Town of Halifax, Vermont
May 10, 2011
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:02 PM. Members in attendance were Howard Alboum, Norman Fajans, Sirean LaFlamme, and Bradley Rafus. Brian McNeice arrived at 7:33. D. Christopher Estep and William Pusey were absent. Others in attendance were Orrin W. Isles, Darryl Morin, Robin Stern, David Christie, Cara Cheyette, Joan LaFogg, Peter LaFogg, Michael Drummey, Rick Gay, Melvin Osborne, Mary Thome, Earl Holtz, Vincent Labozzetta, Catherine L. Davis, Margo Avakian, and Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Public Hearing – LaFogg Subdivision
The Chair advised that three of the commissioners were absent, but that a quorum of four (4) was present so they could conduct the hearing. He opened the public hearing and explained the procedure for conducting same, and asked if there was any member of the commission who should recuse him/her self from this proceeding and if so to state the reason why.
Mrs. LaFlamme advised she needed to recuse herself due to a conflict of interest.
Mr. Alboum advised that this recusal resulted in a lack of a quorum and gave him no recourse except to open and continue the public hearing to the meeting of June 14, 2011, at 700 PM.
Robin Stern, Esquire, representing an abutter as a point of order that “you can hold a hearing and you can continue it, you don’t have to take a vote, and, I presume these hearings are taped, and someone can listen to and you can reopen it”. Mr. Alboum advised he can not hold the hearing as they do not have a quorum with Mrs. LaFlamme recusing herself from participating. Ms. Stern advised she thought there was a quorum when she suggested they could conduct the hearing. She advised that in this situation her client had flown in from California for this proceeding, and as it had been noticed in advance it would have been courteous for Mrs. LaFlamme to have notified in advance that she could not participate. Ms. Stern suggested that there is a quorum and as the meeting is taped they should hear testimony and continue the hearing, allowing the absent members to listen to the tape and participate at the continuation. Mr. Alboum advised there is a quorum for the meeting, however the public hearing is separate and with the recusal they do not have a quorum for that purpose. He further advised that he had no advance notice that the absent members would not be able to attend. Mr. Gay advised that “if they don’t show up they shouldn’t be on the board this is ridiculous someone flew in from California for this.” In response to the insistence of Ms. Stern and the abutters, Mr. Fajans contacted Mr. McNeice and determined that he would be able to attend this hearing later in the evening. Mr. Alboum advised they would continue the hearing until such time as the fourth commission arrived, thus giving them a quorum.
Mr. Alboum recessed the public hearing and advised that they would proceed with other items on the agenda and the he would continue the public hearing when Mr. McNeice arrived.
At 7:09 Mr. Alboum opened the regular meeting.
Approval of Minutes
Ms. LaFlamme moved to approve the minutes of the April 12, 2011 meeting as written.
Mr. Rafus seconded the motion which carried 4-0.
Ø Mr. Alboum asked Mr. Gay for an update regarding any pending zoning issues the Commission may need to deal with. Mr. Gay advised there were no applications pending at this time.
Ø Michael Drummey was in attendance to give an informal presentation of the proposed subdivision of his property on Hall Road. He showed the Board the survey plat and advised that he proposes to divide the 28+/- acres on the westerly side of Hall Road into two lots, 18.07+/- acres and 10.05+/- acres. The road in this area is a Class 4 road.
He advised he already had an engineered water/wastewater plan and the state permits. He further advised that it had not yet been determined from which end of Hall Road the driveway access would be. Mr. Drummey advised he was “extremely pleased with the swiftness and the level of concern and attention that the people who I approached to help me with this provided.”
The Board agreed that there did not seem to be a need for a site visit.
The Public Hearing on his application will be on May 19th.
Ø Mr. Alboum advised while they are waiting for Mr. McNeice to arrive they might have time to touch on the subdivision regulations they are reviewing. He advised that before the meeting he had been conversing with Ms. Stern and mentioned they were looking at consolidating the rules for subdivisions. He asked her to explain to the Board what she had mentioned regarding one-acre towns versus ten-acre towns. She gave a brief summary and advised that Attorney Fisher is knowledgeable about this as well as the Windham Regional Commission. Mr. Fajans advised that they do not plan on changing the rules, but as the requirements are scattered throughout the zoning regulations, they would like to develop a document that pulls all of the pertinent regulations together for ease of understanding and implementation.
After a short general discussion Mr. McNeice arrived and the commissioners prepared to review the LaFogg Subdivision application.
At 7:33 PM Mr. Alboum opened the Public Hearing.
Mr. LaFogg gave a summary of the proposal. He showed the final plat and explained where the lot would be split. He advised that there would be no further subdivision, and the access would be by a deeded right of way, which is also dependent upon approval by the Planning Commission. The plat shows the right of way as Cody Lane which he advised he would call it. He advised he had been told that he needed to name the right of way and this was the name he picked if he needed to have a name.
Several conversations seemed to be going on at the same time, but the general feeling of the interested parties was that because there were not 500+ feet of frontage for the subject lot, there could not be a subdivision of that lot. Mr. Fajans suggested that he would like to hear any further information and comments that the LaFoggs would like to offer, then hear any additional comments from the interested parties, and then close the hearing and the commissioners could deliberate, in closed session.
Mr. Alboum asked that everyone return to their seats and they would proceed.
Mrs. LaFogg advised that as the property exists now there are fifty feet of road frontage on Old County Road. When the proposed right of way is approved, the required 500 foot frontage for each lot is measured along the approved right of way.
Ms. Stern asked if she was saying that the length of the right of way was to be counted to meet the frontage requirement. Mrs. LaFogg replied that it was.
Mr. Christie argued that because the proposed Cody Lane cannot be considered for development because the statement in the zoning regulations only permits private lanes in existence in 2007 when the regulations were adopted, it doesn’t include new lanes. He advised that it would be a poor precedent to set. He advised that approving this would open the door for everyone with 50 feet of frontage to subdivide anywhere in town.
Mrs. LaFogg advised that as the lot exists there is no need for an easement. The easement would only serve the second lot. There is wording in the zoning that an easement would serve another lot, in this case the second lot.
Mr. Christie advised he thought the term right of way is used in many instances and really in this instance only means access. Therefore he feels that Mr. LaFogg has used this exception already in order to build his dwelling. He thinks that if anyone wanted to build a house today and didn’t have the required frontage they would have to seek approval from the Planning Commission for a deeded right of way across their own property in order to build a house.
Mr. Fajans advised that the lot was a pre-existing non-conforming lot of record so that he was able to develop it.
Ms. Stern advised that before the hearing ended she wanted to disclose that in the past she has represented Mr. McNeice in legal matters. She wanted to be sure they were aware of it.
The following abutters stated that they wanted to maintain their rights to appeal and each made a statement of concern.
Ms. Stern advised she would put together a summary of the zoning sections that the abutters feel apply and forward it to the commission in the next couple of days. She feels it would be helpful for them to have while reviewing and deliberating.
With no other comments forthcoming the hearing was closed at 8:09 PM.
Mr. Alboum asked the secretary to explain the process from this point on. Written findings will be produced after they have reached their decision. They have 45 days in which to complete and sign the findings. Copies will be sent by certified mail to the applicants and by first class mail to all interested parties (those who participated). If anyone wishes to appeal the decision they have 30 days from the date the findings were signed to appeal to the Environmental Court.
Mr. Alboum advised they would seriously consider all of the testimony presented this evening.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:17 PM. And the commissioners invited the secretary to accompany them into deliberative session.
Phyllis H. Evanuk