Meeting Minutes of the Select Board
|Location:||Town offices||Date: June 25, 2020|
|Opened:||6:00 pm||Adjourned: 8:25 pm|
Select Board Members: Jay Jacobs, Kathy Scott, Andrea Hodson _____________________________
Public Hearing – Eversource Work on Mason Road
At 6:00 pm, per RSA 231:158, the Select Board opened the public hearing related to Eversource Energy’s proposed work on Mason Road, a designated scenic road.
Attendees: Randy Marcott, Eversource Representative, Mark Fraser, Eversource Representative, Sarah Tibbetts, Edward Tibbetts, Ted Pearre, Don Scott
Company representatives explained Eversource’s need to increase reliability of electric service to residents in Harrisville and Dublin, a project which involves removing poles dating to 1935 and relocating electric lines along Mason Road underground. Due to the proximity of tree limbs and roots to the trenching area and new pole locations, Eversource needs to trim and proposes to remove 14 trees to complete the project. Using the colored map they submitted to the town, Eversource described where the work will be done in relation to the right of way, the private property and the scenic route.
The company has been working with Mason Road landowners to ensure minimal environmental and scenic impact. It was confirmed by Mr. Fraser of Eversource, as well as Mason Road residents in attendance, that the property owners have granted permission to Eversource for all of the planned work. The company and property owners also confirmed none of the trees to be removed is a heritage tree. Sarah and Ed Tibbetts and Ted Pearre all spoke in support of Eversource’s proposal and commended Eversource for its communication and due diligence throughout the planning.
With no further questions or discussion, Jay Jacobs moved to approve Eversource’s trimming and tree removal along the scenic Mason Road to relocate electric lines underground. Kathy Scott seconded. All voted in favor.
Addressing the question whether a public hearing on this type of matter is more in the jurisdiction of the Planning Board, the SB responded that the tradition in Harrisville has been for the Select Board to conduct them. In reviewing the relevant RSA, the board confirmed that the statute authorizes either the PB or the SB to do so. Andrea Hodson raised concern that the Planning Board was not notified.
Between the Eversource Hearing and the gravel pit hearing, the SB conducted the following business:
Assessing – Following review and the recommendation of the Assessor, the SB moved and voted unanimously in favor to deny the abatement application for Cobb Hill Road, Map 50 – Lot 15. Separately, the SB moved and voted unanimously in favor to approve the abatement applications for Island Street, Map 32 – Lot 24, and Rabbit Run Lane, Map 30 – Lot 31.
Town e-newsletter – Board members discussed whether residents are experiencing information overload and whether a monthly, or periodic, newsletter from town offices would be a beneficial alternative form of communication or superfluous. The matter will be discussed further.
Silver Lake – The Police Department requested a laminated copy of the town’s Silver lake Boat Landing Ordinance for reposting in that area. The office will contact the printer to complete.
Rail Trail and ATV Use – The Police Department will post signs and enforce state regulations prohibiting ATVs along the town owned rail trail from Main Street to Brown Road.
Fireworks – The SB moved and voted unanimously in favor to cancel town fireworks for 2020 and to allow the Sesquicentennial Committee to continue its planning of the 150thcelebration, to be held July 4-6, 2021.
Public Hearing – Gravel Pit
At 7:00 pm, per Warrant Article 5 of Town Meeting 2020, the SB opened the public hearing to hear the presentation of findings by the Gravel Pit Committee.
Attendees: Gravel Pit Committee members Ryan Stone, Kathy Scott, Max Boyd, Mike Davidson, Wes Tarr, and Consultant Don Scott. Members of the public: Mary Day Mordecai, Lisa Anderson, Kyle Anderson, Sherry Sims, Winston Sims, Ned Hulbert, Eric Masterson, Constance Boyd, Sarah Kendall, Kimberly Bylancic, Barbara Watkins, and Bonnie Anderson.
Jay Jacobs announced the ground rules for the hearing. Ryan Stone, Gravel Pit Committee Chair, thanked the SB for the opportunity to prepare and present the report. He added that the Committee’s Report to the Select Board was posted on the website early in the week, so the public would have the chance to review it in advance. Mr. Jacobs thanked all who served on the committee and for their time and care executing their mandate.
Following a summary of the report, including the relevant local and state regulations, committee members and the board discussed the recommendations of the committee related to visual, noise and dust mitigation to reduce the impact on neighboring properties. The committee emphasized that this gravel pit is not a commercial operation but is for town road material needs only, and thus the impact would be significantly less than that of a commercial gravel operation. The committee added that its recommendations for mitigating measures go beyond those required in the regulations.
Kim Bylancic asked whether an engineer would be hired by the town to measure actual noise levels of machinery. Ryan Stone responded that, in evaluating the various options, the committee determined the best course of action was to recommend options that were feasible for the town that would address neighbors’ concerns, but did not recommend hiring a sound engineer. Andrea Hodson noted that sections 7k and 8b of the report do address noise abatement. Ms. Bylancic asked what exactly those noise levels would be. Don Scott offered that the committee didn’t have noise measured in decibels; however, the town is committed to building an 8-foot berm, and to planting tall evergreens to reduce decibel levels by at least a count of 5. These measures also will provide visual screening and reduce dust levels. The town also is committed to increasing buffers.
Sherry Sims, building on the noise question, asked why the subcommittee chose not to get expert advice as this is a specific thing to measure, and noted that having an engineering study done might be helpful to have something quantifiable to work with. Ryan Stone returned to the point that this is not a commercial operation so the use will be intermittent. Road Agent Wes Tarr confirmed that his department may not work there any more than 50 days in a given year and not all day. Mr. Stone added that the report represents recommendations of the committee, but that the decisions ultimately fall to the Select Board.
Max Boyd reminded attendees that a gravel pit has existed in the neighborhood since the 1960s, and that the noise affects the Anderson property the most. The committee focused the most on this aspect and on the measures that would most mitigate their concerns. While acknowledging their frustration, Mr. Boyd believes peace and quiet can’t always be expected and there must be some give and take.
Ned Hulbert asked if reclamation might begin more quickly along Jaquith road and if the town planned to move operations away from the portion of the pit closest to the Andersons sooner. The Road Agent confirmed reclamation on the slopes in that portion of the parcel will be done prior to other sections. The Committee recommends that, over the next 14 to 15 months, the town make the effort to reclaim along Jaquith Road, the Harris Center rail trail and the Anderson boundary and to mitigate impacts in those areas first. Max Boyd reiterated the point that the committee also recommends increasing the buffer along Jaquith Road and is working to exceed the minimum requirements.
Winston Sims supported the suggestion to obtain an objective measure of noise levels and supported Mr. Hulbert’s point about the timing for reclamation. He also commended the committee for its work.
Sarah Kendall requested to make a broader point, asking if the process undertaken by this committee could be memorialized, given that the data obtained would be helpful for other noise-related issues in town, and concerns about lakes, etc., and believes this sets a good precedent. Kathy Scott explained that the Committee does have information on noise, and that the expense of an engineering study would be an amount she doesn’t’ feel would be appreciated. She added that the best way to mitigate noise is to stop it and that the committee doesn’t know exactly how much noise an excavator, a crusher, a sand operation make but, from other sources, has an approximate sense. Distance also helps, as does controlling hours of operation, and adding shielding, plantings, soil berms, etc. She noted that abutters also can take steps on their own properties.
Lisa Anderson commended the Committee for its work and for providing resource information as part of the Report, including the NHDOT recommendation for acoustic engineering. She made the point that the new five acres acquired by the town presents a new issue, and that this addition presents a quantifiable difference. She believes they routinely experience noise levels higher than 10 decibels. She also claimed that incursions by the town into their land and Harris Center land had occurred and that a 50’ buffer is now less than 5’. She repeated previously stated concerns that the SB had made promises to work with neighbors, but doesn’t feel that has happened. She noted they can still see the screener from their driveway. She also feels the neighborhood community supports the idea of hiring an acoustic engineer to help with sound and the reclamation plan.
Don Scott explained the discrepancy that exists in the two existing surveys of the town gravel pit. The location of a pin in the later survey, done by Ed Goodrich in 2008, moved the boundary line in the Anderson’s favor; however, this meant that the earlier survey was incorrect and was the cause of the alleged encroachment, which occurred prior to 2008. The alleged incursion onto Harris Center property on the north side, in the former O’Neil gravel pit, was present prior to the O’Neil’s purchase of that land. The Harris Center is aware of these circumstances. It was emphasized that nothing intentionally was done by the town and that these buffers will all be modified once operations in the gravel pit commence.
Addressing the submission of the Committee’s Report, the Select Board discussed whether or not, and when, the recommendations would be adopted. The Road Agent confirmed for the board that he had no concerns with the Report’s recommendations as they relate to the Highway Department’s needs and schedules.
The question of creating additional parking at the trail head to the Jaquith Road rail trail was raised. Committee members noted there was no consensus on this, even among the neighbors, and that it made no recommendation.
Kyle Anderson then raised the question about town operations affecting their well cap and their right of way to their well. The SB recommended the Andersons contact them separately about this.
Sherry Sims asked if the Committee and SB had any thoughts about tapping into committee wisdom moving forward, possibly making the Committee a long term body to touch base with the board and neighbors every few months or so. The SB will take this into consideration.
In terms of next steps, the SB noted that, with the submission of the Committee’s findings, the conditions of the Warrant Article had been met. The SB would now discuss how best to proceed to commence operations. The board subsequently debated whether or not the recommendations should be adopted immediately, in their entirety. Having no concerns about the Report’s content, and with the goal of adopting recommendations that would transcend future Select Boards, Andrea Hodson spoke in favor of adopting them. Jay Jacobs raised concerns about doing so without giving them further consideration.
At 8:04 pm, the SB moved and voted unanimously in favor to close the public hearing. Andrea Hodson subsequently moved to accept the Report and recommendations of the Gravel Pit Committee. Kathy Scott seconded. During discussion, Jay Jacobs expressed further reluctance about binding the town to this set of rules at this time and requested time to look at the Report more closely. He proposed accepting the work and Report of the Committee. Ms. Hodson stated she didn’t want to leave the matter with loose ends. Following additional discussion, the Chairman called for a vote. Ms. Hodson and Ms. Scott voted in favor. Mr. Jacobs voted against. The motion carried by a 2-1 vote.
Mr. Jacobs thanked the Committee and noted their outstanding work, given the challenging task and expedited timetable. It was further noted that the process of the AOT application will result in a new survey of the lots, which may alter the parcel borders somewhat and shed new information on the recommendations.
The meeting adjourned at 8:25 pm.