MINUTES OF FRANKLIN PLANNING COMMISSION
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2007, AT 7:00 P. M.
HOMESTEAD DINING ROOM
PRESENT: Richard Gadbois, David Lucey, Jamie Boudreau, Doug Bradford, Bill Mayo, Doug
Clark, Greg Bouchard, and Dan Larivee
EX OFFICIO MEMBERS: Peter Kittell, Chairman Franklin Selectboard, Scott Choiniere, Vice-Chairman Franklin Selectboard, Lynn Paradis, member Franklin Selectboard Jamie Boudreau is a member of both boards.
GUESTS: Robert Irish, Franklin Zoning Administrator
Dick called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
MINUTES OF APRIL, 2007 MEETING: Motion by David/Jamie to approve. Dick asked for discussion and there was none. All members voted in favor/motion passed. Minutes accepted as presented.
MINUTES OF MAY, 2007 MEETING: Motion by David/Jamie to approve. Dick asked for discussion. Doug Clark stated he feels the title of the first paragraph should read Chairman’s Report. Doug Bradford suggested it read Chairman’s Report Of Zoning Administrator’s Report. Greg Bouchard asked that on page six, last sentence of the second paragraph be deleted as he had not read the letter in question. Dick asked for further discussion and there was none. All members voted in favor/minutes accepted with changes noted above.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT: Dick advised that the only thing in the packet of material from the Town Clerk is the permit on the wastewater for the Hubbard Subdivision. He informed members that a copy of the full application is available in the Town Clerk’s Office and that the design of the system might be of interest to members. Doug Bradford commented that the location was changed from up above to down below.
NEW CONSTRUCTION: Discussion was held on the building of a snack bar at the Lake. It was noted that there was never an apartment above the old snack bar. Dick asked if there was a permit and Bob stated he has a permit application, but it is going to the ZBA because they are not building in the same footprint so that it needs ZBA approval. Discussion was held on whether or not the building meets the 40ft setback. Bob stated he does not know as he just forwarded the application on to the ZBA. Discussion was held on the fact that the new building is already built without a permit being issued and the fact that it is not in the same foot print as the old building. It was noted in fact that part of the old building is still standing behind the new structure.
REPORTS FROM SUB-COMMITTEES: Violation Ticket Committee: David Lucey stated that quite frankly, he was not sure if he was going to be alone on the committee and, therefore, has done nothing about it. Dick asked Doug Clark if he was going to work with David on the committee and he responded that he would. Dick informed them that he had some materials which he obtained from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. He stated it is pretty extensive and they will not have to do the research. Signage: Bill Mayo stated that he researched permits and there is only one on Pigeon Hill Road. Dick advised that what we are looking for is signage such as that used in other town/jurisdictions which is put up so that people know a permit has been applied for/issued. Bob Irish informed that he has already picked up some signs and Bill will work with him. Bob stated that he doesn’t feel signage will make much of a difference and Dick stated that he rides around and often wonders if a permit has been issued for a project. Enforcement - ZA Oversight Committee: Jamie brought this matter up to the Selectboard and that is why members are here tonight to meet with us.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Doug Clark stated he knows that there are other things to be discussed tonight, but next meeting he would like to review the bylaws regarding conflict of interest. Dick stated that members of the Selectboard are ex-officio members of the Planning Commission. He asked that any member who doesn’t have a copy of the ethics regulations get one. Dick asked Doug Clark to make arrangements for members who did not have one to be able to get a copy in time fo the next meeting.
TOWN PLAN: Statutory Child Care Requirement: Dick stated he would get it down to Greta at Northwest Regional Planning. Page 9: Under seasonal housing, should read, “Seasonal housing should be encouraged to be converted to year round housing.” Page 41: First paragraph under Policy for Water Resources - converting seasonal camps to year round occupancy should be encouraged, not discouraged. Dan questioned why we are encouraging changing to year round and he was told that it was to improve water quality. If a camp changes to year round, they would have to upgrade the septic system. Peter Kittell stated he would like to comment on that. He informed the Planning Commission that the State will not force anyone to upgrade their septic system unless it can be proved that the system has failed. He said at the lake that will never happen because if a system fails it will empty into the lake and it will be difficult to prove. Peter further informed members that effective July lst, the State will do away with the terminology “seasonal” and every camp down there will be considered by the State to be year round as of that date. There will be nothing seasonal in Vermont; they will all be year round. The State is not going to police it; somebody will have to report a failed system and then they will check it out. He stated if Franklin gets the septic delegation, we won’t have to accept that. Dick asked Peter if the Planning Commission could finish their corrections to the Town Plan and then discussion on septics and ZA oversight could continue. Page 44: Recreational District: Width of shoreline recreation district changed from 500 feet to 750 feet. Maps: On the maps, the Mill Pond Campground needs to be put in its proper location. Dan Larivee again stated that he doesn’t feel we should encourage year round camps and he was told that it was originally done to encourage upgrades of septic systems to improve the quality of the Lake water. Peter informed there are a whole bunch of exemptions if the State takes over the septic, but if we have a delegation we do not have to follow all of their exemptions. Dick stated they have to have everything together by July lst and he asked Peter if he felt they would meet the deadline. Peter responded that he believes they will. He was asked how they will know if they receive the delegation and Peter responded, the town will get a letter from Roger Thompson that we have been delegated. He advised that they (the Selectboard) have to come up with a fee schedule and noted that we have to revise our entire fee schedule and have to follow certain guidelines.
Dan questioned what would happen with roads should all the lake camps become year round residences. Bill noted that private roads will remain private roads. He stated there are presently three or four year round residences where he lives, but it is a private road that the residents must maintain it. It was noted that roads would have to be brought up to State standards before the town would even consider taking them over. Peter stated he has a big concern over access to these properties by fire and/or rescue vehicles. He stated there are no turnarounds and that the rescue got stuck two or three times this past winter. It was noted that some of the roads are only 20 feet wide and will never meet standards. Peter noted that if there are children on these roads, parents want school buses to pick them up and they will not go down them if they are not adequate and if there are no turn arounds. He advised that the town is already in the process of taking some land for a turn around on one of the town roads because the buses were refusing to go up to pick up kids. It was noted that the town does not provide services to maintain these private roads and that people who purchase property on them need to know they are seasonal properties and know the consequences. As far as septics are concerned, people are going to use them until they fail. He noted that if we get the delegation, then we don’t have to take that exemption and can automatically impose standards when a camp does from seasonal to year round status. He pointed out that with the State there will be little oversight. Everybody will automatically be year round use and concern was expressed over the fact that it could impact the town (school, etc.).
It was noted that every year more and more residences are changing from seasonal to year round. It was also noted that property on the lake is not cheap whether it is seasonal or year round.
Discussion was held on violations. It was noted that a permit was granted for one camp to be renovated when in fact it was completely replaced and went from a one story to a one and a half/two story building which completely blocked the view for other residents. Further, the snack bar permit application which is pending has already been rebuilt without a permit and with an apartment over it. Bill Mayo pointed out a zoning violation in Alburgh where the property owner did not build in the same foot print went to court and was upheld and they have to take it down. It was noted that we don’t enforce most of our zoning violations.
Discussion was held on some recent ZBA decisions and Dick asked if scheduling another training session would be worthwhile. It was noted that not all members attended the last training and it was suggested that attendance be mandatory for all boards.
Dick stated that he understands that John Cote resigned from the ZBA. Peter stated he no longer wishes to be a regular member, but is willing to act as an alternate. Dick ask why the Selectboard didn’t make the vacancy known to the community as there might have been someone who wished to serve. Peter responded that Bubby Richards was appointed and that there is a list in the Town Offices of people who have expressed an interest in serving. He noted there is still one name on the list. Peter stated Bubby was willing to serve and they wanted someone who was familiar with septic systems and soil. Dick questioned whether the possibility exists that Bubby would be putting in septic systems for some of these people and he was informed that he is now retired and is no longer doing this type work.
Dick asked if there was any more discussion on seasonal vs. year round housing. Dan questioned who decided to encourage changing from seasonal to year round and Dick responded that the Planning Commission did as a whole. Dan stated he disagrees with that decision.
Dick asked members if, with the language on day care added and the changes requested by Doug Bradford, do we have a Town Plan that we would like to pass on to the Selectboard. Dan Larivee voted against; all other members voted in favor. Submission of Town Plan to the Selectboard approved.
SELECTBOARD: At the last meeting, Jamie was asked to set up a meeting with the Selectboard to discuss supervision of the Zoning Administrator as the Statutes are not really clear. Peter was asked if the Selectboard had discussed this matter and he advised that the Zoning Administrator has been reporting to the Selectboard for some time now on what he has been doing and he provides the Selectboard with a monthly report of permits issued. Peter advised that the Zoning Administrator talks to him when he has issues and Dick responded that did not happen with the prior Selectboard. Peter pointed out that the Zoning Administrator ensures that all other permits are in place (septic and driveway) prior to issuing a building permit. Peter stated that the Selectboard would be responsible for supervising the Zoning Administrator.
Lengthy discussion was held on violators. Peter stated that the Selectboard has not really chosen to push violation enforcement. He stated that he does not really think we should pursue those cases where a mistake was made by the town. He stated if there is a clear violation, such as the snack bar, which has already been rebuilt at the lake without a permit and outside the old footprint, then we should take steps to enforce. In the case previously discussed where a permit was issued for repair and renovation and the entire camp was rebuilt outside of the original footprint, he feels the town is at fault because the prior Zoning Administrator did not go over there and check it out. The project should have been monitored and now it is several years later. Peter questioned how we can resolve these old violations. He noted that going to court was very expensive and we had a ruling that said 3 l/2 feet should be taken off a building and it has not been done yet. Peter questioned whether the town wants to spend thousands of dollars on these types of violations. It was noted that most of our violations have been footprint issues and there is case law upholding Alburgh’s zoning. Some questioned why a violator cannot be made to pay the Town’s legal fees if they are found to have violated zoning. Discussion was held on reimbursement to the Zoning Administrator for his enforcement efforts. It was noted that he is paid by permit plus mileage. Dick stated that Bob may want to review with the Selectboard his fee to make sure he is being adequately reimbursed for his time.
It has been suggested that people who build without a permit be charged a different price when they come for a permit. It was noted that Colchester charges double the normal fee. Doug Clark feels that they should be required to take it down if they build without first obtaining the proper permits. Dick agreed if we were ever going to have meaningful zoning. Bob noted there are a lot of people who think they don’t need a permit if they are agriculture and that is not true. They are required to obtain a permit (but there is no charge for the permit).
Discussion was held on issuing tickets. They are handled through traffic court and if a violation is found, fines can be levied. It was noted that failure to pay fines will result in a lien against he property which is noted in the property records. Bob pointed out that interest is charged against these unpaid fines and if let go long enough, it is possible the property can go to a tax sale the same as for unpaid property taxes. It was also noted that a lien against the property makes it difficult or impossible to sell the property. It would be picked up when any attorney does a property search and no mortgage lending company would lend money on property that has a lien against it.
Discussion was held on environmental court. Peter noted that in the past the town went to court with a couple of cases and it cost the town $5,000 to $10,000 with no satisfaction at all. He further noted that we set aside only a small amount of money for legal fees and he expects all or most of it will be used in a case that was recently brought to the environmental court.
Peter pointed out that in the past there have been permit applications that were crossed out, scribbled on, etc., and that is no longer being allowed. If an application like that is submitted, the resident is given a new form and asked to submit a clean permit application. Bill questioned if a permit requires a three dimensional drawing and was told that just a foot print drawing is required, but the number of stories, set backs and other pertinent information is noted on the application form.
Discussion was held on violations which were the result of mistakes by the various persons acting as Zoning Administrator. Discussion held on when a permit is required - should a permit be required if someone tears off a deck and builds a new one. Dick stated he doesn’t feel a permit should be required if someone pulls off a few boards and makes repairs to an existing deck, but if a deck is completely rebuilt, then a permit should be obtained.
Dick mentioned that a resident recently bought a lot behind his property which borders Route 120. He was told in error that he had to get a right-of-way to access the lot which was not necessary since the interior lot became part of the principal lot which has frontage on Route 120. It was noted that it is taxed as one lot and the interior lot became contiguous with the principal lot. If someone does not want a lot to merge, then it should be under different ownership.
Scott stated he had a couple of comments. He stated he feels that in policing, all violations should be addressed and that we should not “pick and choose” which to enforce. If you are going to police, police everything. Scott stated he feels there should be a lot more involvement by all Selectboard members and not just one or two so that they all know what is going on. Unless it is an emergency, then problems can be dealt with at the regular monthly Selectboad meeting..
Dick stated that by September, the subcommittee should have something to pass on about the ticket violation system. Bob could then satisfy himself that it is a basic violation and issue a ticket. The Planning Commission is on record asking that enforcement in the Shoreland District be placed on hold until an adequate enforcement plan is in place. It was also noted that it is hard to enforce violations when many of the violations are actually an improvement on the property, but a violation is still a violation. It was noted that fines are difficult to enforce, but the ticket system is a uniform system of fines. Doug Clark commented that he went to a meeting with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and they stated that rarely would the environmental court impose a fine and he likes the ticket system which would put a lien on the property. Traffic court out of White River Junction handles the tickets.
Discussion held on seasonal camps which are being advertised for sale as year round residences and that should not be happening. We know people are living year round in seasonal residences, but the certificates of compliance are for seasonal camp only. Septic systems need to be brought up to standards and they are working on the septic delegation now. Peter stated they are going to get somebody in to help with the paperwork and as previously noted, the fee schedule will be revised.
It was noted that tomorrow night, the ZBA will hold a hearing on the permit application for the snack bar (previously discussed) which has already been built. Bob noted there is also another application to go from seasonal to year round at the lake. This property has an acre and meets the requirements for a year round residence. They are putting an addition onto the camp and decided to ask for year round status at the same time.
Peter went over the septic delegation and possible septic fee. When asked if he feels we will get the delegation, he responded that he feels we will. He also noted there are three more towns who are applying besides Colchester and Franklin. It was noted that the biggest concern is the lake and if the State takes over there will be no control. He noted that presently Franklin goes by the 1996 standards. He stated that the new State regulations contain 20 innovative septic systems and they claim any site can be made to work is you have the money for an innovative system. It was also noted that holding tanks will now be allowed. The State will now allow people to build one bedroom homes with a septic to serve one bedroom. People who put in those systems would never be able to add onto their homes without upgrading of the septic system. Up to now, the State would not allow such systems, but they are now going to allow people to make their own mistakes - the State is no longer going to protect people from making bad decisions. It was noted that we don’t hear a lot of horror stories about failed systems. Peter noted that if a mound fails, it is usually on the top that fails and they have to take the top off and rebuild it.
Dick thanked the Selectboard and the Planning Commission will meet again with them after they get the violation material which should be in September.
Discussion was held on junk yards and one town where the entrance into the town is past a junk yard.
Doug Clark asked if the Selectboard had discussed the possibility of a DRB (Development Review Board) . He feels the Selectboard should research it and consider going to it as he feels it would be more efficient. It was noted that the Planning Commission would continue although some members might be appointed to the DRB. Peter noted that it would have to meet on a monthly basis and basically would replace the ZBA and some of the work presently done by the Planning Commission such as subdivisions.
Motion made by David/Jamie to adjourn. All members voted in favor. Meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
June 22, 2007 Barbara M. Varin
NOT: These minutes are not final until approved by the Planning Commission at its next regular meeting. THESE MINUTES WERE APPROVED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION AT THEIR JULY 17, 2007 MEETING.