OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
October 6, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Douglas Grob were present, as were Cara Cheyette, Stephan Chait, Sue Kelly, Bettye Roberts, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Doug Grob made a motion to approve the 9/14/15 special meeting minutes as written. Edee Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Lewis Sumner abstaining.
Edwards made a motion to approve the 9/15/15 regular meeting minutes with one addition. Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Sumner made a motion to approve the 9/16/15 special meeting minutes as written. Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Edwards abstaining.
Edwards asked for postponement of the 9/22/15 public hearing minutes approval, as they were lengthy and she had not yet had opportunity to read them.
Proposed Zoning Regulation Bylaw Amendments
I think it’s time to get this before the voters, said Edwards. We began talking about this wording concern (in the Resource Industry definition) on January 21st, 2014; at our March 18th, 2014 meeting we had a citizen request to put interim zoning in place. At that time, Edwards continued, the Board felt there were some people who had no problem with the wording and others who did, but we didn’t have enough information; we did not pursue interim zoning. Now—as the topic has been subject to a lengthy process of discussion and hearings—I want it decided. Edwards said it was important to have the voters weigh in on this issue before the full revised text of the zoning regulations was presented for vote at the March 2016 Town Meeting. VLCT has advised her that, prior to an Australian ballot, a letter explaining the implications of the vote could be sent to the voters. People should understand that a yes vote on these definitions means future earth and mineral extraction projects are not allowed in the Conservation District, while a no vote means they (the voters) are okay with the way it stands today. You don’t think we should just wait until Town Meeting and vote on the whole thing at once?, asked Grob. If we do that, answered Edwards, the whole revision could be voted down because people don’t like that one piece.
Cara Cheyette likened the situation to the recent confusion caused by a few words in the Affordable Care Act. Those words seemed to change the whole meaning of the Act, she said. If this is similar, must it go to a vote?, she asked. Or could the Selectboard simply look on it as a scriveners’ error and correct it? Edwards said she sees the wording as unclear; it should go before the voters. Grob wondered whether the Selectboard should make the decision. Because of the quarry, it’s an emotional issue, he said. Edwards thinks the Board has the power to delete wording through interim zoning, but eventually the topic would go before the voters anyway. Sumner didn’t think that would work; he said implementing interim zoning meant following a generic state template without any specifics in it. I think if changes are made that alter the meaning of the regulations, it has to go to the voters, he added. Edwards made a motion to put the Planning Commission’s proposed definition changes out to vote in a special election (Australian ballot) as early as possible in November. Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion prior to the vote the Board reviewed time constraints. Special elections must be posted at least 30 days beforehand, the holidays are approaching, and arrangements will have to be made for use of the school’s multi-purpose room. Cheyette encouraged the Board to write and distribute an explanatory document, citing the effectiveness of that practice under similar circumstances in Massachusetts. Edwards suggested a mailing to the voter checklist. An informational meeting could be held, but is not required. If the voters turn down these two definitions, where are we?, asked Grob. In that case, said Edwards, we tell the Planning Commission the voters have approved the present wording of the Resource Industry definition (which states “includes earth and mineral extraction”). Earth and mineral extraction would then be allowed in all districts, under Resource Industry, and we would ask the Planning Commission to remove the separate, undefined line item “earth and mineral extraction” from the list of conditional uses in the Village and Rural Residential districts. Edwards suggested using the new VT-Alert system to notify people of the special election. We might not get everybody, said Sumner, because not all Halifax voters have a Halifax address. Grob and Sue Kelly both recommended an informational letter to the voters that would make it clear that approval of the proposed definitions would not affect the quarry application currently under review; it would disallow future projects of that nature in the Conservation District. Chait questioned the timing of a November special election. Could you do this mid-January, he asked. A whole lot of people are absent between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Edwards now introduced the matter of Doug Grob’s appointed position to the Selectboard. When a special election is held, appointed positions are open to election; the individual elected then serves to the end of the term, which in this case is March 2018. Edwards, who had said previously that she would not be running again in March, told the Board she has taken a position which will require her to live in the Boston area and would therefore be resigning her Selectboard seat. Could you finish your term through March?, asked Bettye Roberts. No, answered Edwards, I have to be in Boston by November 9th. So at special election the voters will be voting on the bylaw amendments and two Selectboard candidates, said Roberts. That’s a lot to be done; we need to get people informed. Edwards has written a draft of an informational letter on the bylaw amendments which she submitted for editing.
Finalize Act 250 Quarry Roads Document
Edwards set up the projector and, with the Act 250 Findings and Conclusions document on-screen, the Board discussed how to incorporate Brad Rafus’ most recent upgrade cost estimates for Jacksonville Stage, Amidon, and Stark Mountain Roads. Referring to the plan to ask for an Environmental Court requirement that the applicant pay some portion of road upgrades and/or maintenance, Sumner said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot; we’ve never done this to anybody else. My suggestion is that we have them (quarry trucks) come down Jacksonville Stage Road and then down Branch Road. It would be a little further for them, but it’s a good road, not narrow. Edwards had concerns about trucks turning off Branch Road onto Route 112. Will they get hung up, and can they see?, she asked. Going north it’s a tight turn, but going south is not a problem, replied Sumner. Trucks do it all the time, hauling sand and gravel to the town garage. Stark Mountain will be narrow even with an upgrade; this alternate route is safer. At one point there were five to nine log loads a day traveling the Jacksonville Stage/Branch Road route. Grob wondered whether even more people would oppose this new route. Edwards suggested the Board would need upgrade costs on the rest of Jacksonville Stage Road and Branch Road, and Cheyette asked if the proposition would mean reopening evidence for Act 250. She also said that in addition to giving upgrade and maintenance estimates the Board should make a statement regarding the impact of such an expenditure on the town budget. Stephan Chait speculated that the applicant might not agree to a longer route that would increase trucking costs.
Edwards noted that the Act 250 application could not be denied on the basis of Criterion 5: Traffic, but impacts of a project may be mitigated by impact payments. Edwards said the cost of upgrading TH52 (Old Stage Road) should fall completely to the applicant. As the other roads were discussed, Sue Kelly remarked that upgrading and ongoing maintenance were two separate issues; even if the roads were improved, trucks would still have an impact. But we don’t charge log trucks for road maintenance, said Grob, and Sumner concurred. It bothers me a bit, said Sumner, because there are only two quarry trucks a day, and who knows how many other trucks are using those roads. Using an average from several past years of the highway budget, Edwards estimated the current yearly maintenance costs on the proposed quarry truck travel route at $67,920. Sue Kelly suggested adding the $90,000+ figure contributed by Michael Oman of Oman Analytics as an estimate of increased yearly maintenance costs should the quarry trucks operate. The Board decided to request 75% of estimated upgrade costs, plus an annual impact fee of 25% of $67,920 in estimated maintenance costs or, alternatively, the town would inspect roads weekly, repair specific damage, and the applicant would be responsible for cost of repairs. (See 9/15/15 meeting minutes at https://halifaxvermont.com/selectboard/meeting-minutes/2015-09-15-selectboard-regular-meeting-minutes-draft/ for a breakdown of estimated upgrade costs.) A line item was added noting the town would be willing to consider alternate travel routes. Gabriel will forward the document to Town Attorney Fisher for review.
Discuss Newspapers of Record
Gabriel told the Board The Commons newspaper accepts and publishes legal notices at competitive rates. The Commons has a 9,000 circulation and many town residents have indicated they read it regularly. Sumner made a motion to designate The Commons as an additional town newspaper of record. Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Anyone who would like to receive meeting notifications by email is encouraged to send a request to Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discuss Wood Heat Initiative Recommendations
The Board agreed to move this topic to the next regular meeting, as the hour was late and Brad Rafus was not present.
Update on Bridges
This item was also postponed until Rafus could be present for the discussion.
Shared Services Meeting at WRC
There is a Shared Services scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Friday, October 9th, at the Windham Regional Commission offices in Brattleboro, said Edwards. No one from the Halifax Board will be able to attend, but Edwards mentioned a November date should soon be announced for a meeting with all the municipalities.
Hearing of Visitors
This announcement of Edee’s (resignation) was really significant, said Cheyette; I’m stunned, and happy for you, and so sorry to see you go. Looking at the mountain of information that she has, I’m fearful, because I don’t know what’s coming next; I don’t know that you really can appreciate what Edee does until Edee is not in the room any more.
I think this position should be posted as a vacancy, said Edwards, so I will make my resignation effective immediately. It has been a pleasure, and an honor, and I’m going to miss you guys. We’ll miss you, too, said Sumner, and Grob added, I can talk to you now. Gabriel will post the vacancy for a temporary appointment to the Board.
Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Bill Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and appropriately filed.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:47 p.m.