TOWN OF PELHAM
PLANNING BOARD MEETING
The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:30 pm.
The Clerk called the roll:
PRESENT: Jeff Gowan, Paddy Culbert, John CaraDonna, Michael Soby, Alternate Henry DeLuca, Selectmen’s Representative Greg Farris, Planning Director Vincent Messina
ABSENT: Roger Montbleau, Clark Harris, Alternate Peter Fisher, Alternate Carl Huether
August 2, 1999
MOTION: (CaraDonna/Soby) To accept the minutes of the August 2, 1999 board meeting as read.
VOTE: 4 – 0 – 1 with Mr. Farris abstaining. The motion carries.
Mr. Gowan feels that cul de sacs have been an issue of contention with the board members. He suggested that the board begin discussions relative to this issue this evening and work toward either sticking with the current regulations or change them. He stated that the board continually waives the cul de sac length regulation. Mr. Gowan stated that Fire Chief E. David Fisher is present this evening to give his input on this matter.
Mr. Farris does not believe that he has seen one plan come before the board that does not request a waiver to the cul de sac regulation of 560 ft. He would like to see an eventual connection and time frame for this connection to an adjoining property. This would put the onus on the developer to approach the abutter and secure an idea for future connections. Mr. Farris agrees that sometimes cul de sacs are nice, quiet areas to live in. He questioned how the board would change the regulation to if they decide to do so. Mr. Farris suggested that the board come up with an alternative to what is presently in the regulations. He feels that the board continues to create roads that go nowhere. Mr. Farris would like to hear what the Fire Chief has to say about this issue.
Mr. Messina referred to Mr. Harris’ letter to the board regarding cul de sac length. Mr. Harris believes that if the board allows an 800 ft. cul de sac, they would come close to the ten lot limit with five houses on each side of the roadway. This 800 ft. would include the cul de sac length. Mr. Harris recommends that the board allow for 760 ft. to the beginning of the cul de sac then allow for a 40 ft. extension for the cul de sac. This will allow the developer and the engineer some flexibility with the frontage in order to achieve ten 1ots and to avoid pie shaped lots at the end of the roadway. Mr. Messina explained that by establishing a new baseline, the board could resolve some of the past problems of continually waiving the cul de sac regulation.
Mr. Soby referred to the design standards relative to street layout outlined in the Master Plan. He feels that the board needs to have “smart development” of these new subdivisions and create better street layouts.
Mr. CaraDonna stated that he has three individual issues regarding cul de sac lengths. He believes that the first issue is the length. Mr. CaraDonna takes issue with the permanent cul de sac versus a temporary cul de sac. A temporary cul de sac usually indicates a right of way. He believes that this temporary cul de sac is occasionally utilized as a “loop hole” to get around the subdivision regulations. Mr. CaraDonna would like to see this loop hole closed by removing the word “permanent” from cul de sac.
Mr. Culbert stated that approximately six years ago, the board began requesting “conceptual plans” from developers. This allowed for applicants to develop in phases. Mr. Gowan stated that the Master Plan does call out that the roads should be interconnected. He feels that there are situations where the phased approach is utilized by a developer and a temporary cul de sac with a right of way is good planning on the board’s part.
Mr. CaraDonna is not suggesting that the board disregard the utilization of right of ways but that the road not be extended until it shows that it can be made interconnecting. He feels that the board must promote interconnecting roadways. Mr. Culbert pointed out that any road that exceeded 560 ft. had to have a waiver granted by the board. Mr. CaraDonna suggested that whatever figure the board decides on, they not continue to waiver it. Mr. Culbert cautioned against preventing a landowner from continuing future development of his property.
Mr. Farris suggested that the developer be required to show the ability to provide a connecting road when they return for phase 2 of a proposed subdivision. He agrees with Mr. CaraDonna that this loop hole should be closed. Mr. Farris feels that this will force a developer to “think creatively”.
(Mr. DeLuca joined the meeting at 8:00 pm)
Mr. CaraDonna referred to “cascading cul de sacs”, specifically Shelly Drive and the Buonarosa subdivision. He feels that this issue needs to be addressed by the board. Mr. Culbert feels that the board should create a list of parameters versus a specific length.
Fire Chief E. David Fisher appeared before the board. Chief Fisher stated that the Planning Board is working well with the fire department relative to connecting roads. He referred to current guidelines relative to cisterns and noted that these seem to be working fine and are well constructed. These cisterns have alleviated the problem of water storage in the new subdivisions.
Chief Fisher expressed concern that the board try to provide two means of egress for emergency access to any new subdivisions. Lately, he has been seeing cul de sacs that connect to another cul de sac, etc. He is not so much concerned with the length of the road but the population that must be protected. Response time can be reduced with more than one access to the development. Chief Fisher referred to Sawmill Road and Debbie Drive. He requested that the board consider where these roads will go in the future and that they attempt to secure some means of alternate egress. Chief Fisher pointed out that occasionally phase 2 of a project does not get done or is completed five years later from the other end of the development. He feels that there needs to be two ways in and out whenever possible.
Mr. Farris suggested that the board consider 20 ft. unpaved fire lanes to allow for access between neighborhoods. Chief Fisher felt that this would be better than nothing but it could be difficult to navigate in the winter if not maintained.
Chief Fisher further requested that any new street names be reviewed by the Street Naming Committee prior to a plan being recorded. Mr. Culbert suggested that this be made part of the Subdivision Application Checklist. Chief Fisher further noted that proper house numbering is very important in order for emergency personnel to respond.
Mr. CaraDonna asked if there were any building height that the Fire Department could not service. Chief Fisher explained that a two story building plus roof is basically what they can handle. Anything above that would be difficult for the Fire Department to handle. They would typically call in a ladder truck to assist.
Mr. CaraDonna asked for clarification on the Chief’s statement relative to cul de sac length versus population. Chief Fisher explained that the more people you have living in a particular area, the higher the probability of emergencies.
Granite Curbing Update
Mr. Culbert reported that after much public input, the Granite Curbing Subcommittee has reached a consensus. They recommend that the board return to the original subdivision regulation language with an additional design cross section.
Mr. Culbert stated that he had contacted the towns of Tyngsboro, Tewksbury, Chelmsford, Dracut and Andover regarding this issue. All of these towns have granite curbing requirements. They main reason is for aesthetics and no problems have been reported with broken snow plow blades. The Subcommittee spoke with Don Foss, the Road Agent. Mr. Foss spoke against granite curbing and noted that cape cod curbing has never been a problem.
Mr. Culbert explained that the committee members questioned the granite curbing requirement with no sidewalks and no slope. There was also input from the developers.
Mr. Farris asked if the developers objected to the granite curbing requirement because of the cost. Mr. Culbert felt that they objected because of cost. They also felt that the granite curbing did not increase the cost of the home therefore there is no tax value being added.
Mr. CaraDonna accepts the findings of the subcommittee but requested that an “exception” be made and sidewalks with granite curbing be required within one mile of a school or church. He feels that granite curbing is more permanent than cape cod berm in this case. Mr. CaraDonna suggested that the board also consider requiring granite curbing in the town center area. Mr. Gowan agreed but feels that the town center would have to be clearly defined.
Mr. Culbert read aloud the proposed language relative to curbing as follows (Section 12 – Design Standards):
“Curbing is required lining for both sides of all streets where grades are in excess of 4% and the roadway is to conform to the town’s typical cross section with curb. Note: Typical cross section with curb located at the end of this chapter.”
There was no public input.
The Chairman announced that Mr. DeLuca would be voting for Mr. Harris.
Mr. CaraDonna asked if the board could come to a consensus relative to requiring granite curbing in the “village area” as well as sidewalks. Mr. Farris asked for clarification on what constitutes “village area” before calling for a consensus. Mr. Gowan feels that the board needs to clearly define was the “village area” or town center is.
MOTION: (CaraDonna/Soby) To accept for consideration the subcommittee’s proposal as read aloud by Mr. Culbert.
Mr. Messina noted that the typical road cross section is being modified. Samples have been received of the berm and the road and will be available for the board’s review at their next working session.
VOTE: 6 – 0 – 0 The motion carries.
Compatibility Guidelines – Cynthia May, NRPC
Ms. Cynthia May, NRPC, appeared before the board to discuss the proposed compatibility guidelines. Ms. May explained that the NRPC, through a grant from the Office of State Planning, is working with Pelham to put together architectural guidelines for the Route 38 corridor and business section. It is intended to address issues of how development occurs for business and industry in that area.
Mr. Gowan suggested that the title be changed to “Architectural Compatibility Guidelines for Non-Residential Development in Pelham, New Hampshire”. Ms. May agreed.
Mr. Farris suggested that this draft document be put on the web to allow for maximum input from the public. Mr. Soby reminded the audience that this draft document is available downstairs in the Planning Department. Mr. Culbert recommended that the document be read aloud at some point to include all viewers in the process.
Mr. Gowan read aloud Pages 1 to 7 of the draft document and noted his recommended language changes.
Ms. May suggested that the following be added to the second paragraph on Page One: “They can be used as a tool to graphically convey Pelham’s desired development.”
Mr. Gowan explained that this document is an “advisory guideline”. He suggested that a separate sub-committee be set up to compare this draft document to the current zoning and site regulations. The committee would determine where specific language should be placed.
Mr. Gowan suggested that a glossary of terms be created to define certain words utilized throughout the document.
Mr. Farris stated that with the proposed build out of Stiles Road in Salem, the upper portion of Route 38 becomes even more commercially viable land. He feels that these guidelines could attract developers to town. Mr. Farris noted that developers look to the zoning regulations to protect their businesses and investments. Mr. Gowan believes that the board must “beef up” their subdivision and site regulations prior to “tuning up” the zoning.
Mr. Farris referred to Page 1 – Fundamental Design Elements and suggested that “front yard setback” be changed to “front setback”.
Mr. Farris referred to Page 7 – Building Design Guidelines and suggested that “Business structures should not be less than 1 ½ stories high, and no more than 28 ft. high.” Mr. CaraDonna suggested that the board maintain 30 ft. high until an appropriate sized ladder truck is in place. Mr. Culbert pointed out that most new buildings are equipped with sprinkler systems.
Mr. CaraDonna referred to Page 12 –first bulleted paragraph. He suggested that the language reflect a “maximum” peak parking demand versus the minimum. Ms. May agreed and noted that the board also needs to look at every opportunity to share parking. Mr. Farris asked if the shared parking arrangement would be based on knowing the type of business going in or anticipating the type of business. Ms. May stated that the board could request a full build out of the parcel from the developer or a phased parking plan.
Mr. Gowan referred to Page 17 – Preservation of Existing Features and suggested that the second bulleted paragraph be as follows: “Existing healthy trees (6” caliper or greater) should be retained as practical and incorporated into the overall landscape plan.”
Mr. Gowan referred to the section on Signage. He believes that the current signage ordinance is quite good. Mr. Gowan likes the section regarding low signs versus pole signs but feels that this might be a difficult issue to “sell”.
Mr. Gowan would like to see this document revised with tonight’s suggestions before it goes onto the web for viewing and public comment.
This issue will be discussed and reviewed again at the board’s next working session – September 20, 1999.
Mr. Gowan stated that he would like to see that Planning Board present an Open Space Zoning Ordinance for town meeting. This ordinance needs to be carefully done and properly presented.
Mr. Messina passed out a document regarding Cluster Residential Development from the Office of State Planning. He explained that this is not condominium development or high density housing utilization of large parcels of land, it is smart use of the space available. Mr. Messina explained that the primary goal is to utilize the space more wisely by allowing the same number of houses on a piece of property that you would according to the current subdivision and zoning regulations. Many communities in the State of New Hampshire have adopted these guidelines and produced zoning regulations based on them. The guidelines allow for the preservation of natural resources and open lands. Mr. Messina explained that these guidelines provide the basis to begin the discussion of this issue. He stated that open space preservation is not new and that many communities have adopted these ordinances.
Mr. Gowan explained that these guidelines do not allow for more homes to be built on the same size parcel. They are more restrictive and the purpose is to protect the wetlands, scenic vistas, farmlands, etc. Common septic systems could be utilized and the roads could be maintained by the property owners versus the town. Mr. Gowan noted that no more houses would be allowed on parcel but that they could be moved closer together to provide more open, green space.
Mr. Messina explained that this document deals with mechanisms that the town can use to ensure that the property remains as open space. He further explained that the first plan for a subdivision is done according the existing regulations so that the board understands, up front, based on soils, wetlands, etc, how many lots can be developed. Subsequently, an open space development can be approved based on this same criteria.
Mr. Farris referred to several newspaper articles relative to open space development for people over 55 years of age. He feels that this type of development allows for minimum impact to the town infrastructure. Mr. Farris believes that this may also garner a better reception from the townspeople. Mr. Messina stated that any restrictive covenants could be challenged and the board must be cautious.
Mr. CaraDonna stated that this issue comes at an opportune time with the in progress circumferial highway bringing more accessibility to Hudson and Pelham. He further noted that Massachusetts is making many changes that will also contribute to this accessibility.
The board will continue discussion of this issue at future working sessions.
MOTION: (Culbert/Soby) To adjourn the meeting.
VOTE: 6 – 0 – 0 The motion carries.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 pm.
Susan J. Tesch