August 27, 2014, PC meeting minutes – draft

September 1, 2014


Planning Commission with Zoning Board of Adjustment

August 27, 2014 Meeting Minutes – Draft


Planning Commission Members Present: George (Terry) Delano, Doug Patterson, Sandra O’Flaherty and Sandy Gregg

Planning Commission Members Absent: David Roy

Zoning Board of Adjustment members present: Gwen Hobbs, Paula Delano, Steven Nedde, Courtland Perry, Alayne Rabow and George Rice (7:04PM)

Zoning Board of Adjustment members recused for hearing: Timothy Maxham and Jim Baker

Staff Present: Mitchel Cypes

Others present per sign in sheet: Kelly Cota, Tim Cota, Jody Ameden, Tim Maxham, Den Durant, Jim Baker, Kathleen Swanson, David Smail Jeff Sikora and Ruth Wallman.

6:00PM: Prior to the hearing, there was a site meeting at 15 Ferry Road. Those in attendance included Court Perry, Paula Delano, Doug Patterson, Sandy Gregg, Terry Delano, Jay Buermann, Jody Ameden, Kelly Cota, Tim Cota, Gwen Hobbs, Steve Nedde, Janet Murray, Tim Maxham, Mitchel Cypes, Jeff Sikora, Sandra O’Flaherty and Wayne Poquette.

7:00PM: Call to order for the hearing by Gwen Hobbs. Introductions of the Board members was provided.

7:00PM: Additions or Deletions to the Agenda were solicited. None were requested.

7:00PM: Continuance from August 6, 2014; FR015-15-01B, Cota Family Trust, Planned Unit Development for 9 Conditional Uses on one property and Site Plan Review for Proposed 9-Unit Planned Unit Development on a 9.98 acre property. Proposed Uses of Propane Distribution Center, Propane Professional Offices, Wood Pellet Storage, Empty LP Tank Storage, Firewood Processing Facility, Mulch & Salt & Sand Storage, Professional Office, and 2 Restaurants.

Gwen Hobbs swore in the Applicants and members of the Public. Jody Ameden was introduced. She is a trained engineer experienced with propane design, use and construction. Jay Buermann presented an email letter from State Archeologist stating that the development is in an area that was not archaeologically sensitive.

7:05PM: A motion to accept as evidence, exhibit #4, the email letter of 8/21/14 from State Archeologist Scott Dillon, was made by Doug Patterson, seconded by Sandy Gregg and approved unanimously.

Upon Jay Buermann’s request the Planning Commission stated they did not have sufficient information to make any decisions per Section 305.

Jay Buermann discussed the proposed site access road, which he stated was located where AOT recommended the road should be, conforms to State standard B-71 and the subbase of the proposed road in areas with trucks traffic as shown in details on sheet 6 is designed to accommodate WB-50 trucks, which often weigh as much as 40-tons. He stated that trucks using the restaurant can use the hammerhead turn before the gate to turn around and leave.

The Applicants clarified that since the wood processing area does not remove the agricultural soil, it is not considered as affecting future use of the area for agriculture.

The Boards and the Applicants discusses outdoor lighting, landscaping and how the buildings are going to look. The landscape plan submitted in the prior hearing was reviewed and discussed without comment. The Boards requested more information on the exterior of the buildings. Jeff Sikora stated that the rear buildings, which will not be easily visible to the road, would have metal roofs, and the buildings outside the fence (1 through 3, 5 and 6), which are more visible from the road, will be faced with wood, masonry or wood look alike. The Commission raised the concern that the rear buildings will be visible to Ferry Road prior to the construction of the buildings closer to Ferry Road.

The Commission stated that any building the Applicants wished to have approved would require an elevation to be submitted. The Applicants will be required to receive approval for the commercial buildings and uses not submitted in this application at a future hearing.

Jeff Sikora stated that historically there was a time when planners thought it would be a good idea for parking areas to be located behind a building to make areas more pleasing to view from the road. Sikora stated that the result was a lot of failed businesses because the Public is more likely to stop at a business if they see other vehicles parked at a business. The proposed parking areas for buildings 1 and 2 will be set back from the road and screened with landscaping.

The Planning Commission stated that their opinion is that the development concept was good, but the development was just too crowded and such a review is a requirement of the Planned Unit Development regulations. Possible solutions that were suggested included combining lots 1 and 2, reducing the number of proposed uses and buildings to 8 and doing a boundary adjustment where 2 acres of land on lot 1 is transferred to lot 2. Mr. Cota stated he was willing to eliminate building and use #4, the wood pellet storage area and place that part of the business with a reduced firewood processing facility. Regarding a boundary adjustment or lot combination, Mr. Cota expressed concerns of how this would affect how the properties were taxed. The Boards encourage Mr. Cota to discuss this question with the Listers.

The Boards thanked the Applicants for the good staking and presentation at the site visit.

Public Comment:

Jim Baker expressed his concerns regarding fire safety, how this development could reduce tourism in the Town, that his house would be considered in the blast zone, that there is no safety plan, the development changes the area to an industrial area, that the South Hero Fire Department will not be able to adequately respond to an emergency at this development and that citizens in the Town have a lock of say as to what happens in the Town.

In response to Jim Baker’s comments, Jody Ameden testified that there is an ongoing plan working with the South Hero Fire Department providing data and training. She explained that the initial plan provided by the fire department to her had incorrect data and they are working to refine the data in the plan. These plans include a fire safety analysis, an operation and maintenance plan and an emergency plan, which is done with the fire department. Jay Buermann stated that the Applicants sent plans to the Fire Department at the end of April and discussed these plans with them in July. The Applicants testified that the State Fire Marshall in Williston will provide the final approval of the plan. The Boards added that a common condition of approval is that the applicant is required to obtain any other required State and Federal approvals. A noted on the findings of facts could be added that mentions this required State approval.

Tim Maxham suggested that Mr. Cota not make a quick decision and should consider a boundary adjustment. Also he wanted to see a larger separation between building 6 and 7.

Kathleen Swanson expressed concern of a lack of enforcement in the Town, that the wastewater capacity and ability of Route 314 to accommodate additional traffic were not adequate.

Members of the Zoning Board expressed concern regarding the sale of propane at Mr. Cota’s current business properties, which was not part of his prior approvals and could be an indication as to whether he will conform to a decision on this property. Tim Cota stated that he has a 500-gallon propane pump station at his store and believed he did not need a permit for it from the State and Town.

Tim Cota stated that he would like to construct Buildings 5 and 6, which are the show room office and distribution buildings this year. Also that the construction for this year would include the roads, utilities and most if not all the parking areas. The Planning Commission stated the need for elevations of the buildings they are seeking the Boards to approve. The Applicants stated that they will bring elevations for buildings 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 at the next meeting. They also stated that the State permits would include building 4, which they have removed from the Town application and are aware that they would need to modify their Town approval, should they ever wish to build building 4.

8:23PM A motion to accept as evidence the map provided at the site visit, exhibit #5, was made by Sandy Gregg, seconded by Steve Nedde, and approved unanimously.

Jay Buermann listed the remaining items that need to be submitted, which include moving the buildings or fence out of the secure area, remove wood pellet building 4, change fire wood hours of business, add the 3 truck bays north side east end of building 5, show the extend pavement, provided the building elevations to be approved in this application and move building 7 to the south.

8:36PM: A motion to recess the hearing to September 3 @ 7:30PM at the Town Offices was made by Terry Delano, seconded by Alayne Rabow and approved unanimously.

8:37PM: Tim Maxham rejoined the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

8:38PM: Public Input – Ben Durant, who recently purchased a farm located at 20 East Shore Road asked for an opinion of the Boards, would they consider the proposed use of the property as agricultural. On the current agricultural property they want to plant vines that will grow grapes for wine. The vines will not grow grapes for 3 to 4 years. In an existing barn, which they will refurbish but not enlarge, they would like to place wine making equipment and process grapes from other properties and from the same property years from now, when the vines on the property produce grapes. A Vermont Agency of Agriculture comment was provided stating that a wine making facility was not an exempt agricultural activity because $1000 worth of crop from that property was not being used in the wine making equipment. Some members of the Boards stated that the Agency of Agriculture was not a regulatory agency and only provided opinions. After some discussion, the Boards stated the opinion that this proposed use was agricultural. Mr. Durant request a letter reflecting this opinion, which Staff will draft, and which Terry Delano has agreed to review.

8:58PM: Administrative Officer’s Report included the following:

  • An additional response from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture regarding agricultural exemption was discussed.
  • Some potential violations in the Town and plans for code enforcement were discussed.
  • The Selectboard authorized an advertisement for ZBA members. Terms end in October.
  • The Selectboard has a 5th Monday meeting scheduled in September.  Tim Maxham encouraged the PC and ZBA to set the agenda for the Selectboard.
  • It appears that the Town owns the “Welcome to South Hero” sign and can move it.
  • The Selectboard stated that the Featherbed Lane homeowners association has to purchase a road sign, which can include a private road portion.  The new standardized signs being placed were discussed and whether the new signs are purchased from the Town Highway Department.
  • It was noted that there were now several fans in the meeting room.

Sandy Gregg informed the Boards that Mr. Lavin ended the original contract to purchase the 100 acre property and now is offering to sell the front 30-acres for $377,000. Sandy Gregg stated that the Lavin Property Working Group brought Vermont Electric Companies solar panel opportunity to the property.

9:40PM: A motion was made to approve the Minutes for August 20, 2014 by Sandy Gregg, seconded by Terry Delano and approved unanimously.

9:45PM: A motion to adjourn the meeting was made by Sandra O’Flaherty, seconded by Terry Delano and approved unanimously.

Respectfully submitted by Mitchel Cypes, Administrative Officer.


For Planning Commission

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