OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES
June 12, 2018
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:01 p.m. Planning Commission members Turner Lewis, Bill Pusey, and Alice Aldrich were present; Kaitlin Stone and Jason Ashcroft were unable to attend. Also present were John Bennett (WRC), Stephan Chait, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and Additions to Agenda
Stephan Chait will share some information about connectivity.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
As two Board members were absent, and Alice Aldrich did not attend the May meeting, the Commissioners agreed to postpone approval of May meeting minutes this month.
Town Plan Update—John Bennett
John Bennett presented the Board with printed copies of the Vermont Department of Public Service’s Guidance for Municipal Enhanced Energy Planning Standards, and an enhanced energy element template prepared by Windham Regional Commission. He outlined two possibilities for updating the energy section of the Town Plan. Our current plan has an existing energy element that might comply with the newly enhanced requirements of V.S.A. chapter 117. If, however, the Town Plan were revised to be compliant with Act 174, our Plan would then achieve “substantial deference” status in Public Utilities Commission Section 248 proceedings. Our current Plan, Bennett explained, only receives “due consideration.” While the practical effect of the substantial deference definition has not yet been tested in court, Act 174 compliance is expected to strengthen a Town’s position in the Section 248 process. Bennett said Marion Major, WRC’s energy expert, would be able to assist should the Planning Commission choose to pursue Act 174 compliance.
Turner Lewis, who attended VLCT’s Spring Planning and Zoning seminar in Rutland recently, offered information about the energy requirements for residential and commercial building. These standards, which are not included in the municipal town plan, but are referenced in Halifax zoning regulations and zoning permit application forms, are detailed in the Vermont Residential Building Energy Code Handbook, available at the Halifax Town Office , or online at http://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/Energy_Efficiency/RBES/2015_VT_Energy_Code_Handbook_V4.1.pdf.
Stephan Chait reminded the meeting that Halifax has entered into a contract with Sky Solar to purchase electricity generated by the new solar array being constructed at WSWMD on Ferry Road in Brattleboro. Chait asked whether that action covers the town’s need for renewable energy. The current available data is from 2016, replied Bennett, and recognizes the renewable energy projects in place at that time. As the Ferry Road solar project (as well as other projects in the state) was not online in 2016, Bennett said he could not give a definitive answer to Chait’s question.
Bennett distributed a number of maps indicating solar and wind resources, energy generation constraints, and solar and wind energy potential. These latter two must be included in the updated Town Plan. After examining the maps, Commissioners returned to an overall review of their previous update work, incorporating edits prepared by board members and considering forest stewardship recommendations. They then spent some time working through the existing text of the Town Plan energy and transportation sections. Bennett advised that grant monies may be available in the near future to fund WRC assistance in crafting an enhanced Town Plan energy component.
Hearing of Visitors
The Marlboro Conservation Commission is spearheading a multi-town forest block and habitat connectivity project, and Stephan Chait has been following their progress. At a recent meeting including participants from Marlboro, Wardsboro, Stratton, Dover, Newfane, Guilford, and Halifax, planning got underway for a habitat connectivity planning symposium to be held sometime next fall. Chait believes promoting forest block connectivity is important to Vermont’s wildlife, and intermunicipal cooperation is a necessity, as forest blocks do not begin or end at town lines. He said Vermont Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy, among others, have expressed a willingness to be of help, and recommended Planning Commissions stay up-to-date on the activities of the group.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:53 p.m.
Planning Commission Interim Secretary