Town of Halifax, Vermont
October 14, 2009
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:02 PM. Members in attendance were Norman Fajans, Brian McNeice, Craig Stone, Howard Alboum, Sirean LaFlamme, and William Pusey. Commission Chair Christina Moore was absent. Others in attendance were Margo Avakian, Rick Gay, Greg Marguet (who arrived after the public hearing), and Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Vice-Chair Howard Alboum conducted the meeting.
Mr. Alboum advised that the required public hearing for the June H. Butler subdivision would be the first item on the agenda. He asked Mr. Gay, as Applicant and representative for the property owner, to tell the Planning Commissioners about the subdivision. Mr. Gay advised that the map that accompanied the application spelled out the metes and bounds as stated in the Humane Society of U.S. deed of conservation rights that is on file in the Halifax land records. This request for subdivision is to insure that there will be no question regarding the 4.4+/- acre parcel at such time as it may be transferred from the current owner. He further advised that the Humane Society will retain the remaining acres.
Regarding the property being divided, it was noted that no formal survey has been done, however the lines on the map show the measurements and the deed clearly sets out the metes and bounds. The subdivision meets all legal requirements.
With no other comments or questions, Mr. Alboum asked for a motion on the application.
Mr. McNeice moved to approve the subdivision requested under Application #09-33 as submitted.
Mr. Pusey seconded the motion.
The motion carried 5-0-1, with Mr. Stone abstaining.
Findings will be written and mailed to Mr. Gay, as representative for the owner, and to Acting Zoning Administrator for issuance of a permit.
The public hearing was closed at 7:15 PM.
Mr. Alboum asked if there were thoughts regarding what direction the re-writing of the Town Plan should take. It was noted that it was in the newspaper that the Planning Commission was working on the plan and citizens who had ideas or concerns should come to the meetings and let the Commissioners know now rather than wait until after they have basically completed the revisions. No one was present, which indicated to the Commissioners that interest was not being taken. Ms. Avakian advised that she puts it in the articles she submits to the Valley News and she also has been telling people that they should come.
Mr. Fajans advised that rather than spend a large amount of time on trying to decide if there is a need for a commercial/business district, a short clearly stated survey could give the Commissioners an idea of how the citizens feel. One problem with developing a new district is who is going to decide where to put it and how many people is it going to affect? He advised that he doesn’t feel comfortable making that decision. What about the property owners, should they have a say as to whether or not they want their land designated as commercial?
Mr. McNeice advised that Marlboro has a commercial zone they developed a few years ago. Sections of Route 9 are included and also some lots in the center of town. He advised that only property whose owners wanted to be designated commercial were included in the district.
Mr. Stone advised he was undecided as to whether or not a commercial district was needed, and he also does not feel comfortable making the decision about where one should be located.
A discussion of the need, location and pros and cons of a commercial district followed. It was generally felt that at some point the town might need to have a commercial zone but not necessarily at this point. Questions of property assessments, changes in use, among others were raised. The general consensus was that a lot more research and thought needs to be put into this idea before any decisions can be made. Conducting a survey at this time could be crucial to the issues. If the majority of landowners responding don’t want a commercial district, then the Commissioners can put the idea to rest and move on to the rest of the Town Plan. If the majority are in favor of a commercial district, then the Commissioners can delve into the questions of where, how large an area, etc.
Mr. Marguet advised that in the zoning ‘there are a tremendous number of uses that are conditional uses, there are conditions, but almost anything can be done in the town conditionally’. ‘Now a commercial zone correct me if I’m wrong, would almost give you the total privilege to do these things versus instead of having to go in front of the public and saying we want to have a…. and then you people can discuss pros and cons and there is a lot of discussion and a lot of politics and then okay here’s your permit to do this. Versus a commercial zone already pre-allows a lot of things okay? So I think the real trick here when you’re talking about a commercial zone, what you’re doing is taking the burden off the property owner to have to say things like you know, have to discuss all the impacts and the character of the town and how it’s affecting……you know people protesting it, neighbors protesting. But if it’s already been deeded a commercial zone then you go past a lot of this nonsense. Yes there are permits and different branches of the government that want to look at this, but you’re not… you can say gee I’ve got a piece of land, I’d like to sell it, it’s commercially zoned which means I can allow car repairs, or whatever, different things and it’s cast in stone. Versus now if you sell a piece of property’ ‘you have to get past a gauntlet of things which is good for the town but not good for the property owner, he has to dance past all these things to get his little thing done, but it does protect the interest of the people.’
Mr. Alboum advised that the idea of a commercial zone is not a free ride to anybody. If this ever comes to pass, and they’re not sure that it will that’s why they’re discussing it, there will be conditions and restrictions. Lot size, frontage, setbacks and other protections may be imposed. Nothing will be a free ride. The only difference will be that it will allow industries that will not necessarily blend with the rural residential living to be able to exist in this town but in an area that is controlled by zoning and the people that actually vote on it.
Mr. Marguet kept asking questions, most of which were not relevant to the current discussion.
Mr. Alboum advised that they were not at a point to answer the questions he raised and it would probably be at least six to nine months before they would be able to have answers. He advised this is the beginning of discussions only. He further advised that if Mr. Marguet had questions that were pertinent to this meeting he would try to answer them.
Mr. Alboum directed the discussion toward developing a survey. Mr. McNeice advised he had been jotting down questions and with input from the other Commissioners they could develop the draft tonight.
Mr. Marguet interjected comments about the town web site. He was told it was a matter for the Selectboard.
The members reviewed and discussed the draft survey questions. It was decided that the survey should be sent to all property owners. Mr. Alboum will attend the next Selectboard meeting to request approval to send the survey and to cover the postage.
If it is approved, the Commissioners will finalize the survey at the November meeting and it will be mailed out as soon as possible after that meeting.
General discussion of where they had left off with the Town Plan followed. It was agreed to approve the minutes of the last meeting and then call it a night.
Mr. Marguet interrupted the discussion to ask again about the web site and what was being done about it. He was told again that he should discuss it with the Selectboard, that the Planning Commission is not the right board to ask.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Pusey moved to approve the minutes of August 12, 2009 as written.
Mrs. LaFlamme seconded the motion, which carried 6-0.
Mr. Marguet interrupted again to object that the minutes were not on the website. He was again told that this was not the place for his complaint regarding web site issues.
It was agreed that the secretary would put a reminder of what they hope to do at the next meeting in with the minutes and draft survey when she mails to the Commissioners.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:35 PM.
Phyllis H. Evanuk