Harrisville Planning Board
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Planning Board held a regularly scheduled meeting and first public hearing on proposed zoning ordinances on Tuesday, November 4, 2020.

Members present: Ryan Stone, Lisa Anderson, Ned Hulbert, Andrea Hodson, Pete Thayer, Noel Greiner, Jon Miner, Courtney Cox
Members absent: Kate Neary
Members of the public: Les LaMois, Harry Wolhandler, Diana Shonk

Agenda and voting members
     Ryan Stone noted that the voting members for the evening were himself, Lisa Anderson, Ned Hulbert, Andrea Hodson and Pete Thayer. Members approved the agenda.

Minutes of previous meeting 10/2020
     The board moved and voted unanimously in favor to approve the minutes of October 14.

Public Hearing on Proposed Zoning Ordinances
Lisa Anderson explained that this was the first of two public hearings occurring on zoning ordinance amendments to be presented to voters at Town Meeting in March 2021. The second public hearing will be held Wednesday, December 10, at that month’s regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting. Ms. Anderson then thanked the Conservation Commission for its valuable input on the Wetlands Buffer ordinance.

Co-Chair Ryan Stone then officially opened the public hearing. Board members reviewed each proposed revision as follows:

Proposal # 1 – Amendment to Article 6.1.3– Amendment proposes to allow property owners in the Residential/Agricultural district to apply for a special exception to locate certain structures no less than 25 feet from the nearest boundary of any public right-of-way or side and rear boundaries of the lot. The provision lists examples to be included  “patios, gazebos, greenhouses, garages, storage sheds, hot tubs, swimming pools and similar structures.”

Board members had no substantive changes to recommend.

Proposal # 2 – Amendment to Article XXVI – Definitions– Proposal to amend wording to use accessory ‘structure’ from Accessory “Building” and to universally replace the word “building” with “structure”. It was noted that the existing ordinances include 11 mentions of the term “building” that would require being revised to “structure.” The ORC will discuss how to add this change at its next meeting.

Proposal # 3 – Amendment to Article XI – Historic Districtto correct an incorrect lot number. No concerns were raised about this item.

Proposal #4 – Amendments to Article VI and Article X to delete redundancies in the wake of the passing in 2017 of the ADU Ordinance.

Proposal # 5 – Amendments to Article XII to add a Wetlands Protection Overlay District – Thepurposes of the proposed amendments are to:

  • update the existing ordinance, adopted in 1987, to reflect updates in wetlands science and to cite relevant DES and state statutes;
  • enhance the “purpose” section to note functions and values of wetlands;
  • add a new Definition section, renumber the provisions accordingly, incorporate the current Army Corps of Engineers definition of wetlands, which is the standard used now;
  • amend the district boundaries to reflect the wetlands as they are defined, rather than by a map, and add a 100-foot buffer around the wetlands;
  • amend the general provisions section to require that wetlands be delineated before approvals are granted for work and to remove the requirement for Planning Board review of boundary disputes;
  • add a Special Provisions section to specify a buffer and a setback depending on the size of the wetland, whether greater or less than 3,000 square feet;
  • add a section outlining Permitted and Restricted Uses that incorporates provisions from the existing ordinance for permitted uses in poorly-drained and very poorly drained soils;
  • delete the section addressing Watercourses as this language appears in the Floodplain Management Ordinance;
  • add a new section on permitted uses between 50 and 100 feet from the wetland, excluding vernal pools. Such permitted uses could include planting native vegetation or installing a pathway, deck or gazebo;
  • consolidate the Conditional Use permit and Special Exception uses into one section and one review process should additional review be required; and
  • remove the exemption for residential structures that pre-exist the ordinance so as not to undermine the purpose and intent of the wetlands protection ordinance.

Given the complexity of the ordinance, members discussed using the descriptive graphic prepared by the Conservation Commission to explain the proposed provisions.  Harry Wolhandler will draft an article for Common Threads and add an explanation to the graphic.

Regarding the proposed removal of the exemption for residential structures, Jon Miner noted that one of the goals of the PB has been to reduce the number of non-conforming lots in town; the removal of the existing 12.8 would instead increase that number. He encouraged the PB to revisit this. Harry Wolhandler noted he doesn’t believe that many will be affected and noted that proposed ordinance allows for the opportunity to apply for a special exception from the ZBA. Ned Hulbert recommended quantifying the number of property owners who would be affected. The group discussed at length whether or not to keep the exemption, with several members believing it should be discussed further. Noel Greiner stated it should be put forward as is.

To summarize, Ryan Stone noted that proposal #s 1-4 were agreed upon. For proposal # 5 – members discussed clarifying language in the special provisions, in 12.6.1 and 12.6.2. The board also discussed concerns about different setback requirements for shorelands versus wetlands, and had differing opinions on whether or not to keep the current exemption for pre-existing residential structures in place.

The Ordinance Review Committee will consider this feedback at its next meeting, in order to present any changes to the proposed amendments in time for the second public hearing on December 9.  Co-Chair Ryan Stone then closed the public hearing at 8:41 pm.

Other business
The NHMA Annual Conference is November 18-20. Lisa Anderson will attend.

EAC update – Andrea Hodsaon noted that the Electric Aggregation Committee will not hold a 2ndcommunity conversation zoom meeting until after the public hearings, the first of which is Thursday, December 10, at the Select Board meeting. The Community Power page of the website will be updated prior to this.  In addition, the committee will reach out to residents via email. Ryan Stone wished to express his belief, as a member of the committee, that he feels greater participation would be gained if residents were not automatically enrolled but instead were required to opt-in.

PB Budget – As the Select Board representative, Andrea Hodson noted that Budget year-to-date  information will be distributed to board chairs next week.

Meeting adjourned at 9:00 pm.