PLYMOUTH PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES
Town of Plymouth
December 4, 2012
The meeting of the Planning Commission opened at 07:02 pm.
The Commission unanimously approved the minutes of the November 13, 2012 meeting.
The public hearing for Application #2012-000X (___________) to _____________ was opened by the Planning Commission with the applicant, Todd Parkins present. Anne Brown recused herself because of her status as owner of a neighboring property.
The following requested interested party status: Anne Brown, Rev. Lee Crawford, Denman Scott, Margaret "Jill" Scott, Peter Bohen, and Robert Fishman as abutters and Ralph Michael as a member of the Selectboard.
Betsy Tonkin began by suggesting that the Commission consider the application incomplete and dismiss. Deficiencies included the lack of specific boundaries of the project, the lack of a map with sufficient detail, a site plan showing building locations, parking and property boundaries
Chairman Wendell Beckman stated that the Commission would go through and note the sections of the application that are incomplete.
The Commission proceeded to go through the conditional use standards:
a. A map showing the general location of the property within the Town and its relationship
to existing public roads and highways.
An aerial map is included showing the general location but there are no specific boundaries listed or sufficient detail to determine property lines.
b. A statement including the uses of adjacent property, and the names and current addresses
of all abutting owners of land and those directly across from all public highways to the
property at issue.
There is a list of abutters provided, the Commission questioned Todd as to whether the list was complete and all listed, Todd confirmed stating he notified each of the neighbors and felt that he identified in the attached letter their uses.
c. A statement and/or map sufficient to demonstrate the relationship of the proposed
development to adjacent land uses, both existing and proposed.
The Commission noted the lack of detail sufficient to inform the adjacent land owners.
d. A proposed site plan, drawn to an appropriate scale, showing the location, height,
spacing, uses, and architectural relationships of all buildings existing and proposed open
spaces, landscaping, utility lines, streets, drive-ways, off-street parking facilities, unique
or manmade features and the physical conditions of the site.
The Commission noted the lack of a site plan, no indication of boundaries in relation to neighboring properties, and no detail of existing or proposed features.
e. Quantitative data indicating the number and types of dwelling units and or other uses,
parcel size, proposed coverage of buildings, structures, roads, driveways, and parking
areas; area of proposed open space not to include roads, utilities, rights of way, parking
and loading areas or small inter-structural yards.
The Commission noted some information contained in the application but not enough detail to either inform the Commission or neighboring property owners. Todd thought the information applied to new construction only. The Commission informed him that it is required for both new and existing. Since Todd is coming after the fact, the Commission needs to see what is used for parking, paths, buildings, boundaries, etc. and the information provided is general in nature.
f. A development schedule indicating the approximate dates when construction of the
project or stages of the project is expected to begin and be completed.
Todd confirmed that no construction is anticipated at this time. The Commission noted that a statement that no new construction is anticipated was required.
g. Existing and proposed future ownership of the property involved.
Todd confirmed there is no anticipated change in ownership. As above, a statement to this effect is required.
h. In the event land development is proposed involving the condominium form of
ownership, proposed Declaration of Condominium and Condominium Association
Confirmation of the lack of condominiums is similarly needed.
i. Notwithstanding the above, the Planning Commission may require additional
documentation or information to assist in the review and evaluation of the proposal.
The Commission further referred Todd to the section 4.16.2 of the ordinance in order to submit a complete application. Additionally, several different requests were noted in the application and may require review.
Ralph Michael noted that as proposed an Act 250 permit is likely required as it is more than one acre, probably needs other environmental permits, water & wastewater permits.
The Commission noted that Plymouth is a one acre town and he wouldn't be allowed to engage in the use until both Act 250 applied for and accepted and the conditional use approved by the Planning Commission. Further, more detail about what portion of activities apply to each heading (rural enterprise, commercial activities, etc.) rather than lumping all together.
Travis Filiault asked on behalf of the applicant if separate applications for each use were required. The Commission responded that separation provides a clearer way to evaluate and apply the required criteria per use. Further the Commission noted that what is listed as going on now probably shouldn't be done.
Ralph recommended Todd obtain a project review sheet through Springfield. From a town standpoint a traffic study may be required depending on the extent of the use but without specifics there is no way to be sure.
The Commission confirmed with Todd that he understood what was required to complete the application.
Anne Brown was recognized and she suggested that in the interest of those abutters who traveled from out of town would like to provide an opportunity for comment. The Commission noted that the abutters may wish to come back when or if the application comes back before the Commission. The abutters and Todd agreed that it would be helpful to know of each's concerns.
Each of the abutters were provided an opportunity to comment for informational purposes.
Anne Brown was recognized and presented a map to show the relationship of the properties noting that she and Rev. Lee have the longest abutting line to Todd. Anne has owned the property longer than Todd and watched him develop the property. She commended him for his vision and good ideas but felt they would be more appropriate on a larger piece of property with paved road access. She was glad Todd was finally coming to the Commission as his use of the property changed from a residence with an occasional rental to larger retreats and one large wedding. This change has had an adverse impact on Anne's home due to the noise and trespassing. She has discussed these issues with Todd but they have not been eliminated. Anne stated she had Ralph Michael mark the property line last summer as she was concerned about potential liability if one of Todd's guests come onto her property. Anne noted that a conditional use permit required compatibility. She stated that outdoor education or a bed & breakfast may be compatible but a lodge, tourist home, or recreational facility would not. Anne commented on the lack of specificity of the planned use and that the objectives in the town plan would not be met nor the balance maintained between village and residential development and surrounding areas. Anne noted that home occupation may fit with limitations of impact on surrounding areas but she is concerned with the use of music and amplification based on prior instances where she could hear it coming out of Todd's barn while she was on the mower wearing ear protection. Anne stated that the application doesn't appear to meet the conditional use requirement concerning character of the area. RD10's purpose is to allow a single rural residence while maintaining the focus on residential, discouraging commercial use. The potential impact of uses proposed by Todd is not compatible. The property is located at the end of a town road, next to wilderness more than farm. Anne pointed out that another neighbor bought in that location due to the low traffic. Anne pointed out that the question is principle use of the property as it appears there are at least 3 principle uses in addition to the primary residence; rural small enterprise, lodge/tourist home, and recreational use. Anne stated that the application needs to show the principle use and doesn't think the information presented is sufficient for the Commission to make a decision.
Denman Scott was recognized for comment. He and his wife Jill (Margaret) have lived on adjoining property and had a good relationship for years. He has noticed the shift by Todd from using the property as his principle residence to use for different activities as described by Anne. Denman feels something could be worked out but has concerns with the proposal. He is concerned with the size of events noting the wedding in question was substantial in size. Prior to the wedding, the hostess asked if two or three cars could park in front of the Scott's barn. Denman responded that it was fine as long as it didn't block access to the barn. What was supposed to be 2 or three cars ended up being fifteen to twenty on a rainy day causing divots and torn up grass. Denman stated his concern about traffic related to large events on a regular bases as noted on the application. If there is a lot of traffic, especially in the summer when the Farm & Wilderness programs and tourists in the area, there may be traffic problems. Denman recounted an instance where one of Todd's renters went roaring up and down the road. Denman stated it wasn't clear how the offsite parking, carpools, and shuttles would work to limit traffic. There is no mention of where the parking would be located, if Todd had permission to use whatever facility it is, and how it would be administered. Denman stated that many of Todd's programs have been run unobtrusively but some haven't. Denman recounted the story from his tenant, Bob Deen, who rented a cabin behind the property. On Memorial Day Weekend, there was a raucus party and instances where people would come onto property in front of the cabin. Repeated stories of noise over a couple of summers, intermittent rifle shots, and other nuisances.
Denman noted the proposal stated that the property is adjacent to historic paths of Plymouth but is unsure what or where these are. He was aware of a path running from the road to Farm & Wilderness and thinks the application's suggestion that anyone in a program would be free to use those paths is not accurate as it is not Todd's land. Denman further questioned what some of the programs were as he didn't think it was clear. For instance, the tracking for specialized professional did not specify what type of tracking or professionals. Todd answered this question stating that it was search and rescue training as this is an area he is involved with currently. Denman questioned how the programs could be confined to 10 acres and stated that if the application were granted approval, the size of events needs serious consideration. Denman felt that a wedding of 200 people or more was too much stress but a group of 10-15 people for a nature program may not present a problem. Todd voiced agreement regarding the sizing of events.
Rev. Lee Crawford was recognized. Lee began her comments stating that she is Anne Brown's spouse and owns the property adjoining Todd's jointly with Anne. One of the reasons they purchased the land was for its quiet setting. Lee's most important part of the week is Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning in order to prepare for her clergy duties on Sunday. Lee discussed the wedding in particular stating that the bride to be's family stopped by to invite them to the reception. Lee asked how late the reception was going to run and how loud it was expected to be. The response was approximately midnight and it should not be too loud as it was going to be computer music. Based on this, Lee arranged for another place to stay that night if needed for quiet preparation. Because of the rain that day, Lee did not need to use the alternate accommodations but was concerned for similar occurrences in the future. She also noted another instance during Labor Day weekend with the sound of a whip snapping by Todd's guests. Lee shares the others concern for safety, noise, incursion of people on their land, parking problems, etc. Lee hopes if this type of activity was to reoccur, tighter and stricter supervision would be in place. They chose the property for a reason and hope to maintain what was purchased twenty years ago.
Peter Boehen, as Executive Director of the Farm & Wilderness Foundation was recognized. Peter stated that he had a good relationship with Todd including using his services as a contractor to build on Farm & Wilderness land. Peter's biggest concern is the road access because the two properties share access. Future plans for Farm & Wilderness include possible enlargement of the Peggy's Pond lean to's to include an encampment. This expansion would require use of the access road for emergencies. Without an accurate site plan from Todd, it is impossible for Peter to fully comment or be sure that the access road would not be blocked in any way. Peter mentioned that there are also some current property line issues with Todd but thinks they are being resolved. However, he did agree with prior commenters that the property line needs to be clearly recognized and confirm that any of Todd's guests know where the line is.
No additional comments were made and the public hearing closed. Public comments would reopen upon submission of the needed information by applicant in order to properly consider the permit.
The public hearing for Application #2012-0009 to Matthew Moran was opened relating to a setback variance for the property located at 1277 Route 100, Plymouth, Vermont. Ralph Michael presented on behalf of the applicant. Judy Michael recused herself based on Ralph's involvement.
The proposed variance is needed to meet the front setback requirement. Wendell stated he visited the property today but did not see the P posted. Jim and Ralph confirmed it was there and placed on the set of stairs going to Route 100.
No one present requested status. Gary Coger, real estate agent for the sale of the property was present but did not request status or make any comment.
Ralph stated the property was a small parcel of land on the west side of Lake Amhurst. There is a right-of-way over the adjoining property in the deed to provide access. The application is filed by Matt and John Dix. Matt will purchase the property from the current owner, John if the applications are approved. The Commission asked if the intent is to fix up the existing structure or tear down and rebuild. Ralph responded that this is a tear down situation. Ralph continued that the location is lake shore land and needs a permit for that conditional use. The existing structure is closer than 100' to the center line of Route 100. Both the variance and conditional use is needed to make the sale and property viable. The Commission asked if a state permit will be needed for the septic update. Ralph confirmed this would be needed and that the regional engineer has been on site but has not yet been presented the site plan as wished to get through the town process first. Ralph has evaluated the site and in his professional opinion it is possible to install a fully compliant system with a replacement area. There is an existing well that will be abandoned and redrilled in order to locate the septic system. These are shown on the site plan but have not been submitted to the state yet.
The property is located on map 12, lot 148, page 348 with one adjoining property owner, David Chappelear. The adjoining property is approximately 118 acres and contains the land over which the right-of-way exists. It is essentially an unimproved wood lot with a winding road to a cabin at the top. The application property is bounded on the east by the lake and Route 100 goes through the land.
The site plan provides a sketch plan of the property with the driveway shown coming from south through Chappelear's land and going up to the existing cottage. The existing structure is about to cave in and is uninhabitable. The footprint is shown with existing and proposed dimensions. There is a stone wall on the west side behind the building tight to the wall, a small, open patio/deck on the northeast corner. The idea is to remove the existing building and place a new building on the existing footprint and expand by 10' on the back side in order to make it functional for year round use. The section added would be further away from Route 100 so the setback as it currently exists would not change and would be close or in fact in compliance without a variance for the new 70' setback requirements.
The Commission asked if the patio would be removed, Ralph responded that he was unsure if any changes would be made to that area. Ralph noted that in order to have a three bedroom home would need to have a larger footprint and go to two-story rather than the existing one-story cottage likely built in the mid-50's. The existing drilled well will need to be discontinued because it is located in the middle of the lot and would be relocated on the north side of the structure. The property slopes steeply up from Route 100 with a natural terrace at the site of the existing cottage. The existing wastewater system hasn't been located but is likely on the north side near where the well will be drilled. This is permissible as the system hasn't been used for more than two years. The proposed wastewater system will contain an advance treatment system that goes to a pump station and primary leech filed.
The parking contours will be constructed with excavation to the bank as noted on the site plan.
The only setback not in compliance is the measurement from Route 100. The lot is only approximately 1.25 acres but is in RD10 district.
The driveway will provide for as much parking in the future as there is now, 3 or 4 cars.
The Commission asked if there would be excavation for the house with Ralph confirming this is
The Commission asked if the current 45' setback would continue as the same distance from the center line of Rte 100? Ralph confirmed that was the proposal. The setback from the lake side is more than 75' with the proposed additions so it would meet that requirement.
The proposed rebuild would increase one side by 10' by 36' and likely include a second floor. Ralph was not sure if the property would be used as a vacation home or full time year round but knows that Matt wants to be able to use in the summer and winter. The property is currently not in use as the electric meter was pulled long ago. Previous use was as a vacation home.
No time frame yet for construction as the start date is dependent on permitting including from the state for water/wastewater.
As for the shoreland overlay criteria, this is a preexisting small lot that doesn't meet the zoning district of RD10 acre. The minimum setback requirements under section 2.9 shoreland overlay of 75' are met as shown on the sketch plan. Natural shorecover in the 50' setback will be maintained consistent with requirements of the ordinance. The vegetative bank would remain as would the natural cover in the remaining lot area's 50' setback. No trees proposed to be cut noting that most of that is roadway. The trees on the other side of the road would remain and should be part of the conditional approval. Ralph noted that some of the area is the state's right-of-way and it looks like some recent trees were removed, likely by Comcast or the telephone company. Dix has not been working the property. The only open land is for the driveway, parking, and building, otherwise the site will remain the same.
The commission asked and confirmed that the current setback requirement is 100', the proposed new zoning is 70' so it would miss by 25'. Ralph confirmed that the new building would not practicably be able to be moved back due to the slope on one side and bank on the other. The bank is pretty unstable as is a ledge outcropping and quite rocky. The likely construction method would be to pour a concrete wall and go up to the bank.
The commission asked if the building could go left or right, Ralph responded that it might be possible but thought it was most important to remain in the footprint for the least modification. The Commission agreed to the importance of leaving in the existing footprint.
The Commission asked if someone looking from across the lake could see it with Ralph responding only difference would be if a second story was added.
Jim noted that a hedge row currently blocks the view and may continue to block site lines.
Ralph noted that across the lake is already 1000' away and would just be looking at a house similar to other background views. Unless the property can be rebuilt it would be off the tax roles.
The Commission asked if it would be less obtrusive to go back as proposed rather than other direction. Ralph confirmed this is the least obtrusive direction.
The Commission noted that another property in the area was granted a permit for construction a new garage closer to the road and more noticeable.
The Commission asked about the regarding of the driveway and the placement of the slope. Ralph stated that the driveway is left alone until the property line where the grade is raised a bit (currently flat) and filled in order to get to the parking level and separate it from the leach field.
There was a discussion regarding calculating the change in square footage in the footprint that determined the total square footage as proposed is similar to the existing combined square footage of the cottage and other buildings currently at the site.
The other information from the application was read to include information confirming the size, consistency of use, permitted use in RD10 district, the variance requested is from the front setback minimum and affords relief with the least variance from the ordinance and town plan. Each of the four criteria was addressed and confirmed in conformance.
The public hearing was closed.
The Commission deliberated on the applications by Matthew Moran, considering each of the respective requirements and criteria. Each of the application standards was met; parking was adequately addressed and noted as improved; on-site safety would be improved; landscaping and screening is compatible with others in the area with no proposed changes and an existing good buffer. The Commission considered placing the requirement to maintain the existing screening and lighting conditions. There is no impact on renewable energy, capacity of community services, character of the area, or traffic. Additional condition of approval would be a maximum square footage of the footprint of 1000 square feet.
The Commission considered whether the approval could be done. Jim noted that the cottage is not usable now so the only way to say that nothing could be done was to show there is already a significant use. As the cottage is not structurally sound, the small lot exemption would apply as already meet two of the three setbacks and the only one not met would be unchanged. The Commission noted that the site is not very visible to other residences nearby and is pretty screened.
Karen made a motion and Anne seconded to approve the conditional use application with the conditions of a maximum footprint of 1000 square feet, lighting in compliance with the section 3.15 exterior lighting requirements, and maintenance of the screening vegetation. The Commission approved unanimously.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment considered the variance application for a 45' front setback that should be 100' under the current ordinance. Karen made the motion and Anne seconded to approve the variance for a 45' front setback. The ZBA approved unanimously.
The Commission moved on to other business.
Wendell informed of receipt of notice from the state of Act 250 changes to the Catamount trail. A discussion of the area involved (part in Plymouth in the Dam Road area) and proposed changes. No member of the Commission requested action or volunteered to participate in the state's activities.
Wendell informed of contact from Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission regarding a request to meet with the Commission to discuss or consult on local planning, regional, and state issues. Two Rivers is attempting to meet with each town and talk to the respective planning commissions between now and June 2013. It was agreed that Wendell would contact Two Rivers to schedule an appropriate time.
The meeting ADJOURNED, without opposition, at 09:01 pm.
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