01/03/2018 – PB Minutes
TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
January 3, 2018
BETHLEHEM TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM
Mike Bruno, David Rodrigues, Marie Stevenson, Johnathan Stevenson, Neil Brody, Linda Moore and Don Lavoie.
Absent: Dave Wiley
Mike Bruno opened the meeting at 6:05. He wished everyone a happy new year and explained that Dave Wiley will not be attending, and he would like to appoint Don Lavoie as an active board member.
Mike Bruno went over the ground rules including going to the microphone to speak stating their name. He explained to the public that the last time the board met for the landfill was January 25, 2017, and it went into two nights and asked that everyone have their turn to speak before they make another comment. He also asked that people not ask the same question or comment that someone else has already expressed.
Mike Bruno said there are two petitioned warrant articles on the agenda tonight and opened the public hearing for the petitioned warrant article submitted by Chris McGrath. Mike Bruno read the hearing notice and asked Chris McGrath to explain his warrant. The warrant article reads as Are you in favor of adopting an amendment to the Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance that would change the front setback in District 2 for accessory structures only. The accessory structure setback will at minimum conform to the setback of the existing structure provide the existing primary structure was built prior to the enactment of the 60 ft. minimum front setback requirement. Chris explained the warrant article and said he would like to have the setback of an existing building dictate the setback of an accessory building; for example, a garage to a house. He explained the setback for boundary lines (rear and sides) will stay the same. Chris said he brought it to the Planning Board and they recommended he do a petition warrant article. Don Lavoie asked why it wasn’t covered by the 25% non-conforming expansion in the ordinance and Chris said that is for the original structure, not accessory structures. Don asked what he is determining as accessory structure and Chris said it could be a garage or a shed for example. There were no comments from the public
Mike Bruno made a motion to support the warrant article on the ballot David Rodrigues seconded. Don Lavoie said he thinks a definition of an accessory building is necessary. There was discussion about the original warrant article when brought to the Planning Board saying outbuildings versus accessory buildings and the Planning Board got advice on wording and emailed Chris on recommended wording. It was pointed out it is a petitioned warrant article so it can’t be amended. 6-1 motion carries Don Lavoie opposed.
The hearing for McGrath warrant setbacks for district 2 closed at 6:15
Open landfill V public hearing.
Mike Bruno read the public notice for Warrant V the landfill lots 22 & 24. He then read the complete amendment. Lynda Payette, representing Believe in Bethlehem was asked to speak on the petition.
Lynda said Believe in Bethlehem (BIB) is a group who gathered 250 signatures for the petitioned warrant article. She asked the Board to recommend the warrant article. Lynda talked about residents concerned with being able to afford the increased taxes and also gave examples on how Casella has been supportive in different ways to the community. She also said she went on a tour of the landfill and saw how regulated it is. Jim Payette spoke about the last vote on the landfill in March where people believed there would be a better deal, that didn’t happen. He said he has talked with many people who voted no in anticipation of the better deal. He said closing the Bethlehem Landfill will not get Casella out of NH. He said he would like people to know what they are voting on. Peter Roy said the Planning Board should recommend this warrant article and said it conforms to the Master Plan survey that wanted more commercial development. He urged the Planning Board to vote to recommend the landfill warrant article.
Don Lavoie said he has never seen a proposal for a zoning change conditioned on Select Board approval and asked if they ran this by legal. Jim Payette said Lynda is the spokesperson for BIB but they do not have all the answers but did say an attorney was consulted. Peter Roy asked if there was something in the RSA that prevented that. Don said the Select Board does not give approval for zoning.
Chris McGrath asked Don for clarification on what he said because the warrant article has a contingency in it to protect the town. Don said last year it was the other way around saying the host community agreement wouldn’t be approved without the zoning one passing. Chris said it would still go through site plan review, state approval etc. and pointed out tonight doesn’t approve everything. Mike Bruno said he disagrees with Don because this warrant article only takes effect if the host community agreement passes by a vote of the voters. Peter Roy said it is clear and 250 people signed the warrant and it is wasting time discussing this because it will be a vote of the people.
Amy Delventhal said she thinks if there is even a remote question about the legality of the way it is presented it should be carefully looked at and perhaps rewritten so there will be no questions or loopholes. She said she also doesn’t want the Board to do something that will set a precedent with crossing the powers of the Boards.
Cheryl Jensen said accurate wording is important and if not could be open to interpretation. She asked the Board to explain the paragraphs under amendments and what they actually mean. Mike Bruno said the first paragraph is the direction of what the amendment is going to be and the second is what it will read.
Julie Seely said she shares the same concerns as Amy, Don and Cheryl and is concerned it will not be legal and binding and having no obligation on their (Casella) to follow through with a host community agreement. She also said she heard that Casella’s attorney helped with the article and said it would be irresponsible to not have the town’s attorney look at it. She said she is surprised the Board hasn’t already obtained a legal opinion. Don Lavoie said it is the law they have to put the petition on and explained that this is the first time the board has met together to have a discussion on the warrant article. He said they can decide tonight to get a legal opinion and continue the hearing. Julie asked how many cubic yards or tons would be in the 70 acres and asked why the last 10 acres lasted 10 years and the seventy will last 20 years. Mike Bruno also said they could not discuss the warrant article before tonight and asked where the 70 acres is she is referring to and said if it is not in the warrant article it shouldn’t be discussed tonight and not make assumptions. Don recommended they continue the hearing in order to get legal advice on the legality of the warrant article. There was discussion on dates for deadlines and whether they had time to continue the hearing. Linda Moore said the warrant has to be posted by January 29th so it has to be done by then. Peter said how many tons goes into the landfill may be part of site plan review but shouldn’t be part of discussion tonight. Dave Lefevre said he has supported the landfill for years and said people are doing more recycling due to the landfill. He also said spiked taxes hurts the town. Jeanne Robillard said the Board should get legal advice and also said there should be a proper presentation. Andrea Bryant said the map does not show contours, you should walk the land and see how close the river is to the landfill, plus the aquifer and said you need to double check the legal end. Don Lavoie said the definition of the zoned district is the same as last year. He asked if someone could speak to the impacts to the town. Mike Bruno warned the board that this is not Site Plan and pointed out they didn’t ask Chris McGrath those types of questions on his warrant or ask for a contour map.
Linda Moore said the Ammonoosuc River is right there and is a pristine river that is some 300 feet from the landfill and in 2007 the NH River Management designated the river as protected. Dann asked if since then have any government agency condemned the landfill from doing business there and was told no. Cliff Crosby said this town has been for many years fighting this we are not asking to vote, just asking to recommend or not recommend.
Richard Ubaldo said they are there to decide whether to recommend the zoning change or not and said Master Plan looks to that and there is an opportunity for that. They shouldn’t be discussing whether it is near a river. He said the people will vote on that.
Rita Farrell said she is surprised they are dismissing the legalese and facts behind it. She also said there should be discussion about the impact. She said she would like to know the name of the lawyer the group (BIB) used and Mike Bruno said that isn’t relevant and she could ask BIB after the meeting. She also asked if BIB had contact with Casella attorney and was told again that wasn’t relevant.
Martin Glavac said this is the same area of expansion that was discussed last year. He asked the Planning Board to consider the financial stability of the town and said the Master Plan spoke of industrial use on Trudeau Road.
Jim Payette said BIB was formed because people were frustrated that a better deal was not pursued after the vote.
There was discussion about how the town is pretty equally divided on this subject.
Carol Kerivan suggested they get their information because it is their name on the recommendation. She also said there is a group in town actively working on economic development and devoid of conversations about the landfill. She recommended the Board get a legal opinion.
Martin said there are questions about what changed from last year to this year and said there is now a customer for the industrial park. He said there is talk about Dalton being a possibility for a landfill but being at existing one is more ideal.
Kelly McCann said she is having a hard time understanding the language of the warrant article and suggested the Board get legal advice.
Cheryl Jensen said they didn’t recommend it last year because they didn’t have enough information and said she feels they don’t have enough information now either. She pointed out that NEOgas was brought up with the new proposed project and NEOgas can operate for 10 or more years without the landfill expansion. She would like to ask the same question to all board members as last year. Has anyone done business and or had financial gain from Casella? Have any of you signed this warrant article this may be a conflict of interest. Mike Bruno said he has no business with them just taking recycling there and said he did not sign the warrant. Linda Moore said she has no business with them and did not sign the warrant. Neil Brody said he has no business with them and he did not sign the warrant. David Rodrigues said he has no business with the landfill and did not sign the petition. John Stevenson said he has no business with them. Marie Stevenson has done catering for the landfill for many years and said she loves to cook and she loves to see the town come together, no personal gain from this. She said she had done volunteering with Lynda and has done volunteering in many ways since her kids were babies. Don Lavoie said he sat on Board during former agreement and Casella uses his business and pointed out, out of everyone there he probably has the most history and conflict.
Don Lavoie explained that he had been on a board that had an engineering firm do a study of all land in Grafton and Coos to determine best location for a landfill and it was determined that the landfill location in Bethlehem was the best place to put the landfill. Don said they had deemed that this is a pretty good location because it has mostly commercial neighbors, not a lot of houses, very close to the highway. He also said the town engineers said the town could not make a case that there was water contamination. From a planning point of view, he feels comfortable this is a very good sight and said it has downsides but not bad. He said decision will come down to the voters. He said the Planning Board needs to determine if this is good for the town. He said his concern is the concern of it being contingent of Select Board approval.
Don Lavoie moves to continue this hearing until January 10, 2018 at 6:00pm to consult legal counsel to see if the wording on conditions are legal, binding, and constitutional. Linda Moore second. 7 unanimous.
Richard Ubaldo asked if public testimony will be allowed at next meeting. Mike Bruno said yes.
Minutes December 13, 2018 Linda Moore motion to approve Marie Stevenson seconds
4-3 motion carries.
June Garneau would like to have 1 year review for master plan checklist sometime in February.
Mike Bruno motion to adjourn Marie Stevenson seconded 7-0 motion carries.