TOWN OF BROOKFIELD
Held by Zoom
11 January 2021 at 6:30 PM
Those present: John Benson, Chair; (telephone conferencing) Dennis LaRocque, Board Member; Jeff Kimmel, Board Member; Kasey Peterson, Assistant Town Clerk; Tim Higgins, Road Crew Foreman, Betty Lord, Secretary; Jim Merriam, Kevin and Marie Dunwoody, Jose´ Luzardo, Gwynn Zakov (Brookfield Planning Commission Chair), Timothy Kirsher, Chris LaPointe, Scott Brock, Shawn Krisch, Wayne Fontanella, Will White, Zoe Newmarco, Jon Binhammer, Nancy Jacques, Don Dobeck, and Wayne Meginnes.
A. Call to Order: The meeting was called to order by Chair John Benson at 6:41 p.m.
B. Adjustments to the Agenda
Mr. Benson acknowledged there were quite a number of people present who wished to speak to the Solar installation issue, as well as to the zoning requests, and the agenda was adjusted accordingly.
Sprague Sand Pit: Chris LaPointe asked for a clarification of where the Sprague sand pit is located. Mr. Benson stated the site is along Route 14, on the west side of the valley across from the Woodruff residence. Mr. Benson further stated the Town needed a source for winter sand as the source that is presently being used is only adequate for perhaps one more year. If terms can be reached with the Spragues, indications are the new site could be used for 15 to 20 years. As the sand is taken, the topsoil would be replaced on the site making the land available for agricultural use again.
Solar Array: Mr. Benson explained that Mr. Merriam of Norwich Solar Technologies attended the last Board meeting by Zoom to ask that the Chair of the Board, along with the Chair of the Planning Commission, sign a letter to the Public Service Board of Vermont in which the proposed site for a solar array on the old Smith Farm (on the Ridge Road), presently owned by Sprague Farms, be “deemed preferred.” Questions ensued by members of the community and especially those who own properties that abut the proposed project land.
Mr. Merriam was informed that at least four landowners whose properties abut the Sprague land have not been notified of the proposed plan. It was also pointed out that solar arrays should not affect historic sites and the land to be used abuts the property of the Marvin Newton House, owned and operated by the Brookfield Historical Society, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
It was also pointed out that in 2017 the Two Rivers-Ottaquechee Regional Commission prepared an Energy Plans Packet with a map of potential solar sites and the property in question did not appear on that map for the Town of Brookfield.
There was some question of whether or not approving the property as a “deemed preferred site” would be binding for the Town, or whether changes could be made subsequently, such as a vote “no” on the project, after these letters had been submitted.
Kevin and Marie Dunwoody expressed concerns as owners of property which would abut the solar array; i.e., the effect on property values, the land has been designated for residential and agricultural use, and with the panels being 10 feet high the array will be seen from the road and a deterrent to the view and the beauty of the landscape. Mr. Dunwoody further commented the project would “benefit a few people and affect many people.”
When asked about the need to have the letters to the Public Service Board by February 2, Mr. Merriam explained that new guidelines would go into effect on all applications filed after that date, so that the fee for filing a full application would increase by 15%. Up until February 2, the cost of filling a complete application is $30,000. These points will be further discussed on January 12 at 7:00 p.m. at the Planning Commission Meeting.
Zoning Requests: Mr. Kimmel stated there were three cases awaiting decisions on requests for variances: (1) Mr. Krisch is requesting a variance on a three-acre lot to build a camp. The minimum required acreage in that zoning district is five acres; (2) Mr. Schmechel is requesting the building of a handicap access ramp from a porch that will be 25 ft from the road instead of the required 65 ft, and (3) Mr. Brock is requesting to build a shed which will be less than the minimum 50 ft from the property boundary.
Discussion ensued in which a request was made that a better process be put into place to handle these variance requests in a timely manner and that the names and email addresses of the members of the Selectboard, Board of Adjustment, and the Planning Commission be put on the Town website so that if there is no response from one member, another member could be contacted.
Mr. LaRocque made a motion to consider the three requests for variances to be deemed approved due to the amount of time that had transpired since the requests were made. Mr. Kimmel seconded the motion.
The question arose as to whether the Selectboard had the authority to move that the request be “deemed approved.” After discussion, Mr. LaRocque withdrew his motion and the Board will refer this issue to the Town’s attorney for further information.
C. PUBLIC COMMENT: See above.
1. Gravel Pit: Mr. Higgins, Road Foreman, said the southern bridge across from the Woodruff driveway would be the best of two bridges to use to get into the gravel pit. He stated it would need to be widened and reinforced by another piece of steel.
Mr. Benson asked Mr. Higgins to give him further information about what the costs would be for buying sand on the open market. Mr. Higgins said that the Hebert operation would charge $6.00 a yard if the Town does the hauling. Mr. Higgins was also asked to call other vendors to get additional comparative pricing.
Mr. Higgins reported that Mr. Larry Brassard had contacted him about a post that had been knocked down in front of his house. The Town installed a new post off the travel way. Said post has now been moved into the travel way. Mrs. Peterson was asked to send a letter to Mr. Brassard asking him to move the post back out of the travel way. A copy of the letter is to be sent to the Town’s attorney.
With regard to people clearing snow out onto the road, Mr Kimmel will contact the Town’s attorney about the issue and Mr. Higgins will contact VTrans to see what action can be taken by the Town.
Mr. Higgins stated that a road signs inventory had been taken at the Town Garage. He has also talked with someone at WorkSafe about ordering Weight Limit signs for Northfield Road.
2. Certificate of Highway Mileage: Mr. Kimmel will review and confer with Mr. Higgins. Initial conclusion is that no changes have been made to road classifications during the past year.
E. NEW BUSINESS
1. Zoning requests: See above.
F. OLD BUSINESS
1. Solar Project: See above.
2. Budget and Town Meeting: Mr. Benson reported that he had updated the budget with all information received and had sent a copy to the Selectboard members.
There has been no final action yet by the legislature giving towns the option of changing the date of their Town Meetings to a later time in the year due to COVID-19 concerns. If permitted, Brookfield’s Town Meeting could potentially be moved to sometime in May.
Mr. Benson made a motion to hire Harmony Electric for $1,900 to upgrade the lighting in the Town Clerk’s office. Mr. Kimmel seconded and the motion was carried unanimously: 3-0-0. Mrs. Peterson will contact Harmony Electric to schedule the work.
G. APPROVE MINUTES OF 28 DECEMBER MEETING
Mr. Kimmel made a motion to accept the minutes as presented. Mr. Benson seconded the motion, which carried unanimously: 3-0-0.
H. PAYROLL AND AP WARRANTS
Mr. LaRocque made a motion to accept the accounts payable/warrants in the amount of $16,131.43 with the largest amount being paid to Conniff’s Custom Builders in the amount of $9,000. Mr. Kimmel seconded the motion, which carried unanimously: 3-0-0.
I. OTHER BUSINESS
Mr. Richard Cox notified the Board that he would be doing a heavy cut.
There being no further business to come before the Board, Mr. LaRocque made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Kimmel seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved (3-0-0) and the meeting was adjourned at 9:18 p.m.