Harrisville Planning Board
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Planning Board held a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at the town offices, 705 Chesham Road, and via zoom.

Members present: Ryan Stone Co-Chair, Courtney Cox Co-Chair, Jonathan Miner, Don Scott, Andrea Hodson (via zoom), Peter Thayer, Ned Hulbert, Lisa Anderson (via zoom).  Members absent: Kate Neary

Attendees: Russ Huntley, Nick Renda, JoAnn Renda, Carol Ogilvie, Barbara Watkins, Earl Horn, Harold Grant, Erin Hammerstedt, Mary Day Mordecai

Co-Chair Ryan Stone opened the meeting at 7:00 pm.

Attendance, Roles & Voting Members – Voting members for the evening were named as follows: Courtney Cox, Jon Miner, Peter Thayer, Andrea Hodson and Ryan Stone.

Approval of Agenda – Mr. Stone proposed to re-order the agenda, moving the Raynor Estate subdivision follow up to the end, and to remove the HHI Incorporators Meeting update, as this was discussed last month and should not have been included. So moved by Jon Miner, and seconded by Courtney Cox. All voted in favor.

Minutes of previous meeting, 11/9/22Peter Thayer moved to approve the minutes of November. Courtney Cox seconded. All voted in favor.

Harold Grant, Wood Road (Map 20 – Lot 8-5) Application for a Major, 4-lot Subdivision – Surveyor Russ Huntley, representing the property owner, provided a brief summary of the proposed subdivision. He noted that the existing unimproved lot is just over 10 acres. The owner proposes 4 building lots, each containing just over 2 acres, and all with frontage of at least 250 feet on Wood Rd. The submitted site plans denote the stream and delineated wetlands, as well as topography, including soils, and test pit radii.

The application reviewers, Courtney Cox and Jon Miner, noted that, based on their review of the submitted paperwork, they found the application complete as provided. Jon Miner recommended that the PB as a whole accept the application as complete. Mr. Huntley confirmed he would add pipe symbols on the boundary corners. This feature is included on the digital file received by the board but not on the paper copies of the plats.

The board discussed the checklist review process. Co-Chair Ryan Stone stated that full review would be done during the public hearing portion.  With Mr. Huntley’s having provided all of the necessary documents for board consideration, Andrea Hodson moved to accept the application as complete. Pete Thayer seconded. By roll call, the board voted unanimously in favor.

Chair Ryan Stone then invited Mr. Huntley to present the proposal in more detail. Mr. Huntley explained that he surveyed the whole perimeter, whose total acreage is 10.38. He located the stream, located wetlands flags, and outlined the test pit areas for septic and well locations. The acreage for lots 1 through 4, from northwest to southeast, are 3.25, 2.35, 2.132 and 2.264. Mr. Huntley reiterated that each lot has at least 250 feet of frontage and meets the setbacks required under town and state. All lots, he added, are intended eventually for residential building though no immediate development is confirmed.

Addressing a board question about the existence of steep slopes and whether the town’s steep slope ordinance applies, Mr. Huntley referred to the topographic plan to denote the contours at the steepest point are between 1400 and 1410’ and that the houses and driveways would be constructed on the flatter portions closer to the road. The board believes the slopes are fairly even across all four lots and further noted any issues related to building would be addressed during the building permit process.

Discussion turned to the lot furthest east on Wood Road, with concerns raised by an abutter and board members that the presence of wetlands would render that lot unbuildable according to town ordinances, unless a variance was obtained from the ZBA. Several PB members felt subdivision approval could not be granted for a lot that required such approval. Courtney Cox raised the question why a lot couldn’t be approved as vacant land only, even if undevelopable, and where it states in the subdivision regulations or RSAs that the PB is not authorized to do so.

The surveyor and the board considered whether proposed boundary lines could be altered to allow adequate buildable area on the 4th lot. Following additional discussion and consultation with the property owner, Mr. Huntley stated they would like to continue deliberation and return to the Planning Board in January with an alternate proposal. The board confirmed Mr. Huntley’s expertise as a soils scientist and wetland specialist and Mr. Huntley explained to the board and abutter the different characteristics of a vernal pool, forested wetlands, and hydrology of the area. He does not believe a vernal pool exists on the lot.

The PB also confirmed, according to town ordinances, that 25% of wetland area on a lot can be counted toward the town’s required lot size. In the residential / agricultural district, where the proposed subdivision lies, the minimum lot size is 2 acres.

Ryan Stone noted for the record that the public hearing was opened. He stated that the fourth lot was possibly not buildable due to required setbacks from wetlands which, for dwellings, is 100 feet. The PB asked Mr. Huntley to provide to the board specific wetland calculations for each proposed lot relative to total acreage of those lots. The board reiterated that any steep slope considerations would be addressed when building permits are sought.

Additional comments were made about locations of culverts along Wood Road and the amount of water they take on during heavy rains. Abutter Earl Horn and PB Don Scott noted the August 2018 rain event and how much of the storm flow from the hills on the west side of Dublin Road came through one of the culverts. Andrea Hodson asked if the board deliberate the need for drainage, though it was noted by the surveyor that this wouldn’t make sense without plans for development in place.

When asked by abutter JoAnn Renda about the plan for the land, the property owner and surveyor noted no immediate plans are in place, other than to create four separate lots from the existing 10+ acre lot, either for future family use or for sale. Ms. Renda raised the concern that their boundary line may be affected by any development, given that they already experience spring runoff in their yard from Dublin Road. Mr. Huntley reiterated that, without specific building plans for the lots, it doesn’t make sense to grade any area now.

Abutter Barbara Watkins asked why the PB would approve a non-buildable lot, and, if it were considering approval, to reconsider.

With no additional comments or questions from abutters, the board further deliberated the question of the 4thlot. Mr. Huntley requested that they return with a plan that meets setback requirements for this parcel. The board noted the required timetable for review and ascertained that resubmission and continued deliberation at the January 11, 2023 PB meeting would fall within the required deadline.

The board confirmed its request to the applicant to include calculations of wetlands versus uplands for each lot and new boundary lines that conform to town ordinances for development. Mr. Huntley also confirmed he will supply slope analysis.

Ryan Stone then moved to continue the application to Wednesday, January 11, 2023. Courtney seconded. By roll call, all voted in favor.

Lisa Anderson requested that the board please confirm and verify the important question of the role of the PB and its authority on approving subdivisions which, she believes, are supposed to be for buildable lots only. Andrea Hodson offered to ascertain. The board then proceeded with the following:

Historic Harrisville, St. Denis Church, 23 Church Street  – Erin Hammerstedt presented Historic Harrisville’s preliminary plans to rehabilitate St. Denis as community cultural center. HHI is considering use of the adjacent former SB office to adjoin two non-conforming properties, as part of the plan. HHI requested PB guidance on relevant planning and zoning issues and what relief HHI would need to apply for?  HHI knows that impervious cover is an issue as the town’s limit is 30% of a lot and the density of development on these particular lots, and any proposed expansion, triggers the need for a variance from the ZBA.

The board and Ms. Hammerstedt considered the option of merging the lots, possibly including the General Store lot, as a solution to storm water and drainage considerations. HHI will have a survey done. They hope to start on the project late summer. 

The board discussed the town’s plans to improve drainage along, and to repair, Church and School Streets and the need for the town and HHI to coordinate engineering plans and work, with the goal of moving water off site and underground.

Separately, the interest of making the Church ADA compliant was addressed. Federal regulations provide for the allowance of reasonable accommodation.

Local Sustainability Initiatives: Community Conversation Update – Lisa Anderson reported that various groups presented at the Community Conversation on Recycling, held in November. The Recycle Committee presented, as did other environmental groups, including NexTrex and Elm City Compost. There was active engagement if not as widely attended as hoped.

Committee updates
     Transportation (TC) – Mary Day Mordecai shared that the TC is still working on the school radar signs. The cost overrun, due to miscalculation about where the solar powered unit would work and the need for tree removal and for Tattersall to do the electrical hookup, is $5,700. The school will contribute $1,000 to these additional costs. The TC awaits a response from the SB and SWRPC about requests for additional funds to cover. TC will work with the Police Department to ensure data from radars being properly collected.
Energy & Electric Aggregation Committee (EEAC) – Andrea Hodson stated that the SB has resubmitted the town’s Community Power Plan to the PUC, with required modifications required by the PUC.  The modified plan is found on the Community Power webpage of the town website and is a red-lined copy so the changes are clear. The PUC has 60 days to respond. Approval by the PUC will effectively enable the town to think about launch of Community Power.

For town ideas to create greater energy resiliency, the EEAC had identified 5 potential sites for solar including town hall, Wells Memorial, the Recycle Center, Highway Barn, and the town’s streetlight system. ReVision Energy reviewed energy use and potential savings for each, and accompanied EEAC committee members to sites. ReVision believes the two sites that make sense are the school and the highway barn. The EEAC meets Friday, 12/16, when it will hear if notional proposal submitted by ReVision Energy.

     Master Plan ReView Steering Committee – Lisa Anderson shared template chart for subcommittee members to fill in. She requests information on the number of meetings each subcommittee has held, whether their summary is complete, visuals identified, objectives identified, implementation analysis, subcommittee update, and recommendations. The goal is to have a final draft of the revised Master Plan by Town Meeting.

PB Process review/discussion
The Co-Chair feels the application review process is smoother but recommends a workshop to further iron it out. Some members liked foregoing duplicating the process of appplication review, preferring to rely on the work of the application reviewers.

Regarding updates to the PB’s various application forms, the PB will start with the Voluntary Merger application. The Recording Secretary will send the current version to the Co-Chairs for members to respond with recommended changes by the January meeting. At the February meeting the board will review the Minor Subdivision Application form. 

Old Business
Follow up, William Raynor Estate, 19 Katy Lane (Map 40 – Lot 46), Minor Subdivision
. The board took care of clerical items include signing of mylar and plats, confirming the acreage of each lot and ensuring the recording fees were paid by the applicant. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:45 pm.