Historic District Commission
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Meeting Minutes

The Historic District Commission held a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at the Harrisville Town Offices, 705 Chesham Road, and via zoom. 

Members present: Doug Walker, Anne Howe, Rex Baker, Noel Greiner, Kathy Scott, Scott Oliver

The Chair called the meeting to order at 7:07 pm.

Members moved and voted unanimously in favor to approve the agenda.  As there were no applications before it, the board moved into its administrative work. 

Meeting Minutes of 8/25
Noel Greiner moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Rex Baker seconded. All in favor.

Rules of procedure
Chairman Doug Walker shared town counsel’s response to the draft Rules of Procedure prepared by Anne Howe and the subcommittee. Questions to Mr. Little related to language about application fees as well as protocol for meeting postponement due to inclement weather.

Town counsel confirmed that the procedure for accepting application fees entails forwarding of said fees to the town Treasurer as well as accounting for these fees separately from other revenue received by the town. It was confirmed that all fees received for land use applications are processed similarly, forwarded to the Treasurer and accounted for separately in the budget as zoning fees.

As there is no specific RSA related to board requirements in the event of hazardous weather conditions, Mr. Walker confirmed that he will communicate with all board members and postpone the scheduled meeting to a specific date, time and location and that a public notice will be posted with the information.

Following this discussion, the HDC moved to approve the Rules of Procedure with the agreed upon final edits. Mr. Greiner seconded. All voted in favor. The Chair and members once again thanked Anne Howe for all of her work. The revised document will be posted on the town website.

Application process / waivers
Anne Howe noted from her research and discussion with the NH Preservation Alliance that, according to page 34 of the Preservation Alliance Handbook, in the section on drafting regulations, historic district regulations should include a waiver provision. Members then discussed how a waiver is defined and whether statutes exist with a definition. The town of Amherst defines it essentially as hardship relief, when granting a waiver will not be contrary to public interest or contrary to the spirit of the regulations, etc. Mr. Walker added that Keene grants a waiver in cases where the strict application of regulations would cause undue hardship on a property owner and when a proposal also meets the design objectives, and causes no substantial detriment to the regulations.

HDC members then discussed what might constitute hardship, noting the importance of consistency among the various land use boards. It was recommended that HDC members look at the planning board regulations which incorporate waivers in certain applications – e.g., in its subdivision and site plan review procedures. They also discussed how routine repairs and maintenance should be handled, possibly allowing for exemptions using RSA definitions for maintenance and repairs and thereby possibly removing the need for a public hearing.

Separately, the HDC agreed a completion Form should be required of property owners as part of the application form in order for the town to ascertain projects are completed according to plans submitted and approved.

On the application form and process, Kathy Scott moved to establish a Repair/Maintenance Exemption process and moved for review of application procedures by the Regulations Subcommittee established by the HDC in August 2020.  The motion was seconded and members voted unanimously in favor. Chairman Doug Walker stated that the regulations subcommittee would begin meeting next month.

Certified Local Governments Program
Anne Howe shared information about the program, noting if the HDC is accepted, it becomes eligible for grants. Ms. Howe shared a handout describing the application requirements and process. Members will review.

As there was no additional business, members moved to adjourn at 8:30 pm.