Harrisville Conservation Commission
Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Members present: Harry Wolhandler, Les LaMois, Don Scott, Winston Sims, Kathy Scott
Members absent:Andrea Polizos
Members of the public: Matthew Walton


 October Minutes
Les LaMois moved to approve the October minutes as written. The HCC voted 3-1, with Mr. Sims opposed based on comments below. During discussion of approval, Mr. Sims asked why his comments from the previous meeting were omitted or expunged, feeling his discussion of community development work was an important element of the HCC’s mission. The Chair and Recording Secretary responded that the minutes are intended to be a summary of the discussion and that the subject comments were not thought to be relevant to the vote under consideration.  Mr. Wolhandler added that Mr. Sims’s proposed addition to the October minutes could be included as part of this month’s minutes and should be addressed at the end of the agenda, where time was allotted for them.

HCC Membership Interest
The HCC welcomed Matthew Walton, who recently moved to Harrisville from Keene where he was a six-year member of the Keene Conservation Commission.

Rain Garden / Pervious Parking Update
The Chair noted that, due to the Highway Department’s busy schedule, the Rain Garden project was not likely to begin until spring. When the question was raised whether others could do the work, the answer was yes, possibly, but not immediately and at roughly 1/3rdto ½ more in expense.

NHACC Annual Meeting Report
Mr. Wolhandler updated HCC members on state Wetlands Rules changes, effective December 15, 2019.  Rick Van de Pol, who has done extensive work with state regulations related to wetlands, offered to review the Ordinance Review Committee’s draft amendments. Mr. Wolhandler then shared with the HCC his email exchange with PB co-chair and ORC chair Lisa Anderson, urging collaboration with the Planning Board on educational outreach to residents about wetlands, watershed protection and stormwater management prior to proposing substantive ordinance changes. This way, residents can understand more deeply the implications of the issues and the rationale behind any proposed regulation changes well in advance of Town Meeting. Ms. Anderson agreed with this approach.

The biggest change about Wetlands Rules at the state level is the 5-day turnaround for Permit By Notification applications. Mr. Wolhandler noted that the HCC now gets to sign a PBN beforethe application goes to Concord. Mr. Sims noted that the strength of the local Conservation Commissions’ reactions last summer helped get this passed. Mr. Sims also raised the jurisdictional discrepancy between wetland and shoreland delineations and that he doesn’t know why it’s a conflict or who resolves it. Mr. Wolhandler noted that wetland and shoreland permits are being reviewed within the same office in Concord, though Don Scott noted these are not always submitted simultaneously. Mr. Sims stated that without adequate enforcement in town, residents go to the state. Mr. Wolhandler requested that the HCC await the final rulings before addressing the difference between state rules and local regulations and noted, from his experience, the Building Inspector follows the regulations closely. Kathy Scott requested that any questions about enforcement be addressed to the Select Board.

Subsequently, the Chair reviewed the ORC’s current thinking and timing about proposing setbacks in wetlands area and invited the Building Inspector to participate in process. It is likely to be on hold for another year. Mr. Sims stated he believes, as opposed to the last time proposed wetlands setbacks were on the table, that current wetlands owners would support setbacks. Subsequently, Mr. Sims discussed the conference session he attended on the costs of water. He noted that, surprisingly, the state’s Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act makes no reference to clean water.

Returning to the Wetlands permitting process, Mr. Wolhandler noted the HCC merely has to email the state an intention to intervene in a PBN if it is concerned or has questions about an application. New applications to the state are sent to the Town Clerk, who will notify the HCC. Don Scott offered, once the new state regulations are adopted, to compare these to the current town ordinances.

Members revisited the recent changes in the recycling market and, consequently, at the town facility. Mr. Wolhandler noted the reason for production problems at processing facilities and higher costs for towns when recyclables are not properly cleaned and separated or when plastic bags are thrown into bins. Members noted they still have value when properly sorted and free of contamination.

New Land Conservation Opportunities
Two new conservation parcels include the Peterson Property, 59 acres behind the mill (extending to Hancock Road across from Skatutakee Lake), which Historic Harrisville is hoping to acquire and preserve, and the Richardson property at the junction of Route 137 and Hancock Road, a 200-acre parcel. With the contribution to the rail trail parcel and the Skatutakee Dam, Mr. Wolhandler noted he was concerned about contributing to either acquisition at this point but possibly down the road. Either initiative could be considered, however, with money from the Land Conservation Capital Reserve Fund.

2020 Finances
The HCC then reviewed the history of the Conservation Fund and the Land Conservation Capital Reserve Fund, and shared charts of these numbers. He asked members to consider responsible spending initiatives as they prepare next year’s budget.

2020 Programs & Topics
Members discussed continuing focus on Wetlands education and storm water management, salamander crossing, education on vernal pools, Lake Association/weedwatching program collaboration and Roadside cleanup. The next couple of months will involve budgeting and planning the calendar of activities and outreach. On the issue of knotweed, the HCC would like to wait until more science is available to help dispel the concern. Members noted how diligent treatment has proven effective in a couple of areas in town.

Reports on actions of other committees
Members noted that both the Planning and Zoning Board have applications/hearings upcoming. The first public hearing of the Ordinance Review Committee is November 13th at the PB meeting. Community Conversation last night on proposed ordinance amendments provided helpful feedback.

Other business
The Skatutakee Dam contribution is going out this week.

Skatutakee Spring – Town officials are exploring why the spring isn’t running. There is no evidence of tampering.

Winston Sims – comments about October meeting minutes and October meeting vote– Mr. Sims objected to Mr.Wolhandler’s comments at the October meeting that he is “obstructionist and non-supportive”, but Mr. Sims doesn’t agree. He stated that Mr. Wolhandler never spelled out any details, and then made a decision. Mr. Sims was baffled and blindsided by the Chair’s action with the Select Board, effectively terminating Mr. Sims’s membership. Mr. Wolhandler never indicated what he was doing and Mr. Sims didn’t feel it was action driven by a decision of the commission, but that it was an individual opinion without discussion by all members. Mr. Sims requested a statement on the procedure Mr. Wolhandler followed and for an opportunity to address this later. He added that anyone he has spoken to about this is surprised.

Mr. Wolhandler stated he would respond right here in the minutes rather than in writing. He explained that when the SB asked him, as Chair, if the committee wanted to re-nominate Mr. Sims, he told the SB that HCC members often get frustrated because of Mr. Sims’s tangents, even if he can offer good ideas. The SB recommended keeping Mr. Sims in place on an ex officio basis. Mr. Wolhandler added that he consistently felt torn by the dual dynamic. When the HCC began discussing the rain garden project, and working with the students and preparing the application and then the final stages, through all this, Mr. Wolhandler explained, everyone thought Mr. Sims agreed with the plan. But after all members had voted to proceed, Mr. Sims came up with an alternative plan and attempted to derail the project. When the vote was on the table, Mr. Sims attempted to stop everyone else’s decision and couldn’t accept the others’ support to spend a modest $5,600 to help manage rainwater at the boat ramp. That behavior was not behavior of a committee member. Mr. Wolhandler didn’t know if this was a personal vendetta or because Mr. Sims is angry that he was Chair. At that point it seemed Mr. Sims’s whole goal was to prevent the progress of anybody else and, as Chair, lost faith in Mr. Sims’s ability to be a member of the committee. The bureaucratic maneuvers continually obstructed the process. Being unable to accept the opinion of the majority, Mr. Sims decided to raise a hullaballoo with officials all over town.

Mr. Wolhandler then asked other members to comment. Mr. LaMois stated he would submit his comments in writing.  Mr. Sims continued to request details in writing and added that he had supported the project at the outset but that a second plan, in his mind, was not as well developed. Mr. Scott noted the revised plan came after discussion with and feedback from other parties in town. Kathy Scott noted it was not helpful to reiterate discussions of past meetings. She noted the board has worked hard to regain a sense of order and process and that it’s important for each member to contribute to this. Getting off on tangents does not help.  She added that the inappropriate email exchanges detract from any point Mr. Sims is trying to make and detracts from the process. Mr. Sims requested more specifics. Mr. Wolhandler noted this continued bureaucratic nonsense was emblematic of ongoing behavior. He believed the Select Board would make a decision soon. The HCC has recommended to the SB that Mr. Sims not be allowed to continue.  Mr. Wolhandler tried to work this problem out six months ago but Mr. Sims responded that there was no discussion about this and wondered why it was a secret. Kathy  Scott noted that the term of office had expired in March but Mr. Sims noted that, on many previous occasions, renewal was automatic and there was no swearing in. Ms. Scott described the process followed by the Town Clerk. Mr. Sims continued to claim it was kept a secret and this was some sort of therapeutic intervention. All members noted there was no decision to keep anything a secret.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10 pm with no further action taken.