The Harrisville Planning Board held its regular monthly meeting at the town office building located on Chesham Road on Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
Meeting called to order at 7:00 pm.
Members present: Sherry Sims, Ned Hulbert, Ryan Stone Alternate, Andrew Maneval Selectman, Heri Tryba, Lisa Marie Anderson Alternate, Courtney Cox
Members absent: Jonathan Miner Selectman Alternate, Noel Greiner Alternate, Craig Thompson Alternate, Pete Thayer Alternate
Members of the public: Ted Pearre, Lisa Murphy and Mari Brunner of SWRPC, Carol Ogilvie, Winston Sims, Nick Colony, Barbara Watkins, Mary Day Mordecai, Erin Hammerstedt
Attendance and voting members
The voting members present were Ned Hulbert, Sherry Sims, Andrew Maneval, Heri Tryba and Courtney Cox.
Approval of Agenda
After presentation of the agenda by Ned Hulbert, Ms. Sims moved to approve. All voted in favor.
Minutes of previous meeting 11/8/17 and Training Session 10/30
Lisa Anderson moved to accept the minutes of October 30, 2017. Ned Hulbert seconded. All voted in favor. Subsequently, after discussion and agreement of a proposed revision by Ms. Anderson to the Regional Cooperation section of the 11/8/17 minutes, Heri Tryba moved to accept as amended. Sherry Sims seconded. All voted in favor.
Ordinance updates and discussions
Ned Hulbert introduced professional planners Carol Ogilvie, Lisa Murphy and Mari Brunner, who were invited to attend as part of an ongoing discussion about how to approach zoning ordinance revisions and to offer outside perspectives on the process based on their experiences with other towns. Mr. Hulbert also stated that Carol Ogilvie may present a proposal to conduct an evaluation of Harrisville’s current ordinance and the proposed draft revision prepared by Andrew Maneval. Potential consultation of Ms. Ogilvie’s would be part of the Planning Board’s new budget cycle beginning April 2018.
Sherry Sims asked the professional planners what they would do, what they would recommend, and what the recommended procedure would be, if a town wanted to undertake a complete overhaul of its zoning. Lisa Murphy opened, responding that she perceives the project as a regulatory review, and noted that Plan NH offers a municipal technical assistance grant for towns, with another opportunity to apply coming in January. Ms. Murphy noted that Plan NH prefers the review to have a housing component, and that the grant would be difficult to obtain without it. The grant includes a match of 25% of the total cost, up to $10,000, according to Carol Ogilvie. Ms. Murphy further noted that, typically, in the course of a regulatory review, a town’s existing ordinances are assessed for inconsistencies, or barriers to housing or economic development, or to ensure they are current with current RSAs. She added that rewrites are typically done piecemeal, given the ambition required for redrafting whole ordinances. When asked by Ned Hulbert to clarify “ambition”, Ms. Murphy responded that towns want to ensure they’re addressing the needs and wants of residents, not just the view of regulatory boards, and outreach such as surveys are helpful to assess residents’ interests. With Mr. Hulbert, Ms. Murphy also explained that as part of the public hearing and vetting process, residents should understand the rationale behind proposed revisions, how particular wording has been arrived at, whether from the need for legal compliance or specific problems or confusion presented by existing language. Sherry Sims wondered if the vision section of the Master Plan, revised 5 years ago and believed to be still relevant, would serve as a good base for such rationale. Ms. Murphy agreed that, over 5 years, towns wouldn’t see that much turnover or change in opinions.
Heri Tryba asked Ms. Murphy’s recommendation on whether or not the process of making technical and substantive changes should be separated. Ms. Murphy responded that, in her opinion, clarifying the Definitions section is of utmost importance and that that would be part of Ms. Ogilivie’s review. She added that because the processes are so different, and that the Definitions portion is fairly cut and dried, it wouldn’t be difficult to undertake both processes simultaneously. In discussion of the rationale behind hiring an outside consultant, Ms. Murphy noted that it provides an unbiased opinion by someone who is more familiar with common practices and has the experience of trial and error and learning from other towns’ experiences. Ned Hulbert added that he sees another benefit as the consultant’s ability and job to stick to a particular timeframe and scope, and to complete the project. Mari Brunner added that communicating with the public was another important aspect and one the outside consultant could help with. Carol Ogilvie noted that towns increasingly are hiring outside consultants, in her mind because there is much more emphasis on the public process now than in previous years, not only because it’s required legally but because it is a better process. She added that, even with a small budget, a lot of outreach is possible, but that a lot of work is involved, even with an established subcommittee. She believes that helping people understand the language is almost more effort than drafting it but it is important work.
Discussion moved to the interest of the PB in Carol Ogilvie’s proposal to consult. Ned Hulbert noted the interest in having Ms. Ogilvie expert analysis and comparison of the current ordinances with Mr. Maneval’s proposed draft revision, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his proposal. Ms. Sims added she would hope to hear Ms. Ogilvie’s opinion of what fits or doesn’t with the town’s Master Plan as well as current RSAs, and what Mr. Maneval’s draft provides to ameliorate any omissions in the current regulations.
Ms. Murphy offered that adopting best practices, and what has and hasn’t worked in other towns is a useful approach, but noted that understanding the interests of your own residents is critical. Ned Hulbert raised the concern that the PB get an outside perspective so that it maintains objectivity during the redrafting process and does the correct thing for the town. In calling the process a regulatory review, and after summarizing that potential work would involve assessment of the current ordinances and subdivision regulations, a comparative review of the current ordinances and Mr. Maneval’s proposal, and public outreach, Ms. Ogilvie noted that she would recommend undertaking technical cleanup first, as that helps to see the whole ordinance more clearly, while still allowing for breakdown of the redrafting into components. Moving into the potential costs of hiring an outside consultant and the budgetary implications, Mr. Hulbert asked Carol Ogilvie to present her proposal to the group. Ms. Ogilvie described the breakdown of her proposed scope of work into 5 specific tasks: 1) the review of the existing ordinances; 2) review of Mr. Maneval’s draft; 3) a comparison of the two documents, specifically identifying the differences; 4) provide the PB with recommendations. Here Ms. Ogilvie recommended limiting the scope to the zoning ordinances rather than also including subdivision regulations but Ms. Sims noted the importance of user-friendliness for residents and applicants and ensuring the compatibility of the documents, thus recommending that the subdivision regulations be included in Ms. Ogilvie’s assessment and recommendations. Carol Ogilvie subsequently discussed 5) how the zoning ordinance would look, or be formatted, for user-friendliness, offering some ideas of different graphics that can be included. As for specific costs for this initial work, including the expanded scope, Ms. Ogilvie projected but didn’t want to say definitively that it would be in the range of $2,000 to $2,500. Upon questions from the board about what they would receive from her, Ms. Ogilvie clarified that the PB would receive recommendations for a rewrite, and whether it would be called for and, if so, the options available to undertake it. Board members agreed it would be helpful to have the near and longer term potential costs of an outside consultant for budgetary purposes.
The group then discussed with Ms. Ogilvie potential scenarios for carrying out the work and ideas for public outreach, including mailings, organized conversations, website updates and posters in public places. She believes a full rewrite could take one to two years at a potential cost of $,5000 – $10,000 per year. Ms. Ogilvie offered to get further information from Plan NH about the potential grant money for any portion of the project. She did confirm that the town would have to spend its $2,500 first, before it would be reimbursed if it obtained the grant.
Acknowledging he agreed with the idea of submitting a proposed budget with a line item for consulting services, Mr. Maneval stated he believed the PB was distinctly putting the cart before the horse and instead recommended understanding what the town wanted in terms of ordinance changes on any scale, preferably via a Warrant Article at Town Meeting. His reasons included the size of the undertaking as well as the reality that the majority of the work wouldn’t be done until the process of going about it was understood and agreed to by all interested parties. Mr. Maneval stated further that, while having a consultant during the process is advisable, particularly prior to presenting proposed changes to the town, he believes it is the type of work that could be undertaken by volunteer members of the different town boards. He clarified that he would support the budget item for consultancy not because he supported the suggested order of things but because he believes it’s necessary to include it and could provide useful input. To a question by Lisa Anderson, Carol Ogilvie responded that it’s not uncommon for towns to wait a year to undertake the revision process because of budgetary issues. Mr. Maneval reiterated that he wasn’t suggesting waiting a year but that it would be a natural timeframe for the process to occur, particularly in light of Heri Tryba’s comment about the need for buy-in and commitment.
In discussing a reasonable amount to allow for in the budget, both Lisa Anderson and Ryan Stone recommended allowing more than the initial number of $2,000 considering the potential work involved after the consultant’s first assessment and recommendations. Board members generally agreed with the phased approach, with Sherry Sims pointing out that the PB would consist of relatively new members next year.
Andrew Maneval then moved that the PB put together a budget that includes $2,000 for consultant activities related to regulatory review of the zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations and put that proposed budget to the Select Board. Sherry Sims seconded. During discussion, members requested more money to allow for added assistance from the consultant for expertise and help with public outreach. Lisa Anderson recommended amending the motion to $2,500. Ryan Stone seconded. In the vote on the amendment, the vote was 4-1 in favor, with Mr. Maneval opposing given his view that $2,000 is enough for what ought to be done in the next year and that he wouldn’t want it to be presented to the town until the PB is comfortable with what it wants to do. It was the expressed will of the meeting that, should the budget be accepted, Carol Ogilvie be hired as the consultant to undertake the initial assessment and make the necessary recommendations.
Article V update of the zoning subcommittee
Ryan Stone stated that the subcommittee was unable to meet and that the next meeting and a solid recommendation coming from it were expected for the PB’s January 10th meeting. In subsequent group discussion on the unrealistic timing of presenting a Warrant Article on Article V at the March Town Meeting, the board determined to focus instead on the Sign Ordinance. In essence, according to Mr. Maneval, the town’s Sign Ordinance needs to comply with a Supreme Court case that outlaws certain restrictions of signs. The group agreed to table the discussion until following the Broadband Committee’s update.
Ned Hulbert noted that Andrew Maneval, Heri Tryba and Nick Colony are part of the committee, which met on December 1, 2017. Nick Colony reported that the study is under way and that there is more than adequate funding. The committee concluded that it should wait until the data from the study is collected prior to making recommendations on zoning. Expected timing for the availability of the study results is mid-January. Committee members acknowledged that, while there is sufficient funding for the study phase, the more substantive expenses will come in the implementation phase. Mr. Colony added that the report was expected to show recommended steps for 2018, what implementation would involve and potential ideas for funding.
In discussing budget requests and proposed recommendations to the Select Board, committee member, Barbara Watkins noted that the committee is requesting $1,000 based on its work and research to date. The money would be for implementation of ideas such as a design study to improve walkability and safety, creation of a pedestrian bypass, installation of crosswalks at Wells Memorial School and in the village, education program for safe routes to school, appropriate input to annual roadwork and paving projects, improving traffic calming, street light improvements, potential for more parking and possibly a transportation center and coordination with the broadband effort. Ned Hulbert noted the positive benefits of developing relationships with the DOT engineers and with the Select Board, hoping for ongoing discussion with the SB to stay aligned with its concerns.
Subsequently, Heri Tryba moved that the PB include $1,000 in is budget for the Transportation Committee for support at expert consulting advice in how to consider and prioritize and develop recommendations on planning projects. Sherry Sims seconded. There was no discussion. The vote was 4-1 in favor with Mr. Maneval opposed. He stated that unless the DOT is no longer available to help and in the absence of a specific initiative, he doesn’t believe an outside consultant is needed.
Mary Day Mordecai then discussed existing, enabling state legislative which can support a $5 motor vehicle registration fee to establish a transportation fund. Such a fund is projected to raise $6,600-$7000 per year if enacted, money which could be directly applied to roadwork, for engineering support and, she believes, for trails. She noted that 10% of the funds could cover administrative costs to the town. Questions arose as to the type of fund it would be and how the funds could be applied.
Following the agreement that it would have to be done by Warrant Article, Mr. Maneval moved that the PB recommend to the Select Board to proceed with a Warrant Article for funding through RSA 261:153 for transportation purposes set forth therein. Courtney Cox seconded.
During discussion, Mr. Maneval read aloud an excerpt of the RSA, noting the fund is a Capital Reserve Fund and clarifying what the funds could be used for. Ryan Stone expressed concern that it was the equivalent of a tax and that the town couldn’t support the additional burden. He also disagreed with the idea given that any specific need for funds for a specific project could be requested of, and voted on, by the town. Sherry Sims commented that she liked the idea of getting the town used to the idea of a variety of transportation issues as important ones. Mr. Hulbert stated the desire and appeal of funding progressive thinking, at least in the next couple of years, believing it will help make the town more attractive and beneficial for schools and younger people. Mr. Maneval agreed with Mr. Stone’s concern about benefitting one part of town over another, but also stated that Harrisville has one of the lowest tax rates in the area and that he sees a benefit to being able to apply a fee to those who would directly benefit; in other words, since cars are a strain on municipal services and road maintenance, applying a fee to those who drive seems fair and as good as it gets in taxation.
Mr. Stone believes there are remedies already in place to address this. Mr.Tryba noted the importance of better eligibility for grants if the town demonstrated a commitment to transportation by employing the registration fee. In further discussion of how the fee would fit in with Master Plan objectives and the town’s transportation budget, Mr. Maneval noted that, in terms of transportation initiatives that the town deems appropriate, what wouldn’t come out of the General Fund would come from the funds raised through the vehicle fee. Though he doesn’t see it as tax neutral, and agrees initiatives like this could become institutionalized, Mr. Maneval believes the town would be thinking more broadly about how to spend money for transportation. Regarding governance and oversight of the fund, it was stated that the town would have to vote on how the money is appropriated via the budget, but that any excess funds wouldn’t be returned to residents directly but could be returned in the form of lower taxation in subsequent years. As far as timing to propose the fee, Mr. Maneval noted it would have to be part of the budget hearing in January or early February.
Discussion ensued as to the intent of the RSA and potential wording to amend Mr. Maneval’s motion to make it broader or stricter. Mr. Tryba’s motion to amend included substituting Mr. Maneval’s phrasing “for transportation purposes”, instead substituting “to support long term master plan improvements to town roads/streets/trails.” In the vote on Mr. Tryba’s amendment to Mr. Maneval’s, the motion did not carry. Mr. Maneval’s original motion again read as follows: Andrew Maneval moved that the PB recommend to the Select Board to proceed with a Warrant Article for a $5 vehicle registration fee through RSA 261:153 for Transportation purposes set forth therein. Lisa Anderson seconded. The vote was 4-0 in favor with Mr. Tryba abstaining, stating he didn’t believe the wording was in the spirit of the Master Plan or expressed the original mission of the Transportation Committee.
Raising the issue of street lights and stating it is a PB issue, Ned Hulbert offered to serve as a liaison to the Select Board on the matter. Board members agreed.
2018 Planning Board Budget
Sherry Sims reviewed the proposed budget and each line item, with a slight increase to the Community Conversations expenses and the addition of consulting fees, which Ms. Sims and Mr. Hulbert will propose to the SB tomorrow night. A motion was made to present it as reviewed to the Select Board. Courtney Cox seconded. There was no discussion. The vote was 4-0 in favor with Mr. Maneval abstaining given his previously expressed concerns about the consulting and transportation budget initiatives
CIP Master Plan Infrastructure Items
Sherry Sims noted for the group that part of the PB’s planning function, as long as it has a Master Plan, to be involved in CIP initiatives related to the Master Plan, but that the board has not been involved in CIP initiatives in the past few years. Ms. Sims hoped to start discussion on issues that, as a PB, should be brought to the Select Board’s attention. Mr. Tryba affirmed the importance of this, citing an excerpt from the OEP and concerned that the PB has not been part of the process recently. Mr. Hulbert stated it would be discussed further at the next meeting, noting that he hopes the PB can meet again before the next regularly scheduled meeting to discuss: 1) organizational review, with members bringing their assessments of the PB to date for brief conversation, including feedback for Mr. Hulbert and Ms. Sims and proposed improvements moving forward given that the co-chairs will step down; 2) CIP items; and 3) preparing for the January and February PB meetings, noting that neither present co-chair will be in attendance at the February meeting. The meeting date is January 3, 2018., from 7-9 pm.
Payment to SWRP for Maps
Sherry Sims noted that Henry Underwood completed the maps for inclusion in the town zoning ordinances. The maps clarify the different zoning districts within the town but doesn’t alter the descriptions. Ms. Sims will coordinate with Mary Ann Noyer to have them added to a final edition of 2018 town zoning ordinances to be distributed soon.
Water Protection – Discussion deferred.
O’Neil Gravel Pit – Sherry Sims coordinated a visit for Saturday morning, December 16, at 7:15 with Ned Hulbert and possibly Courtney Cox and will report back to the PB.
Sign ordinance – The group proposed to defer discussion and combine proposed amendments with other ordinance changes.
Community Conversation – Deferred to January.
SWRPC Fall Meeting 11/14; OEP conference November reports
Meeting adjourned at 10:00 pm.