Harrisville Planning Board
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Planning Board held a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 at town offices.

Members present: Ryan Stone, Courtney Cox, Don Scott, Andrew Maneval and Pete Thayer
Members absent: Lisa Anderson and Jon Miner
Members of the public: Brian Bradford

Agenda and voting members – Ryan Stone noted the voting members for the evening included himself, Courtney Cox, Don Scott, Andrew Maneval and Peter Thayer.  He then proposed that the agenda item with Julie Scheilzel be deferred to July due to her inability to attend. With this amendment, the board voted in favor to approve the agenda.

Minutes of previous meeting – Andrew Maneval moved to approve the minutes of the May meeting. Pete Thayer seconded. Members voted in favor with Don Scott abstaining due to absence.

Process Inquiry/Brian Bradford – Mr. Bradford is in the process of purchasing property on Chesham Road and requested guidance from the PB on the process for obtaining approval to establish a cow-cuddling business as part of his farm. Mr. Bradford raises cows, sheep and goats.  He explained the notion of cow cuddling as a way for people to relieve stress and anxiety, through time and interaction with calm, gentle animals.

The board discussed changes in the state’s agritourism laws which allow for expansion of farming operations, when the primary business is farming. Under RSA 672:1 III-b, municipalities can regulate agritourism.  The statute reads in part Agritourism, as defined in RSA 21:34-a, is undertaken by farmers to contribute to both the economic viability and the long-term sustainability of the primary agricultural activities of New Hampshire farms. Agricultural activities and agritourism shall not be unreasonably limited by use of municipal planning and zoning powers or by the unreasonable interpretation of such powers; . . .

III-d, For purposes of paragraphs III-a, III-b, III-c, and III-e, “unreasonable interpretation” includes the failure of local land use authorities to recognize that agriculture and agritourism as defined in RSA 21:34-a, forestry, renewable energy systems, and commercial and recreational fisheries, when practiced in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, are traditional, fundamental and accessory uses of land throughout New Hampshire, and that a prohibition upon these uses cannot necessarily be inferred from the failure of an ordinance or regulation to address them; . . . 

The PB recommended that the prospective property owner also speak to the ZBA, as home- based businesses require review and permission from that land use board. Mr. Bradford noted he would reach out to the Zoning Board to get on their agenda after closing on the property.

Master Plan Review Steering Committee – Ryan Stone shared the update from Lisa Anderson that Gwarlingo Studio anticipates having the proof available for board review at the July meeting. Lisa will continue to work w/Carol Ogilvie and subcommittee members on next steps after the synopsis is produced.

Ordinance Review Committee (ORC)– The PB will ask Jon Miner to spearhead the next phase of ORC work. Referencing Mr. Bradford’s request above, the PB noted agritourism is not defined in town zoning ordinances and discussed the possibility that the Ordinance Review Committee can address this, perhaps by broadening the definition of agriculture, adding agritourism to permitted uses in the Residential/Agricultural district and adding agritourism to the definitions section.

The PB reviewed other topics for ORC consideration, including: 1) clarifying Article 4.1.10 for when site plan approval by the PB is required; 2) adding language to address agriculture and agritourism; 3) amending the recently adopted wetland ordinance (Article XII), for example by reducing the buffer to 25’ for linear wetlands such as drainage systems, brooks for wetland sizes 10’ wide or less, and adding an option for a special exception to allow the opportunity for a certified wetland scientist to delineate and map wetlands and ascertain impact on wetland functions and values. Don Scott is drafting proposed language for review by the Conservation Commission and Planning Board.

The PB hopes to have the ORC in place by the next PB meeting, with work to possibly begin in August/September.

Lot Line Adjustment Application Form – Continuing its review of its application forms, the PB considered the need to modify the Lot Line Adjustment application. All agreed it may just require revising the date on the form and adding a question about whether or not any acreage affected by the proposed boundary line adjustment is in current use. The recording secretary will ask the town assessor for recommended language.

Capital Improvement Plan – PB members reviewed RSAs related to CIP and that process and discussed whether the SB or the PB should take the lead, weighing the pros and cons of either scenario. The PB noted the importance of incorporating elements of the Master Plan in the CIP process, as well as the objective of financial planning versus managing the ongoing operating budget, drafting warrant articles and managing capital reserve fund allocations, which are the purview of the SB. The SB also maintains more regular interaction with the department heads. One option is for the two boards to divide up and take lead responsibility for different elements of the CIP. The PB will continue discussion next month when all members present.

Meeting wrap up/adjournment – The board conducted its monthly meeting wrap-up and adjourned at 9:05 pm.