OFFICE OF THE ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT
Town of Halifax, Vermont
ZBA MEETING MINUTES–DRAFT
May 26, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:28 p.m. Zoning Board members Sirean LaFlamme, Bill Pusey, Brian McNeice, and Stephan Chait were present; John Brimmer was unable to attend. Also present were Michael McGillion (Fisher Law), John Bennett (WRC), Linda Lyon, Rick Gay, Nicholas Bartenhagen, Margaret Bartenhagen, Sue Kelly, Marilyn Allen, Janet Taylor, Bonnie Brown, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to the Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Brian McNeice made a motion to approve the 4/28/15 meeting minutes as written. Stephan Chait seconded the motion, which passed, 4-0.
Conditional Use Discussion with Attorney Michael McGillion
Chairwoman Sirean LaFlamme welcomed Michael McGillion, of Fisher & Fisher Law. McGillion was present for the purpose of answering Zoning Board questions on the conditional use permit procedure and, in particular, the C.A. Denison conditional use application now before the Board. LaFlamme invited questions, and Chait suggested opening with an overview, offering the opinion that this was a complicated project; he found the application package difficult and stated that while the application form itself may be complete the package is not complete. From my point of view, said Chait, the application does not clearly communicate information about the project or its impact on the Town of Halifax or the surrounding property owners. For example, he continued, one could assume from the exhibits that the town truck was hauling stone from the proposed quarry, and other exhibits are not well explained. Chait handed out copies of an eight-page spreadsheet he had created; a list of town zoning regulation purposes and standards, town plan goals and recommendations, and topics for evaluation. Chait specified noise, truck traffic, road safety, local wells, wildlife habitat, and compliance with the Town Plan as topics the Board should evaluate.
At this point, LaFlamme explained for the record that Linda Lyon is a Planning Commission member, but not on the Zoning Board, so if she (Lyon) spoke to the issues at hand it would be as a citizen and not a Board member. In reference to Chait’s mention of wells, John Bennett reminded the meeting that no blasting was proposed for the quarry project, and recommended that no blasting be included as a condition of a permit.
Has the Zoning Board accepted this permit application as final and complete, asked Michael McGillion, or have they done anything to notify the applicant that it is in any way incomplete? LaFlamme said no, and explained that Chait’s evaluation process was his own, not the work of the Zoning Board as a body. Bill Pusey said the Zoning Board had expected to see an Act 250 ruling from the Environmental Commission before the ZBA considered the local conditional use permit application. The Act 250 decision, which LaFlamme said would have answered a lot of ZBA questions, has not yet been published. McGillion advised the ZBA to notify the applicant that the Board considered the conditional use permit application incomplete without the Act 250 findings having been issued. Rick Gay stated that the applicant had submitted a properly filled-out application, but the ZBA would need to make a determination about the completeness of the supporting materials, as that was not his decision to make. A public hearing on the Denison conditional use permit application is scheduled for June 9th. McGillion explained that the hearing could be continued should the Zoning Board find it needed further information from the applicant or from technical experts.
Bill Pusey suggested some of the information Chait was seeking had been provided during the Act 250 proceeding. Chait agreed, but believes the conditional use permit application should be a complete and separate entity. Do we have a list of items in the application that we believe are incomplete, asked Brian McNeice. Do we need the applicant to supply us with anything additional before the June 9th meeting, and if so, what? Pusey agreed the applicant should be apprised of any such currently existing questions; in fairness the applicant needs to know what we’re asking, he said. Discussion moved to the set of queries and comments the Planning Commission had submitted to the Environmental Commission for the Act 250 process—are those questions relevant to the ZBA’s consideration of the conditional use permit, and which of those questions have yet to be answered? McNeice suggested reviewing the Planning Commission’s queries and determining which of them have not received a response. LaFlamme recommended compiling queries not answered during the Act 250 process and sending them to the applicant in advance of the hearing. Pusey made the point that the town’s current zoning regulations—which allow earth and mineral extraction in the Conservation District–apply to this application, even though those regulations are under revision. We have to follow what exists now, added LaFlamme, not what is being proposed for the future. We need specific examples of what to ask them for, said McNeice. Chait said the applicant needed to demonstrate conformance with the general and specific conditional use standards listed in Section 203 of the town zoning regulations, as well as earth and mineral extraction standards itemized in Section 501. He stated that the application does not discuss the project’s conformance with the Town Plan and does not address Town Plan recommendations for the Conservation District. If the zoning permit application form requires this information, said Pusey, that’s one thing. If the form does not state that requirement, then the information is not missing, the applicant just has not provided sufficient detail for our satisfaction. Chait said not all of the criteria included in his spreadsheet apply to the permit application, but he did not want to pick and choose.
Sue Kelly and Maggie Bartenhagen both wondered whether is would be possible to postpone the June 9th hearing if the ZBA determined the application incomplete. LaFlamme said the application had been properly submitted and the hearing date set, though the ZBA may want additional information pertaining to the contents of the exhibits. You can hold the hearing, said McGillion, and continue the hearing pending receipt of further information. The purpose of the hearing is to give the ZBA an opportunity to receive information and ask and answer questions. He went on to describe specifics of the public hearing procedure and offered advice on how to assure an orderly meeting. Town Attorney Robert Fisher will be moderating the June 9th hearing.
Board members and meeting attendees participated next in a fairly extensive discussion of noise factors, which included noise levels with and without leaves on trees, noise of truck traffic on roads, back-up warning devices on equipment, and the definition of “undue adverse impact” as it applies to sound. Nick Bartenhagen and Marilyn Allen described the sound tests conducted during the site visit for that purpose last year. LaFlamme suggested sending the applicant the list of queries created by the Planning Commission for Act 250. Chait thought that list was a little out of date. He volunteered to draft a more current list specific to the town’s zoning requirements and to identify particular exhibits which he said do not explain themselves. Janet Taylor mentioned that Joyce Burland’s well, which is under her house, is not on the exhibit map. Burland’s well, which is approximately a half-mile from the quarry site, is the well closest to the proposed project.
Nick Bartenhagen presented the ZBA with a letter, which he read aloud for the record. The letter requested an earlier start time for the June 9th hearing, a site visit, a schedule of hearing continuation dates, and a hearing of interested parties’ status requests. Chait asked whether the zoning permit process made provision for party status in the same manner an Act 250 procedure employs. McGillion referred ZBA members to the Vermont Planning Information Center web site (vpic.info) which provides information valuable to anyone involved in a permitting process. Participation in the public hearing is a prerequisite to the right to appeal; McGillion recommended a sign-in sheet with a question about whether the signer wished to participate.
In summarization, LaFlamme said Chait would draft a query to the applicant and forward it to Gabriel for distribution to Board members. If necessary, the ZBA will meet again before the date of the public hearing. Kelly asked whether the Board anticipated requesting expert testimony at the June 9th hearing. LaFlamme said she did not expect to reach that point at the first session. In response to a question from Chait, Kelly said that ZBA does not have to qualify interested parties as is done in an Act 250 proceeding.
Board members reviewed the Alternate Member Use Policy recently signed by the Selectboard. LaFlamme appointed Linda Lyon as an alternate member to the ZBA.
Hearing of Visitors
Pusey a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:39 p.m.. McNeice seconded the motion, which passed, 4-0.
Interim ZBA Secretary