OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
PLANNING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING MINUTES
October 29, 2018

 

Chairman Turner Lewis opened the public hearing on the Halifax Town Plan update at 6:35 p.m. Planning Commission members William Pusey and Kaitlin Stone were present; Alice Aldrich and Jason Ashcroft were unable to attend. John Bennett (Windham Regional Commission), Stephan Chait, Lewis Sumner, Janet Taylor, Linda Lyon, Sue Kelly, Gretchen Becker, and Norman Fajans were also present.

After welcoming those present and explaining the purpose of the hearing, Chairman Turner Lewis read the public hearing notice for the record, as follows: ‘The Halifax Planning Commission will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed update to the Town Plan on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the Halifax Town Office. The Planning Commission solicits public comment on the proposed update, as well as comment from planning commissions of abutting municipalities and from the regional planning commission with respect to the compatibility of their respective plans with the proposed Halifax Town Plan. The Plan pertains to all of the Town of Halifax. The Table of Contents includes: Goals, Community Profile, Land Use, Natural Resources, Recreation, Community Facilities and Resources, Flood Resilience, Transportation, Economic Development, Energy, Housing, Education, and Relationships with adjacent towns. A full copy of the proposed Town Plan is available for public review and can be found in the Halifax Town Office, 246 Branch Road, West Halifax, Vermont, and on the halifaxvermont.com website.”

Turner Lewis invited commentary from participants.

Norman Fajans said he would like to see stronger language for the water quality and water supplies for our town. Fajans cited two specific concerns; the possibility of contaminated water supplies from industrial activity (such as the current problems in Bennington), and the potential threat of aquifer reduction that might occur should a commercial enterprise such as a water bottling plant choose to locate in Halifax. He mentioned, in particular, the large amounts of water necessary to local farms with livestock. We are blessed in Halifax with the quality and quantity of our water, and I would not like to see anything come in with the potential to pollute the aquifers. In discussion, Kaitlin Stone questioned whether a commercial bottling plant could simply decide to locate in Halifax, while Bill Pusey and Turner Lewis wanted to know about the legalities of such a situation. It would have to come through us (the Planning Commisson), said Lewis, adding that Fajans had made a valid point, and the Board could research permissible wording in the Town Plan. Linda Lyon pointed out that the Plan speaks of light commercial and industrial uses under the Rural Residential section, and questioned the definition of “light uses.” John Bennett advised that Wardsboro had concerns about a bottled water plant coming to town, and had addressed this issue in their Town Plan. He offered to look into what that town had decided on the issue. It gets quite complicated in terms of State oversight of groundwater, he added.

Turner Lewis asked for other comments. Lyon advised she had submitted several pages of written commentary. The Commissioners have a collection of written comments, said Bennett, including some from Linda Lyon, Diana Todd, Gretchen Becker, and Janet Taylor. The Board will be addressing those submissions in meeting once the hearing has closed. Janet Taylor said that the middle section of Josh Road is legally town trail, but on the current Town Plan maps it is shown as Class 4. Taylor would like to see the maps corrected. She provided an updated 2017 map prepared by WRC Specialist Jeff Nugent. Bennett verified that the correction was incorporated in the new 2018 maps which will be used in the new edition of the Town Plan. Stephan Chait asked if a list of written comments was available to the public; Bennett provided copies of the list. Sue Kelly said she had read the draft carefully and was impressed with the attention to detail; she thanked the Board for their work. Chait also complimented the Commission on its diligence and hard work in dealing with a complicated matter. Turner Lewis spoke of the value of public input while an update was in progress. Bill Pusey made the point that questions and comments were important; some of the Plan wording was added many years ago, and the meaning might not be well understood unless people step forward for discussion.

Turner Lewis closed the public hearing at 6:55 p.m., and immediately opened the regular meeting for discussion of comments received.

Commissioners now began considering written comments submitted by citizens. Lewis advised that references to the Grange Hall will be updated, as the property is now under new ownership. Bennett told Fajans the State had changed the town plan re-adoption requirement from five to eight years to allow more time for implementing municipal plans. Item #7 under Transportation Policies— “The town will resist efforts to upgrade unmaintained rights of way to a higher classification.”—which had been marked for possible modification at the October 9th meeting, generated extensive discussion. New State road standard regulations, particularly for hydrologically-connected road segments, have increased municipal responsibilities for maintenance, and the Town has recently moved to upgrade several Class 4 road segments to Class 3, in order to avail themselves of State aid funds. Bennett provided information on maintenance requirements for different classes of roads, and advised that in some Vermont towns, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps is assisting with implementing water control measures on Class 4 roads. The question on item #7 will remain while Bennett does further research. Under Education Recommendations, there is still some rewrite to be considered to assure the recommendations are appropriate now that the Unified Union School District is operational.

Linda Lyon provided a list of 23 items for consideration. The Board agreed each first reference to State statute in the Plan text should include the full legal citation. Bennett read some text from statute that would address Lyon’s suggestion the Plan state the advantages of WRC town plan approval. Commissioners made decisions on defining or clarifying several words and phrases under Land Use Policies. Language promoting awareness of the threat of invasive species was added in the Natural Areas section. Chait asked the Board their thinking on the formation of a Halifax Conservation Commission, and Lyon and Fajans spoke in favor of the idea. Lewis said the Planning Commission would take that under consideration.

The Board now reviewed more of the items from Bennett’s notes, including the accuracy of a reference to Mt. Olga, Gretchen Becker’s request to correct references to the Grange Hall, and updated Education Recommendations and Use Value Appraisal figures. They examined the new 2018 town maps and verified that the middle portion of Josh Road is now shown as legal trail. Bennett said Halifax Falls Lane, a private road, is being added to the Town Facilities and Transportation map. He also pointed out that ANR river corridors and special flood hazard areas are already shown on the maps so there is no need for an additional map. Bennett suggested removing the riverine corridors demarcations as they are town-designated areas related to 1993 zoning regulations; no mention of riverine corridors is made in the current zoning law. He told Chait the present-day state-designated river corridors are shown on the new maps.

The final half-hour of the meeting was devoted to reviewing and discussing Linda Lyon’s remaining comments, many of them suggestions for altering or clarifying wording. A sentence supporting the Whitingham Free Library was added to the Education section, the Halifax Community Club received more detailed mention under Meeting Places, and a new policy, #6, was added under Energy Resources as follows: “Develop and implement an energy plan for Halifax to transition the town towards decreased use of fossil fuels and greater energy efficiency in all aspects of Town operations.”

The meeting adjourned at 9:03 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Planning Commission Interim Secretary