Planning Board Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Planning Board held a regularly scheduled meeting at the town offices and via zoom on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.

Members present; Ryan Stone Co-Chair, Lisa Anderson Co-Chair, Jon Miner Alternate, Kathy Scott Select Board Alternate, Don Scott Alternate, Ned Hulbert, Andrea Hodson Select Board Representative

Members absent: Pete Thayer, Courtney Cox, Noel Greiner, Kate Neary Alternate

Members of the public: Carol Ogilvie, Harry Wolhandler

Voting members
Ryan Stone noted the voting members for the evening were himself, Lisa Anderson, Ned Hulbert, Andrea Hodson and Don Scott.

Members moved and voted unanimously in favor to approve the agenda.

Minutes of previous meeting 9/9
Members moved and voted unanimously in favor to approve the minutes of September 9.

EAC/Community Power
Andrea Hodson and Ned Hulbert updated members on committee activity, including the September Community Conversation, held via zoom. Though attendance was light, the committee obtained helpful survey data, which will provide additional information for sharing on the town website. The next stage of committee work involves the forming of an Electric Aggregation Plan. Once developed, the plan will go through public hearings and Select Board review, ultimately presented for a vote at Town Meeting. The Electric Aggregation Plan may be the topic of a second Community Conversation.

On the question of how the initiative translates to individuals, Ms. Hodson explained that households and businesses in town would be offered a choice between two different plans, the costlier of which would include a larger percentage of renewable energy options in the power supply mix. She explained that the Electric Aggregation Plan will involve three elements: cost; renewable energy; and establishment of a reserve fund, which would allow the town to set aside a percentage of money for electric power. In pursuit of lower cost options, the Select Board would seek partnership opportunities with other towns.

Ordinance Review Committee
Lisa Anderson summarized the history of the ORC’s work. Carol Ogilvie then presented the proposed amendment to Article VI, Residential and Agricultural District, regarding setbacks. The amendment provides the opportunity for property owners to seek a special exception to locate certain structures (e.g., patios, gazebos or storage sheds) twenty-five feet from the nearest boundary of any public right of way, or side or rear boundary. The current ordinance requires a 40-foot setback from these boundary lines.

A lengthy discussion ensued, involving what constitutes an accessory structure, the need for a specific definition of accessory structure to be added to the ordinances, examples of structures which should or should not be included under this definition, and whether the proposed language meets the intent of the amendment. In addition, members noted that the term accessory building appears 11 times in the existing ordinances and that the term accessory structure or building should be consistent throughout and compatible with any new definition proposed. On the matter of whether or not a list of examples of such structures should be included in the proposed amendment, ultimately members believed doing so adds guidance and that a final decision would be at the discretion of the ZBA.

The group moved on to the proposed Wetlands Buffer ordinance, noting the existing Article XII needs to be updated. The Conservation Commission submitted language to the ORC, based on its research of regulations in NH and Massachusetts, and based on the Army Corps of Engineers’ definition of wetlands. The proposed amendments also include definitions for vernal pool and bog, proposing buffers to protect wetlands as valuable natural resources.

Thirteen changes in all are proposed. Applicants seeking to build a driveway within a wetland or a building permit to develop within 100’ of a wetland would be required to have the wetlands delineated.  Buffers of 100’ would be required around wetlands greater than 3,000 square feet and any vernal pool, and a 25-foot no build buffer would be imposed around wetlands under 3,000 square feet. Certain permitted uses would exist in distances between 50 and 100 feet, excluding from vernal pools, which are universally protected under state law.

Using a wetlands map available on the town website, Harry Wolhandler showed how most of the town’s wetlands are in large undeveloped areas or in unbuildable lots, noting few property owners would be impacted by the new provisions. Kathy Scott urged the committee to further clarify the importance of the proposed amendments and the value of wetlands for voter understanding. Some felt this was covered already in the Purpose section. Ms. Scott will send her suggestions to the ORC directly.

Ryan Stone questioned the proposed change from no buffer to a 100’ buffer. The ORC arrived at this distance based on regulations elsewhere and on wetlands science. Mr. Stone further suggested that the language in proposed provisions 12.6.1 and 12.6.2 be synchronized. The question of removing, which already exists in the Floodplain Management Ordinance, will be considered by the committee. This and all feedback will be discussed by the ORC, which will meet in the coming weeks. A tentative date for the first public hearing on the proposed ordinances is Wednesday, November 9, at the next regular Planning Board meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 9:25 pm.