Harrisville Planning Board
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Planning Board held a regularly scheduled meeting and public hearing on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 at the town offices, 705 Chesham Road, and via zoom.

Members present: Ryan Stone Co-Chair, Lisa Anderson Co-Chair, Jon Miner, Peter Thayer, Don Scott, Courtney Cox, Kathy Scott Alternate Select Board Representative, Ned Hulbert, Kate Neary

Attendees: Carol Ogilvie, Nikole Huard, Town Counsel Gary Kinyon, Cindy Stone, Scott Stone, Jesse Stone, Marylou DiPietro, Mary Armstrong, Howard Clark Jr., Mary Marchese, Tom Andrews, Ranae O’Neil, David O’Neil, Andrew Scanlan, woman next to Mr. Scanlan??, Daniel Prawdzik,  Donna Stone, Pam Thayer

Meeting called to order at 7:02 pm.

Attendance, Roles and Voting Members
The Co-Chairs noted that the voting members for the evening would be Ryan Stone, Lisa Anderson, Ned Hulbert, Courtney Cox and Kathy Scott, except for voting related to the Stone Subdivision application, when Ryan Stone will recuse himself and Alternate Jon Miner will vote.

Approval of Agenda
The board moved and voted in favor to approve the agenda.

Minutes of previous meetings, 5/11 and 6/8
Members moved and voted in favor to approve both the May 11 and June 8 meeting minutes. Kathy Scott abstained as she was not present for either session.

Community Conversation proposal
Marylou DiPietro and Mary Armstrong addressed the board to explain some of the recycling initiatives under way, through the Recycling Committee as well as the grassroots group 10 Actions/10 Towns. Ms. DiPietro and Ms. Armstrong will schedule a Community Conversation for this fall to raise awareness and get feedback on efforts to reduce single-use plastics. They hope the town and the Harrisville community will get behind initiatives such as recycling styrofoam, composting, and working with NexTrex, an organization that collects plastic and converts it into furniture, and will gather to learn about actions individuals can take. The PB will share their processes for organizing Community Conversations.

Master Plan ReView Committee
Lisa Anderson updated colleagues that the ReView Committee will consolidate the Master Plan topics in order to streamline the subcommittee process. The committee also is drafting a flyer for distribution during the 150th  weekend.

Kate Neary, the PB representative to Southwest Region Planning Commission, updated the board that SWRPC is working on ideas for expanding public transport in the region; meetings about this are scheduled for next week. Also next week, the Office of Planning & Development is offering a Preservation Planning workshop. Separately, SWRPC is looking for nominations from towns for the Ten Year Transportation Plan project (2025-2034). The town should send an official letter to SWRPC. Kathy Scott noted the Select Board is considering proposing the South Road Bridge for a grant. Ms. Neary will share her update by email to the SB and PB.

At 7:20 pm, the PB moved on to the Public Hearing on the following:

Scott R. & Cynthia J.H. Stone, 64 Silver Road (Map 51 – Lot 34), Application for a Major, 4-lot, Subdivision.  (For this application, PB members Ryan Stone and Peter Thayer recused themselves and sat with the public.) Lisa Anderson introduced Town Attorney Gary Kinyon, on hand to clarify for the PB any questions related to state statutes or local regulations and PB jurisdiction relevant to the application. Ms. Anderson then restated that voting members for the application included herself, Jon Miner, Courtney Cox, Ned Hulbert and Kathy Scott.

The Co-Chair reviewed that the Stones were applying for a Major Subdivision, and had approached the PB in May. At that meeting the PB did not accept the application as complete. The PB cited the Stone’s need for a variance from the ZBA for the proposed lots’ frontage on a Class VI road. The applicants appealed the May PB decision to the ZBA, who voted to grant the appeal and to return the matter to the PB. (See ZBA Meeting Minutes of June 15, 2022.)

Completeness review
Ms. Anderson stated that the PB was once again undertaking completeness review for this application. Members began discussing the checklist requirements, and Courtney Cox recommended that the PB accept the Stones’ application as complete. Ms. Cox further stated that the only reason for the PB’s objection in May related to the matter of frontage on a Class VI road and this was now settled. Other members agreed; however the Co-Chair stated she believed there were other concerns related to completeness that needed to be discussed. She reminded the board and attendees that completeness review is a process solely for the board.

Kathy Scott raised the question of the test pit location for proposed lot # 2. She noted the test pit is within the 100’ wetland buffer, no longer permitted following adoption of new wetland buffer regulations adopted by the town in March 2021, specifically Articles 12.4, 12.5 and 12.6.  Ms. Scott added that a well radius would need to meet the same setbacks.  On both matters, she noted these were technical issues that could be discussed during the hearing on the merits of the proposal. Other members agreed these questions did not need to affect the vote on completeness review.

During checklist review (a copy of the application checklist is attached), the PB cited no additional concerns, other than the wetland buffer setback for well and septic, which they reiterated would be addressed through any future building permit process.  Lisa Anderson raised the relevance of NH RSA 674:41, titled Regulation of Subdivision of Land, Erection of Buildings on Streets; Appeals. The statute outlines PB jurisdiction over plats and municipal jurisdiction over building development, laying out conditions based on the circumstances of the “street giving access to the lot upon which some building is proposed to be placed.”

Ms. Anderson emphasized that it is the PB’s mandate to ensure responsible planning and development. Members responded that they felt the Stone’s proposal is reasonable and responsible and meets the statute’s requirements.

Kathy Scott then moved to accept as complete the application for a Major Subdivision, as submitted by the Stones, with consideration for review of Article 12.4 of the Harrisville ordinances regarding wetland setbacks when the building permit process begins. Jon Miner seconded. All voted in favor.

Lisa Anderson then opened the public hearing but noted the board would stop at 8:50 pm to allow time to schedule continuation, if needed.

Applicant presentation
Applicant Scott Stone approached the TV screen, where the plat for the 4-lot subdivision was displayed. He described their proposal to divide their existing 16+ acres in order to create 3 new 2-acre lots fronting Blood Hill Road for their children. The Stone’s existing home, fronting Silver Road, would sit on the remaining 10.27 acres.

Each new lot would have 250’ of frontage on the Class VI road with room to build a home within the required setbacks, including wetland buffers, and also to install wells and septic systems in compliance with the regulations. Mr. Stone noted that wells are permitted to be installed within the buffer but not the delineated wetlands.

Addressing the Co-Chair’s comments on RSA 674:41 relating to Subdivisions, Mr. Stone wished  to clarify the difference between applying for a building permit on a Class VI road and proposing a subdivision; he noted their proposal is for three buildable lots, each with 250’ of frontage and meeting all the requirements for a major subdivision. He added that the details regarding building on the lots was not yet decided upon but would be identified on building permit application plans.

Cynthia Stone commented on the history of the family property, stating the intention of the subdivision is to provide three of their children with individual building lots, and that this is the 5th generation of the family in Harrisville. They intend to keep the property within the family forever and are not looking to develop an apartment complex or cluster development, but 3 houses.  She added that waivers of town liability for building on a Class VI road would be recorded with the Registry of Deeds.

Questions from the board
The Co-Chair stated that the board’s role is to treat each application the same and that the RSA prohibits building on Class VI roads unless a town has a policy. She noted that Harrisville has a policy for issuing building permits on Cass VI roads; however, the PB must consider the RSA in the context of this application. The applicant disagreed.

Kathy Scott stated there was no need to review issues that were not in front of the board at this time, that Blood Hill Road is being maintained and is considered safe. She added that safety or  road conditions could possibly be addressed as conditions.  The Co-Chair noted she doesn’t see the full relevance of the fact that the road is already  developed. She believes the road came about after development not vice versa. Kathy Scott requested that the board consider the merits of application not hypotheticals.

The board further considered the relevance of RSA 674:41 and instances of residents who decide to build on Class VI roads. They also discussed jurisdiction over maintenance of these roads and the relevance of road condition restrictions on Class VI versus town-maintained roads.

Town Attorney Kinyon suggested the Co-Chair give abutters opportunity to speak, after which the board could vote to close the public hearing and begin deliberations amongst board members only.

Lisa Anderson thus called on abutters to comment. Tom Andrews and Mary Marchese had no questions or comments. Pam Thayer spoke in favor, noting the proposal is in keeping with the town’s ongoing goal of attracting young families. The Killilea/Wayland families concurred.

Howard Clark, Jr. stated he has been following this application since its beginning, and is aware of the Town’s longtime wish to provide more housing. Mr. Clark has his own subdivision proposal in the works, forthcoming to the PB and similar in nature. He finds it unfortunate that property owners and the town have to hire attorneys and spend thousands of dollars to get through the process, and wishes instead that the town could work together as a community and be more open-minded about such proposals for everyone’s benefit. He also believes the town’s policy in place for building on Class VI or private roads covers any potential liability to the town. He added that lots on such roads don’t affect the town as a whole.  Applause from attendees followed Mr. Clark’s comments.

Ranae O’Neil then spoke in favor of the subdivision. She spoke to the weekend bus traffic traveling up to Cobb Hill and back, and to the tractor trailers, oil trucks, stating the road is in amazing condition.

PB members then returned to the relevance of RSA 674:41, in conjunction with the NHMA guide, A Hard Road to Travel, for the matter at hand. The Co-Chair reiterated the PB’s goal of preventing premature or unplanned development. Board members reiterated their views that the proposal was well planned. Additional debate arose surrounding the issuance of building permits for existing structures on Class VI roads.

Board members then asked for clarification from Attorney Kinyon about the relevance of the state statute to the Stone’s proposal.  Mr. Kinyon responded that the issue that has arisen relates to language in the first paragraph of 674:41, which he read aloud as follows:

  1. From and after the time when a planning board shall expressly have been granted the authority to approve or disapprove plats by a municipality, as described in RSA 674:35, no building shall be erected on any lot within any part of the municipality nor shall a building permit be issued for the erection of a building unless the street giving access to the lot upon which such building is proposed to be placed

Mr. Kinyon noted that the statute goes on to cite the circumstances under which a building could be erected or a building permit issued, including on a Class VI highway, provided additional conditions are met.  He added that he reads the language to refer to initial construction of a building, not to a renovation or change to an existing building.

The Co-Chair asked if any other abutters wished to speak. Ranae O’Neil added to her earlier comments that she believes Marchese’s home was part of a subdivision approved by the town and that the property was built on in the last 20 years.  Also, when the subdivision of Scott Stone’s grandmother, Mary Cuddihee Gilman, was approved, access to the lot was always from Blood Hill Road even though the frontage was on Silver Road.

Cindy Stone spoke to urge the board to make the proposal work. As a ballot clerk who attends Town Meeting every year, she consistently hears of the town’s desire to build up a younger population. She acknowledged the emotion involved and understands and respects the board’s perspective, but felt the town is obstructing its own goals rather than fostering a “How can we make this happen?” attitude.

Dan Prawdzik from Nelson shared the history of the Class VI road dispute in the 1990s when John Hansel owned the Cobb Hill property. The Superior Court ultimately ruled that Blood Hill Road is a Class VI road and that abutting property owners had the rights to improve it.  He believes what the Stone family proposes is reasonable, and that the road is dramatically improved since those years.

With no further comment from the public, the board moved to close the public hearing at 8:40 pm.

Board deliberation and decision
The board then deliberated on possible conditions of approval related to road specifications. Lisa Anderson suggested that PB members look at the road. Members felt they know the road and know the traffic it handles. The Co-Chair also raised a safety question issue related to a previous property owner but members felt the current owners have no concerns and requested to move the question of approval of the application. Courtney Cox added that the proposal falls within the PB’s vision of the Master Plan.

Kathy Scott subsequently moved to approve the Scott and Cindy Stone Subdivision application. Courtney Cox seconded. In discussion, Ned Hulbert requested that PB members give the board chair more time to air her concerns and further address concerns raised previously. Members discussed this suggestion and decided to deliberate further and not rush a vote.

During discussion of the Co-Chair’s subsequent motion that the PB conduct a site visit, members debated to what degree the board has jurisdiction over road conditions and what the statutes state relative to this. They then asked for clarification from counsel on proper procedure given the pending motion.

Town counsel explained that a motion to move to vote on the question should be considered; subsequently, there could be discussion on the motion and comments from those in favor and those opposed could be vetted then.

Discussion on the motion to approve the application continued. Courtney Cox stated that members had studied, considered, and given lots of thought to the proposal. In response to the Co-Chair’s concern that the board hadn’t discussed road standards, Don Scott pointed out that any concern about Blood Hill had recently been reviewed by the Select Board. Kathy Scott pointed to the road maintenance agreement signed by the board and Mr. Garland.

Ned Hulbert asked if the signing of the waiver of liability is the only standard the PB board can consider? Attorney Kinyon suggested in response that the PB has the authority and right to consider the condition of the road and pointed out that this is an unusual situation. He added that, if the subdivision were approved, the applicant would still have to go through review for a building permit, though the PB still has reason to consider any concern regarding condition. He added that both the SB and PB have authority over this issue.

Lisa Anderson stated road improvement or a maintenance agreement could be required as a condition of approval and asked Attorney Kinyon if he could share examples of road agreements or neighborhood agreements when multiple landowners are being serviced. Mr. Kinyon replied that a requirement about maintenance or improvement of the road for the proposed lots could be considered.

Jon Miner commented that this is a good proposal and much less environmentally detrimental to use this road versus a subdivision that would propose access from Silver Road through the Stone’s existing lot. The board then further discussed options for requesting road improvement as a condition, after which Kathy Scott summarized that most members weren’t concerned about the road, though the Chair is. Most, she said trust the long term commitment to the town by the applicants and their family and believe the road is in good condition.

When the idea of requiring a bond was raised, Attorney Kinyon noted this usually is required during construction or the building permit process, that bonds are for construction and reconstruction of roads within a subdivision.

With no further discussion, the board voted 4-1 in favor to move the question on the application. Lisa Anderson voted against as she felt a site visit with the Road Agent was still needed.

The board then moved that approval of the subdivision application is conditioned upon on applicant obtain building permits from the Select Board under RSA 674:41, including waiver of liabilities. Ned Hulbert seconded. This condition was recommended by Attorney Kinyon to clarify that this process is required. The vote on the motion to approve the Subdivision Application was 4-1 in favor, with Jon Miner, Courtney Cox, Ned Hulbert and Kathy Scott in favor. Lisa Anderson opposed the motion due to the opinion a site visit was needed.

New business
Dan Prawdzik, Blood Hill Road history – Mr. Prawdzik again addressed the board regarding a lawsuit he, as well as the Towns of Nelson and Harrisville, were named in during the 1990s. He hopes the situation is never repeated and requests the PB’s support of property owners affected by a current initiative under way.

Mr. Prawdzik explained that the initiative, led by a Hancock resident, is to have a section of Class VI road in Harrisville, a road that connects Jaquith Road in Hancock to Nubanusit Road in Nelson, reclassified as a Class A trail, thus prohibiting motorized wheeled vehicles.   Mr. Prawdzik owns property on the Nubanusit Road end.

The Town of Hancock already is facing litigation, according to Mr. Prawdzik, as Hancock already has reclassified the section of road in their town, and posted it as a Class A trail, in violation of the Superior Court order from 1994, according to Mr. Prawdzik. The judge in that case ruled that all the roads in the area of Cobb Hill were Class VI roads and that all abutting landowners to the roads had prescriptive use rights forever. In addition, at a special town meeting calling for a vote to throw up the roads in the area of Cobb Hill, the town voted it down by a landslide.

Mr. Prawdzik stated that the abutters to “Rocky Ridge” road in Harrisville and Nubanusit Road in Nelson very much oppose the reclassification, as it would impede access to their property. They want the road to remain the way it always has.  He again urged the PB and the town to help resist the reclassification effort.  Mr. Prawdzik will request a meeting with the Select Board as well.

With no further business, the PB meeting adjourned at 9:55 pm.