Members present: Winston Sims, Harry Wolhandler, Les LaMois. Andrew Maneval, Selectman (sitting in for Jay Jacobs)
Members absent: Andrea Polizos
Members of the public: Pegg Monahan
The meeting opened at 7:00 pm.
The members discussed the agenda. Harry Wolhandler requested that Item #8, concerning the appropriate level of HCC reserve funds, be moved up to ensure enough time was available to discuss it. Winston Sims stated it could be moved to #6. The committee voted in favor of the agenda with the reordering.
Lake Host Program
Pegg Monahan attended to talk to the committee about a Lake Host Program at Harrisville Pond. Ms. Monahan had volunteered on behalf of Harrisville Pond Association to look into the possibility of adopting its own. The committee suggested she speak to Andrea Polizos, to George and Bonnie Lowrey of the Skatutakee Lake Association, and to Andrea Lamoreaux of New Hampshire Lakes to obtain more information. The group also discussed potential state funds available in support of Lake Host programs and Winston Sims offered support from the HCC to the extent possible based on the Warrant Article.
Minutes of previous meeting July 5, 2017
Harry Wolhandler moved to accept the minutes as originally written. Les LaMois seconded. Discussion ensued regarding Winston Sims’s proposed amendments and additions and the purpose, in general, of meeting minutes. Harry Wolhandler and Les LaMois stated they believed the proposed additions and amendments were not relevant or necessary and that minutes should reflect decisions made and actions taken, not verbatim details. They also stated the Commission had already reviewed the matter for which editorial changes were proposed at its previous meeting and had decided to move on. Winston Sims responded that he wanted reflected in the minutes that the Committee determined the matter was not worth discussing further. Harry Wolhandler restated his motion to accept the minutes as originally written. Les LaMois seconded. The vote was 2-1 in favor with Winston Sims strenuously objecting. Andrew Maneval abstained as he was not in attendance.
Community Conversation – Topic: Water in the Public Trust; Location: Granite Mill; Date: Aug 21, 2017
Les LaMois shared the agenda that had been distributed by the Water Protection Group. When Winston Sims asked for HCC members’ thoughts and comments, Andrew Maneval offered that he recalled that the event was scheduled as a collaboration between the Planning Board and the HCC and that the goal was not to focus too much on the aquifer protection but just to include it as a topic. Winston Sims clarified that the ordinance was not related to this undertaking. Mr. Maneval asked if there was something the HCC thought or hoped would be an output from the gathering. Harry Wolhandler stated that, with varying degrees of focus, the HCC hoped the public would be more accepting of future regulations, if needed, related to broader water resource issues. Winston Sims added that the intent of this Community Conversation is to start with a clean slate and elicit from participants any questions, concerns or issues they have related to water resources in town.
Ground Rules for the HCC
Winston Sims set forth ground rules for HCC activity, including the following:
Applicants shall be invited by the HCC to present their applications before the commission. Les LaMois stated HCC members should be made aware of all applications before the town. Andrew Maneval noted applicants should have the opportunity to appear if they choose, and that includes for any environment-related issue or activity in town, not necessarily just a formal application.
All HCC members shall endeavor to be familiar with the terms of the application, the Master Plan and relevant ordinances. No further comment was made.
Only the substantive terms of the application shall be under consideration. No further comment was made.
Applicants shall be responsible for the documentary evidence in support of any claims. Verbal assurances or claims shall not suffice. Andrew Maneval questioned the HCC’s jurisdiction to require anything, adding that the commission could make pointed statements to the appropriate governing body concerning a matter.
There shall be no argumentation. The group agreed that constructive debate and argument was helpful but that disrespectful comments, insults or threats could result in the closing of that item on an agenda. Andrew Maneval noted that the SB is always concerned about adverse impact of inappropriate behavior on town employees and that the town stands behind its employees and representatives.
All sharing of views and agreements shall be documented. The group agreed that pertinent and significant comments should be included in the minutes.
Andrew Maneval suggested, if these guidelines are to be written someplace, that a prologue or introduction should be included to clarify any terms used, such as “applicant”.
NH Association of Conservation Commission Survey for 2017
The HCC returned to its discussion of last month to respond to the NHACC survey.
In terms of meeting goals, Winston Sims noted the HCC had updated and completed the Natural Resources Inventory and that the HCC had drafted relevant sections of the Master Plan. Winston Sims stated a lot of goals have been process-oriented (e.g., on applications, views of the HCC haven’t been sought and HCC members have not always been able to review applications because of constraints on their time. Adding to achievement of HCC objectives, Winston Sims noted the HCC’s contribution to combatting aquatic invasives, its assistance with Lake Host Programs, its representation at Old Home Days, involvement with VLAP and subsidizing of testing for bodies of water with no lake associations, and work with the Planning Board.
When asked about the HCC and the SB, Andrew Maneval noted the HCC has made some progress regarding consulting with the Select Board. When asked about the idea of monthly meetings of the HCC and the SB, Mr. Maneval responded he thought monthly was excessive but that aiming towards quarterly was a good aspiration and that a constructive theme of this collaboration would be clarifying ordinances and regulations, particularly subdivision regulations. The goal, he added, would be to make them clear, communicated properly and accompanied by useful materials to help the townspeople understand what the rules are so they could be implemented and overseen more consistently. All agreed templates for regulations and how to implement them, as well as templates for brochures on conservation topics – everything from regulations to educational awareness – would be helpful.
Winston Sims added a final objective of maintaining peer discussion and engagement between boards.
Determining the Appropriate Level of Conservation Reserve Funds and How to Allocate Excess Funds
Harry Wolhandler reiterated the HCC’s promise at Town Meeting to ascertain what level of conservation funds is appropriate for the HCC to retain. Mr. Wolhandler further asked what the HCC would retain those funds for, since the HCC in the past had agreed not to make large land purchases but instead to facilitate donations. Perhaps an emergency response fund was appropriate in the event of a serious invasive. Les LaMois raised the idea of returning to the town any extra money beyond what was needed or determined to be needed. Harry Wolhandler agreed that could be the appropriate approach and suggested, from his study of the HCC objectives and needs, that $50,000 could be a sufficient amount for the HCC to retain for current conservation use. Should an emergency arise, he added, the HCC could approach the selectmen. It’s Mr. Wolhandler’s goal that, by Town Meeting, the HCC will have a written proposal and that he’s seeking input from the committee now on the various ways the question can be addressed.
The group then discussed potential costs and options for fighting certain invasives and at what point doing so could require town funds.
Returning to the purpose and results of the Warrant Article to close the Land Conservation Trust Fund, Andrew Maneval explained his thinking behind supporting it, given that the larger of the HCC’s two funds remains more readily accessible by the HCC whereas spending of the smaller Land Conservation Trust Fund would require authorization by the town. Mr. Maneval stated the HCC wasn’t obligated to return any funds to the town but agreed with the idea of thinking about it.
Winston Sims noted there are proposals for placing larger pieces of land in conservation and conservation easements and the HCC doesn’t know when these will arise or how much will be requested. He added that he doesn’t see conservation as a policy decision but as something that takes place in a private forum, among families, that often take place over a long period of time. To the question of how much of a town’s land does it make sense to have in conservation, Mr. Maneval stated that the real question is whether or not the town wants to subsidize it, given that conserving land limits circumstances and options arguably for all time. The group proceeded with a philosophical discussion of the purposes and outcomes of conservation, the desire to balance human needs against protecting natural resources, the rights of property owners versus the goals of the town and human development, and the notion of conservation lands versus conservation activities. The final discussion surrounded the effect of development and conservation on the tax base.
Meeting adjourned at 9:15 pm.