 pm.
Members present: Sherry Sims, Ned Hulbert, Andrew Maneval Selectman, Jonathan Miner Selectman Alternate, Peter Thayer Alternate, Heri Tryba, Ryan Stone Alternate, Courtney Cox, Noel Greiner Alternate, Lisa Marie Anderson Alternate, Craig Thompson Alternate
Members absent: Nick Colony
Members of the public: Richard Lavatori, Anne Howe, Anne Cucchi, John Cucchi, Winston Sims
Attendance and voting members
The voting members present were Ned Hulbert, Sherry Sims (except in matters related to Mr. Cucchi), Andrew Maneval, Courtney Cox, Pete Thayer and Heri Tryba.
Approval of Agenda
Noel Greiner moved to approve the agenda. Andrew Maneval seconded. All members approved.
Minutes of previous meeting 5/10/17
Andrew Maneval moved to approve the minutes with Sherry’s grammatical edit. Noel Greiner seconded. All voted in favor with Heri Tryba abstaining.
Minutes of site visit for subdivision application of John and Anne Cucchi 6/8/17
Sherry Sims moved to approve. Andrew Maneval seconded. All voted in favor with Heri Tryba abstaining.
Sherry Sims and Noel Greiner removed themselves from the table for the following matter:
Public Hearing Cont’d: 2-lot subdivision John J. Cucchi Jr., Skatutakee Rd (Map 30 Lot 32)
Ned Hulbert started by sharing information from his consultation with the town attorney and noted that the board would consider the issue of steep slopes and the Shoreland Overlay Protection Ordinance. Mr. Hulbert stated the distinction would need to be made, and all the arguments aired, regarding the Planning Board’s ability to require certain provisions for this subdivision, or the PB’s decision to require certain conditions after the subdivision is in effect; in other words, on the subsequent owner. Mr. Hulbert also reported that the Cucchis sent him a note regarding Mr. Hulbert’s request for a more detailed engineering report. The Cucchis wrote that their engineer was out of town. Separately, in writing, they requested a waiver of the steep slope regulation from the PB. Mr. Hulbert stated he did not expect the board would have enough time for dialogue to vote on the application that evening but, instead, at next month’s meeting.
Responding to Mr. Hulbert’s request for comments, Andrew Maneval recommended that the board consider the matter of the timing of the vote in two steps: the first being a decision on whether a private road exists, or would be approved by action of the PB, for the purpose of determining frontage; and, the second, if the Cucchis had any objection to the possible extension of a vote until the next meeting in light of the engineering report. It seemed the Cucchis did not.
Mr. Maneval also raised the procedural question of whether the PB would choose to modify any of the requirements of the application. When asked to clarify, Mr. Maneval stated that, recognizing a waiver was being sought, the PB has the authority to consider modifications generally.
Beginning with the discussion of the road, Ned Hulbert asked if the road is a private road by virtue of past action or does the PB want to make it a private road. As the Town Attorney advised, there are arguments on both sides, adding that the PB’s deciding it is one would simplify the process. Heri Tryba asked if a difference exists between a private road and a driveway and the board responded yes, most significantly in the context of frontage. Agreeing that a private road already exists enables the first lot to qualify. The plan was then exhibited on the projection screen. Frontage was pointed out and Andrew Maneval stated he saw no question of adequacy of frontage for either lot if the private road exists, and insufficient frontage if it’s not. Ned Hulbert noted the issue in the argument against the existence of the private road lies in a past application (2007) presented by the Cucchis in which it is not noted as such. Courtney Cox raised the point that a 1999 application of an adjoining subdivision notes the private road.
Mr. Hulbert agreed but could not recall the specific wording of Attorney Little’s argument on the matter. Andrew Maneval stated that town roads could be reclassified but it requires the action of the town. Courtney Cox asked if it was ever officially recognized by the town as a private road and whether or not the town had documentation of that and Mr. Hulbert responded he did not know but that he did not think so.
Mr. Maneval stated he would support ending the doubt on the question as he doesn’t believe it should be a significant concern. He suggested the board take into account the characteristics of the road and its surroundings, the fact that it has been treated as a private road in the past, and that the use of it, only serving two properties, would be relevant to a road of that type. The question, Mr. Maneval added, was more whether the designation and maintenance of a road falls within the subdivision guideline regulations and do they apply to the application materials. He further stated he believed there was a question of whether the standards for such should even be applied to a private road of the type that would serve the two properties. With slope guidelines as one of the technical requirements of a road, the board discussed how steep slope related to the road designation proposed in the application. Again Mr. Maneval noted the PB’s ability to modify certain requirements and that, given the proposed use of a private road serving only two properties, he wondered if an 8% grade was too stringent. The board referred to p. 12 of Attachment 1, Section IV of the Subdivision Regulations, p.14, and also Section XI on p.10, under “Administration and Enforcement”, which discusses the PB’s duties and ability to modify those regulations.
According to Mr. Hulbert, Attorney Silas Little’s view is that the technical requirements are such that the PB is required to have the Cucchis get the road up to those specifications as a condition of acceptance for the subdivision. Mr. Maneval restated his position that the PB could determine the requirements do not apply to a private road or, alternatively, the PB could modify those regulations given the circumstances of a particular subdivision application. Pete Thayer asked if the Road Agent had submitted anything in writing containing his views. Ned Hulbert responded that the Road Agent issued two driveway permits but nothing in writing pertaining to the road.
Returning to the letter from the engineer from Duffield Engineering, Ned Hulbert expressed his concerns that it lacked specific enough data on a road profile and slope percentages. Mr. Hulbert also questioned whether slope averaging was a professionally accepted engineering practice. Heri Tryba stated his concern was less with the slope percentage and more with any environmental risk given the location of the lake below the property, and thus he would support a stricter requirement in this case. Mr. Tryba asked for the engineer’s judgment on those questions as well. Courtney Cox agreed. The board noted the Cucchis were prepared to obtain those answers.
The board then turned to Section XIII of the Zoning Ordinance addressing steep slopes, specifically 13.3.1 on driveways, and the requirement that they not cause excessive erosion, and 13.3.3 on slope provisions requiring adequate storm water drainage for a slope in excess of 10%. Lisa Anderson noted that 70% of contamination in lakes is from road runoff. Ned Hulbert stated that’s why the engineer’s input is needed. All noted that runoff already exists. Winston Sims noted the driveway to the lots would lie completely in the shoreland overlay, which he believes immediately introduces a huge sensitivity issue. Noel Greiner added there would be additional runoff, caused by the increase in impervious surface area with the addition of two houses replacing the woods that currently absorb the flow. Asking what the letter from the PB to the engineer would request, Ned Hulbert responded he would request 1) what the grade of the slope is; 2) what the changes in grade are; 3) if slope averaging is a professionally accepted practice; 4) what the runoff concerns are, and how they would be addressed given the slope percentage; and 5) whether a waiver of the requirements would materially affect the issues.
The group discussed the different requirements for roads versus driveways, after which Sherry Sims asked about distances and where the 200’ distance exists on the site plan. Courtney Cox and Ryan Stone pointed out the line table and helped clarify the distances and locations on the site plan. Regarding the slope issue, both Jon Miner and Pete Thayer stated, based on the site visit, they didn’t feel there was a slope issue related to the road. Ryan Stone stated he didn’t feel the angle of the proposed private road to Skatutakee Road was an issue given the minimal traffic there. Courtney Cox recommended the board make a decision on the private road question, given that any slope or related issues would be addressed through the application review process. Andrew Maneval proposed an amendment to the motion, noting that voting on the issue would clarify what needs to be addressed with more specificity.
Winston Sims asked who, assuming the PB approved the road, would be liable for damage in the event of a 50-year flood. Andrew Maneval responded that any damage to a private road is handled by those who benefit from the road. Anne Cucchi pointed out the section of the subdivision regulations in which, in the case of any impact on a road due to a subdivision, the PB may require the subdivider to bear a reasonable portion of the cost to upgrade the existing road, adding she assumed the owners of the lots along Skatutakee (the Cucchis if they haven’t sold their property) would be responsible. Andrew Maneval noted the provision applied to the upgrade of an existing road and may not necessarily apply in this case.
Spelling out the motion, Andrew Maneval moved that the PB vote to approve the proposed road, Logan Road, while also asking the Cucchis to provide a further report from their road engineer regarding drainage and storm water runoff matters.
Lisa Anderson wondered, given one of the proposed subdivided lots resides in the Lakeside District, if approving a road by a lake was contrary to the spirit of the provisions in the Lakeside District section of the ordinance. Andrew Maneval stated he thought Ms. Anderson meant the Shoreland Overlay ordinance and not the Lakeside Residential District regulations, which do not address drainage issues, but agreed that the lot exists in both districts. Courtney Cox seconded the motion. Winston Sims asked why there would be approval of a road prior to findings from the engineer. Andrew Maneval responded that all the engineering questions related to the subdivision application would be considered once the PB focuses its attention on that piece of the process, stating, even if the PB were to deny the subdivision, a private road could still exist to one lot rather than two. All voted in favor.
In a final question on the matter, Winston Sims noted that during the site visit, no pins denoting boundary locations were visible. He asked about elevations and proposed house locations and driveway length. Mr. Cucchi made note of the questions, including what issues the slope would present for deliveries and in harsh weather.
In closing the Cucchi subdivision matter, Ned Hulbert noted he would update the Cucchis by email on any new information in the coming weeks. The board took a two-minute recess.
Community Conversation June 5, 2017
Discussing what worked well and what could be improved, Craig Thompson stated he and others felt the acoustics were not better at the school than at the mill. Andrew Maneval suggested finding a location that offers separate rooms for individual groups to talk. Sherry Sims and Courtney Cox applauded the maps and visuals. Ned Hulbert believed there was strong support for crosswalks. The group praised SWRP and the Trails Committee. There was further discussion about attracting more residents to participate with Craig Thompson offering ideas for outreach, including working with the school and submitting a notice to Common Threads. On the cost of food, the board debated different ideas and concluded that, for now, it will continue with requesting donations and will consider other options on a case by case basis.
- Broadband – Andrew Maneval reported that the RFP was approved by the SB and was ready to go out. To date $4,000 has been received and a total of $5,000 pledged. Andrew Maneval stated the group would like to have at least $7,000 raised before next week’s fundraising deadline. The Broadband Committee applied to New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
- Complete Streets – Sherry Sims stated that the group has nearly completed its policy/advisory paper to promote multiple use and enjoyment of roads. She hopes to email it soon to PB members to discuss at the July meeting, after which it would go to the SB. In the interest of time, it was suggested by Andrew Maneval that board members formulate comments individually to share at the next PB meeting. Separately, it was noted there will be a Complete Streets table at Old Home Days with a hoped-for demonstration to include crosswalks and traffic calming measures on either end of the village. Heri Tryba discussed the helpful SWRP workshop in Jaffrey and updated the board that bike racks had been placed in 4 locations in town: in front of the library, town hall, at the community garden and between the store and post office. Mr. Tryba also noted that the work with SWRP would wind down this summer, with the hope of transitioning to a transportation group to continue the efforts. The Complete Streets working group planned to meet with the SB to discuss the painting of a yellow line down the middle of Hancock Road, an action the CS group hopes the SB will slow in the hope of giving the decision more thought. Andrew Maneval responded that the SB decision was not sudden but resulted from 2 public meetings more than a year and a half ago as well as an engineering report suggesting the line as one idea to calm traffic.
- Aquifer/water protection committee – Pete Thayer announced that another meeting would take place on July 29th and that the committee is spearheading the Aug 21st Community Conversation.
- Regional Cooperation – Ned Hulbert and Jon Miner updated the board on their meeting with the school board, representatives of the PB and SB and the SAU to foster longer range cooperative planning on issues such as enrollment, economic vitality in town, budgets and other matters. The next meeting is July 13.
- Conditional Use Permit Application – Sherry Sims distributed the modified document for members to review. The group approved of the updated version for use.
- Street Lights – Mr. Maneval explained that an issue had arisen about the wording and interpretation of the Warrant Article and its amendment and that a sizeable group of residents attended the SB meeting to seek to offer input on the process and selection of new fixtures. The SB asked the Historic District Commission to step up to oversee the proposed recommendations and proposed timeframe in light of the SB’s wish to continue to move ahead. Mr. Maneval noted the issues of safety and design were two of several being discussed.
Training: Master Plan Orientation 6/20
Mr. Hulbert outlined the objectives and topics to be addressed at the 3 training sessions for new members and for preparation of the transitioning of Sherry Sims and Ned Hulbert out of the Co-Chairman positions. At the first session on June 20th, the group will review the Master Plan and PB strategy. The second session on August 29th will focus on working groups, noticing and the PB rules of procedure and the third will focus on zoning and land use matters. He and Ms. Sims distributed outlines of the agendas to each member and requested that board members read all the information in preparation for the discussion. The date for the 3rd session will be set next month. Ned Hulbert also noted that a monthly debrief/training session will be scheduled, starting after the July PB meeting, to which all PB members are invited. This meeting will be to further prepare newer PB members for Sherry’s and his transitions out of co-chair positions in 2018.
Proposed Zoning Revision Draft by Andrew Maneval
Mr. Hulbert and Sherry Sims approached planners and attorneys for their perspectives on how other towns have gone about the process of zoning rewrites. Ms. Sims asked Lisa Murphy, senior planner at SWRP, if a town is going to undertake a complete overhaul of its zoning ordinances, what decisions would have to be made, and by whom, and what is the process. Ms. Murphy responded that it involves committees and meetings and input, similar to a Master Plan draft process, and recommended an incremental approach. Ms. Murphy additionally noted it was extremely uncommon for towns to do a complete overhaul for logistical reasons. This would entail either the town’s need to vote on all articles at once, requiring everyone to read and understand the entire zoning ordinance and to be involved in the process all along. In Ms. Murphy’s opinion, this approach risks that people vote down the entire ordinance because they don’t like one aspect of it and, as a result, the PB spends a huge amount of time on something that, according to Lisa Murphy, is highly unlikely to pass. Voting on each article separately (the town currently has 29 articles) was not likely to be a popular approach.
Instead Lisa Murphy recommended it be approached as a long-range plan, first studying where RSAs are mentioned in the ordinance and ensuring compliance with current RSAs. Secondly, she recommended looking at the definitions and each article, ensuring the PB’s intent is clearly incorporated throughout. Third, she suggested reviewing the Table of Contents for organization and user friendliness, and fourth, the History of Amendments, Ms. Murphy stated, should be specific about what is new. Sherry Sims also shared Lisa Murphy’s concern that a PB’s credibility could be compromised if the process was not undertaken incrementally and the high risk that the PB would not end up with what it wants.
Ned Hulbert spoke to two attorneys, Margaret Burns and Steve Buckley, at New Hampshire Municipal Association who, Mr. Hulbert stated, were less cautious and whose main concerns were keeping the public in the loop and, as Lisa Murphy recommended, doing the homework on the RSAs. Town Attorney Silas Little stated the redraft could be termed a technical recodification and voters could be asked to review only the articles where substantive changes are proposed. Heri Tryba asked the opinion of Carol Ogilvie, former planner for the Town of Peterborough and SWRP, and Sherry Sims noted she was very concerned for reasons similar to Lisa Murphy’s. Ms. Sims later clarified that nobody she spoke to was opposed to changes in zoning; just about the need for the process to be considered carefully.
Opening the subject to the group, board members had mixed feelings. Some expressed questions about how a redraft would be presented to the public. Mr. Maneval stated, in drafting the proposed ordinance, it was always his intent all along to get the maximum amount of feedback and input as possible and he welcomed and appreciated it. Several members felt Mr. Maneval’s draft was much better organized and an improvement over the existing document. Courtney Cox felt from her initial reading that the draft maintained the spirit of what was in the law. Pete Thayer believed the redraft needs to be done all at once and not in piecemeal fashion over a long period of time. Noel Greiner suggested to bring it to Town Meeting, the board has to agree on the direction and should do it over a three- to four-year period.
Andrew Maneval stated the process involves two important questions: how the redraft is done and how it is presented to the town, emphasizing that the more the PB does beforehand with public meetings and reaching out to the town, the easier the process will be. He cited Mr. Little’s suggestion about separating the process into different parts, one being technical changes of all kinds, such as grammar and typos, for which Mr. Maneval feels the town relies on the board, and the other part being substantive. Mr. Maneval wasn’t sure exactly how that should be done or in how many pieces but he felt the board was underestimating people’s comprehension of the process and potentially the document if the board went to them and explained it well. Ned Hulbert agreed the more understanding up front, the better, though he isn’t sure it can be separated so easily into technical and substantive changes because they are interwoven throughout. Recognizing improvements in Mr. Maneval’s draft and stating she believes it’s a good start, Sherry Sims stated her concern about lack of transparency and her leeriness about how much the public can do. She suggested the PB wait until September to focus on it seriously, and to consider ways of introducing it to the town, whether through a Community Conversation, public hearings, or other means. Heri Tryba liked the idea of separating the document into a technical cleanup of redundancies, etc., and presenting those to the town in one piece, and more substantive changes. Mr. Tryba believes the ordinance should be looked at in conjunction with the Master Plan so that the documents are in sync.
Winston Sims stated he would be interested in a Community Conversation about how the ordinances have been applied and administrated.
Mr. Hulbert urged the members to review the entire draft before next month’s meeting. It was decided that a copy would be on file in the town offices but, because the PB hasn’t formally decided to take it up, it would not be attached to the minutes or posted on the website.
Meeting adjourned at 9:45 pm.