Harrisville Conservation Commission

Meeting Minutes

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Conservation Commission held its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at town offices and via zoom.

Members present: Harry Wolhandler, Les LaMois, Andrea Polizos, Earl Horn, Don Scott, Kathy Scott, Diana Shonk
Members of the public: Winston Sims

Agenda review / July 1 meeting minutes
Members voted unanimously in favor to approve the agenda and the minutes of the previous meeting.

Rain Garden Update
The Chair noted that construction on the Rain Garden project at the boat ramp is expected to begin in 1-2 weeks. Diana Shonk continues her work on educational signage.

Trail maps
Don Scott and Earl Horn updated members on information provided to the Transportation Committee for the MAST grant application, being submitted by the Transportation Committee to the Southwest Region Planning Commission for funds for trail signage and traffic calming radar speed signs. The town will hear back in October or November if funds will be awarded. In the meantime, Mr. Horn noted that, under the grant guidelines, the town cannot use its own funds and then get reimbursed but, instead, has to wait for grant money.

Separately, Mr. Horn noted that the committee has secured property owners’ okay for access to Cobb Hill Trail and also from the town owned rail trail to Number 4 Hill, with minor trail hitches to be fixed. The committee continues work on the initial trail map for which SWRP will assume additional costs. In the meantime, Mr. Horn added that the HCC will want to work on content for informational signs and selecting the best locations for these. A few options were discussed.

Wetland Buffer Zones
Mr. Wolhandler reviewed the status of the Ordinance Review Committee’s work on drafting ordinances related to wetland buffers. He noted that the ORC is reviewing sample ordinances from around the state and DES regulations. As a potentially viable example, the ORC looked at the town of Sutton’s ordinance, which distinguishes setback requirements based on the type of use and size and type of structure, as well as the amount and type of wetlands. Such a model could be simplified. Dublin has a 50’ wetland buffer and, like Harrisville, a 100’ septic setback. Don Scott shared his suggestions and agreed with the 50’ buffer requirement. Mr. Wolhandler noted he would like to amend/update the definition of wetlands and will work with the ORC on this. He likes Rick VandePol’s definition and also the Army Corps of Engineers’, which members agreed with but suggest adding language about vegetation, soils, hydrology, and vernal pools to it. ORC will use existing Article XII (Wetlands Conservation District, adopted March 1987) as a basis for its proposals.

HCC members then heard Mr. Scott’s suggestions for a proposed Purpose Statement for a wetland buffer ordinance, including to maintain and protect wildlife corridors; prevent upland creep (slow/gradual diminution of wetland buffer, foot by foot, through disturbances, driveways, etc.; filter out toxins; protect water quality; prevent flood hazard; and enhance siltation. Winston Sims pointed out that there’s a difference between buffer and setback, the latter encompassing broader connotations. It was noted that lakes and ponds that fall under shoreland regulations would not be addressed in these ordinance changes.

Some members feel ordinances shouldn’t differentiate between types of structures but that there should be a blanket prohibition on structures within certain distances from wetlands.

The discussion turned to the challenges of balancing property owners’ rights with the HCC mission to protect the wetlands and town’s natural resources. HCC members will research on their own existing and sample ordinance language and regulations and offer input at the next HCC meeting as to desired recommendations to the ORC for Harrisville. The ORC may have its draft ready by the end of the month.

Report on actions of other town committees
Select Board – Kathy Scott updated the HCC on concerns of Silver Lake overuse/potentially inappropriate use of area bordering lake. She asked if the HCC wants to weigh in on this matter. Members will visit and make a recommendation as to ideas to manage increased vehicle, boat and visitor traffic.
Ordinance Review Committee – The ORC will meet August 10th at 4:00 pm, August 17th at 3:00 pm and August 24th at 3:00 pm. In addition to a wetland buffer, the ORC may propose a noise bylaw prohibiting obnoxious noise disturbances between the hours of 10:30 pm and 7:00 am.

The meeting adjourned at 8:40 pm.