The Harrisville Conservation met at the town offices on Chesham Road on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

Members present: Winston Sims, Harry Wolhandler, Jay Jacobs, Andrea Polizos and Les LaMois
Members of the public: John Cucchi, Anne Cucchi,

[other attendee??]

Meeting called to order at 7:00 pm.

Minutes of previous meeting
The Commission addressed the previous meeting’s minutes. Winston Sims requested an addition be made concerning the kiosk to be installed by Les LaMois at Silver Lake. Members all voted to approve the minutes with the requested amendment.

Winston Sims announced that Doug Gline had resigned his position due to commitments with Historic Harrisville. Mr. Sims expressed that this was a significant loss given Mr. Gline’s passionate voice on behalf of conservation efforts and his hope that Mr. Gline could return to the HCC upon completion of his obligations with HHI.

The members discussed the proposal by Mr. Sims to invite applicants to appear before the HCC. Harry Wolhandler and Les LaMois requested that the HCC have an opportunity to discuss applications prior to any invitations being issued. After some discussion, members asked to move this item to the end of the evening’s agenda given the length of time it would entail. Separately, Harry Wolhandler stated his position that meeting minutes should contain descriptions of decisions made and actions taken and are not intended to be verbatim transcripts of discussions.

Cucchi Subdivision Application
Winston Sims asked the Cucchis if they had any additions or deletions to their application currently before the Planning Board. The Cucchis responded that they will appear before the PB on Wednesday, July 12, and that their application had been accepted as complete. Anne Cucchi added that the PB also had approved the private road.  When Harry Wolhandler asked Mr. Sims what Mr. Sims thought was different and should be added to the discussion, Mr. Sims responded he didn’t feel the HCC had had a chance to look at the application. When Mr. Sims raised the subjects of frontage and boundaries and, further on in the conversation elevation concerns and measurements, HCC members noted that these were issues for the Planning and Zoning Boards and that, until specific applications for construction were submitted, there were no issues pertaining to the HCC.  Mr. Cucchi noted that the engineering report showed no runoff issues and that the flat area on the lot mitigated the effect of the steep slope. Anne Cucchi added that a drainage summary report, addressing all pertinent issues and containing assumptions related to potential house locations, was submitted with their application. When asked by Mr. Wolhandler what they would do with the road and if drainage ditches would be added, the Cucchis responded that hardpack would be used, providing a permeable surface, and that the road would not be paved. Harry Wolhandler asked if they would apply for a permit for the roadwork and the Cucchis responded that they would need a permit under the Shoreland Protection ordinance. Subsequently asked by Harry Wolhandler how far the Cucchis planned to take their involvement in development of the properties, John Cucchi responded he would follow the review process closely given all the time and work they’ve put into it.

When Winston Sims raised the subject of the Cucchis request to the HCC in writing for tax reimbursement for the fees and appraisal costs and discussion ensued, Commission members again stated these were not HCC concerns and that their meeting wasn’t the pertinent forum to discuss the matter. Harry Wolhandler stated that the HCC’s role was to advise other boards and committees on conservation-related issues. Winston Sims asked Mr. Cucchi if the lawsuit was withdrawn now that his application was accepted by the PB. Mr. Cucchi responded that he would file a motion to withdraw without prejudice including the statement that new evidence had surfaced. To Mr. Sims’s question that, at the moment, there was only one lawsuit, Mr. Cucchi responded yes and that he would like it to be the end of it. When discussion of the history of the Cucchi’s applications and the reasons behind the lawsuits against the town ensued, committee members stated they would leave if the Chairman would not stay focused on the agenda at hand.

Old Home Days
Andrea Polizos updated the group, stating the HCC booth would include Watershed Warriors with kids, a canoe, a pop-up canopy, table and maps. Members discussed logistics and Les LaMois and Harry Wolhandler stated they would be on hand to help set up and to provide relief during the course of the day.

HCC priorities
Harry Wolhandler suggested the HCC stay focused primarily on water protection in the coming year, having already made headway with the PB on groundwater. Andrea Polizos suggested addressing Japanese knotweed.  All agreed they didn’t want to spread themselves too thin.

Conservation funds
When discussing the amount and purposes of conservation funds available to the commission for conservation efforts, Harry Wolhandler reminded the group that, at Town Meeting, he stated the HCC would come up with an assessment and recommendations for how much is needed and for what purposes. Jay Jacobs raised the question of how much land should be set aside for conservation given the Master Plan’s mission to foster economic viability within the town. The group felt appropriate uses included emergency responses to threats of Eurasian milfoil or other dangerous environmental threats. Again, the subject of knotweed was raised and Mr. Wolhandler stated the thought it would be a good use of some of the funds. Andrea Polizos noted how difficult and costly it is to combat. Les LaMois added that the state may have money available. Winston Sims noted the importance of weed watching in general and Andrea Polizos noted which bodies of water were being monitored, as far as she knows, and which weren’t. Mr. Wolhandler suggested devoting funds to early warning and detection of invasives and, if needed, approach the town for additional funds or for any major conservation expenses.

NHCC Survey
The group discussed survey questions and HCC responses. The most important goals of the HCC, according to members, and where they feel varying amounts of progress have been made, include:

  • Keeping lakes free of invasive species;
  • Being more included in the permitting process by the town;
  • Aquifer protection, which now resides with PB with HCC member involvement; and
  • Potential contributions to new zoning ordinance drafted by Andrew Maneval.

Members noted progress with Lake Associations, kiosks, raising awareness about “clean, drain and dry”, and groundwater and aquifer protection. In terms of how the NHCC could help the HCC reach its goals, it was generally agreed it’s not a question of needing money but how the HCC should use the funds it already has. Winston Sims added the importance of strengthening the HCC’s role to promote collaboration within the town and with agencies around the state.

Returning to the idea of conservation land and funds, and taking land out of development, Jay Jacobs emphasized the need for establishing specific priorities, identifying what is a reasonable amount of conservation land given the size of the town and, again, how any effort integrates and balances with the Master Plan.  Winston Sims noted that much of conservation work stems from private initiatives and desires of private landowners and not public policy agendas. The group debated the topic as well as the idea of establishing corridors versus large tracts of land and the effects of conservation on the affordability and amount of available land.

HCC and other town boards
Winston Sims asked if other town boards seek guidance from the HCC. The group stated they felt in some ways, mostly from the PB but not the Select board.  Jay Jacobs noted the fine makeup of the current HCC but feels it sometimes tackles too much. He suggested establishing more modest goals and, instead of trying to come up with solutions, that the HCC tap into existing resources and connect with the work already being done in town. He emphasized the goal of generating more awareness of the good things under way as a means of attracting additional interest and continued momentum.

As a final matter, Winston Sims requested the group please give further thought to the NHCC survey questions.

Meeting adjourned at 9:00 pm.