OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
April 28, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:38 p.m. Planning Commission members Sirean LaFlamme, Bill Pusey, Brian McNeice, Stephan Chait, and Linda Lyon were present. Also in attendance were Edee Edwards, John Bennett (WRC), Marilyn Allen, Jesse Ferland, Sue Kelly, Janet Taylor, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to the Agenda
Linda Lyon requested a discussion about forming a Conservation Commission, and also had a query about procedure. Sirean LaFlamme suggested giving attention to Lyon’s question first. As a new Board member Lyon has been studying the town’s zoning regulations. We are a five-member Board, she said; is it permissible for me to ask one of you for help when I have questions? Her colleagues agreed such conversations are allowed, and Stephan Chait added it was simply needful to avoid having a quorum of the Commission together discussing business unofficially. Lyon also plans to attend the Windham Regional Commission training session at the Townshend Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. on May 28th.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Chait made a motion to approve the 4/14/15 regular meeting minutes with one correction. Lyon seconded the motion, which passed 4-0.
Lyon promoted the concept of a town Conservation Commission, an idea suggested by Kim Smith during the recent Forestry Stewardship project update. There’s a lot of potential, said Lyon, but given the current Planning Commission workload it is really outside the scope of what we can reasonably do. If others were willing to serve on a Conservation Commission, that body could work on such things as town trails, natural resource inventories, and workshops, perhaps in collaboration with Conservation Commissions in adjoining and nearby towns. Edee Edwards, Lyon noted, had remarked at an earlier meeting that the Selectboard would be willing to entertain a Planning Commission recommendation on forming such a Commission. I think it would be an asset for the town of Halifax to have a Conservation Commission, Lyon concluded. LaFlamme liked the idea, but wondered whether it should be postponed until the current Act 250 process was complete. Appointees, responded Lyon, could be individuals not involved in the Act 250 procedure. Lyon made a motion that the Planning Commission recommend the Selectboard consider appointing a Conservation Commission for the town of Halifax. Brian McNeice seconded the motion, which passed 4-0-1, with Bill Pusey abstaining.
Update of Zoning Regulations with John Bennett
John Bennett distributed copies of the first four zoning regulation articles, marked up to reflect the Commission’s revision work to date. The WRC grant ends in May, he reminded the meeting, and closes out in June. He will work with Gabriel to prepare the close-out materials, but expects a Planning Commission meeting will be necessary to review and approve the final close-out reports. Bennett will continue to generate revised draft pages for Commissioners’ appraisal, and is available for meetings in May, but much of that meeting time will be taken up with other matters, leaving a question of just when Bennett and the Commission will find hours to work together on regulation revision before the deadline arrives. The terms of the grant include the creation of subdivision regulations; Bennett will provide samples the Commission can use as guidelines for that task.
On Bennett’s recommendation, he and the Commissioners reviewed the changes in Sections 100-411 of the regulations, and—in addition to some minor wording alterations—agreed on the following: In Section 203(3)(c) a sentence was restructured to clarify that town permits were conditioned upon the approval of all other necessary permits. As an earlier decision had been made to include specific language for waiver standards (Section 203), Bennett handed out copies of the pertinent Vermont statute and interpretive examples of text used by half a dozen Vermont towns. He will also provide an example of Dummerston’s wording and the Commission will decide upon the most appropriate choice. Discussion under Section 203(5) covered the need for the Selectboard to establish procedures and standards for requiring an applicant to pay for reasonable costs of an independent technical application review. The introduction to Section 204 will be expanded to include statutory requirements for Planning Commission creation. One question which remains unanswered, under Section 204(3), relates to whether subdivisions of three lots or less should be handled differently from divisions of three or more lots. LaFlamme will research notes from past subdivision applications, and Bennett will find examples from other towns. For clarity, description of the Village District in Section 306(1) will simply refer readers to the town zoning map. Section 307(4), item #25, received attention as the Board searched for a clear definition of bulk storage of fuel. Lyon will research HazMat regulations. The term “cluster housing” in Section 308(4), item #1, will be replaced with “planned unit development.” Also earmarked for further consideration is a suggestion to change the minimum size of a Conservation District lot from 15 to 27 acres (Section 308). In Section 400(1) and (2) dates are utilized to refer to earlier zoning regulation adoption. Bennett recommended these references be replaced with the date the town first adopted zoning regulations. In Section 401(1) “town standards” will be removed and readers will be referred to 401(1)(a) (AOT standards). The Board decided to strike the 600-square-foot restriction from Section 402, Accessory Dwelling Unit. As the Board reviewed Section 405(1), Chait observed that a 70-decibel noise level is very loud. Discussion included reducing allowable levels to 55 decibels and striking the phrase “at the nearest residence.” Bennett will locate examples from surrounding towns.
LaFlamme announced the Planning Commission expects to receive a subdivision application for a Thurber Road property in the near future. Edwards told the meeting the Selectboard is scheduled to consider reclassification of Whitneyville, Woodard Hill, Weir, and Sumner Farm Roads at a public hearing on May 27th. She also requested a Planning Commission decision on whether to hold a joint meeting with the Selectboard to discuss writing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law for the Environmental Commission’s current Act 250 proceeding. At some point interested parties will be given the opportunity to make such a submission, although they are not required to do so. General consensus among Commission members deemed a joint meeting and Findings of Fact submission unnecessary.
Bennett directed the Commission to various online resources they could study in advance of crafting subdivision regulations. He will also email examples of regulations in use by other towns, along with the balance of the first draft of zoning regulation revisions.
Hearing of Visitors
Bill Pusey made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Brian McNeice seconded the motion, which passed 4-0. The meeting closed at 10:10 p.m.
Interim Planning Commission Secretary