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, Alternate Henry DeLuca, Alternate Victor Danevich, Alternate Richard Foote, Selectmen’s Representative Greg Farris, Planning Director Vincent Messina
ABSENT: Clark Harris, Michael Soby, Alternate Carl Huether
The Chairman announced that Mr. DeLuca would be voting for Mr. Soby and Mr. Foote would be voting for Mr. Harris.
UNH Student Group Natural Resource Project – Discussion of Candidate Prime Wetlands to be proposed for acceptance and designation by the Town of Pelham
Four students from UNH, Ms. Jenn George, Mr. Rusty Partridge, Philip Marr and Eric Rulison, appeared before the board to discuss candidate prime wetlands that are being proposed for acceptance and designation by the Town of Pelham. Ms. George stated that they would present their findings to the board this evening. She explained that this is a continuation of the 1987 prime wetland study conducted by the Pelham Conservation Commission. Ms. George stated that eleven of forty-six wetlands in Pelham were studied. Seven of the eleven were proposed as prime wetlands and approved. The UNH project team continued with this assessment. Ms. George reviewed the functions and values of wetlands. She explained that wetlands are defined by three criteria – soil type, presence of hydrocydic plant life and wetland hydrology. Ms. George reviewed the tools that were utilized by the team to determine their findings. The team determined the ecological integrity of each wetland, educational potential, wildlife habitat, visual and aesthetic qualities, flood control potential and the presence of endangered species.
Mr. Rusty Partridge explained that five wetlands were evaluated by the team. He referred to the wetlands map prepared by the NRPC and indicated the current prime wetlands throughout the town. Mr. Partridge stated that the team evaluated the 52-acre wetland located behind Pelham Memorial School. This parcel was evaluated according to New Hampshire methods. Open water was observed along with emergent classes. There were many positive aspects with this large wetland. The soils maps indicate 20% hydric A soils and 70% hydric B soils and 10% other soils. Mr. Partridge stated that this wetland cannot be designated as a prime wetland according to the NH rules and criteria although it has high potential for controlling floods as well as tremendous educational potential. There is a visual and aesthetic quality to the parcel and a great opportunity for wildlife habitat.
The second wetland evaluated by the team was the Little Island Pond wetland. There are 31 plus acres in this wetland as evaluated. It is forested with scrub shrubs. There is a power line easement that runs along the western side of the wetland. This power line easement provides more protection to the wetlands and a transition to the uplands area. This area is an excellent wildlife habitat. There is a great potential for educational and recreational opportunities. The soils are 100% hydric A, therefore this wetland is a prime wetland candidate.
The third wetland evaluated by the team was the Beaver Brook wetland located next to St. Patrick’s Convent School. This wetland runs along Beaver Brook at Main Street to Citizens Bank on Route 38. It has approximately 15 acres. The site is heavily forested and the brook meanders creating great diversity with small ponds for wildlife and plants. The soils are 80% hydric A and 20% hydric B, therefore meeting the criteria for a prime wetland. The area is naturally occurring and is a positive educational site. A rare species of river birch was found here and at the Memorial School site.
The fourth wetland evaluated by the team was the Sherburne Road Bog Wetland which is approximately 2.8 acres. The site is primarily scrub shrubs and emergent wetland type vegetation. The site is a large floating, organic “mat” of peat. It is 100% hydric A soil and no human impact was observed. It also qualifies as a prime wetland site.
The fifth wetland evaluated by the team was the Sherburne Road Emergent Wetland with contains approximately 21 acres of a wide variety of emergent wetland vegetation. There is forested, open water with scrub shrub. A large amount of beaver activity was observed. Educational potential is a positive value of this site. There is 60% hydric A and 40% hydric B therefore it meets the criteria of a prime wetland.
Mr. Partridge noted that all of these wetlands possess a large potential for floodwater control. The last four wetlands evaluated all meet the New Hampshire code for soil requirements of a prime wetland. The Memorial School site does not contain enough hydric A soil to qualify under the New Hampshire code. It was positive though because of the diverse wetlands types and its size.
Mr. Messina asked what effect the Memorial School wetland site will have on the proposed new school location. Ms. Alicia Harshfield, Conservation Commission member, explained that the site was delineated according to soils not property boundaries. Mr. Messina stated that this would be an area of concern.
Mr. Messina asked why the team chose these particular sites to evaluate. Mr. Partridge explained that the Conservation Commission prioritized the list for evaluation. He further noted that there were time constraints due to the length of the semester. Ms. Harshfield explained that the sites that were already designated prime were eliminated; then the Commission looked at lands that the project team could actually gain access to and finally those lands that possessed a high potential for development in the near future.
Mr. Doug Hjorth, Balcom Road, previous Conservation Commission member, thanked the students for the job that they have done on this study. He asked whether or not the New Hampshire Natural Heritage program was made aware of the rare species that were found. Mr. Hjorth offered to forward the report to the NH Natural Heritage group. He stated that the students’ documentation of these sites will help the town to further protect these resources regardless of what happens.
Mr. CaraDonna asked for clarification on the size of the Memorial School site. Mr. Partridge explained that the team evaluated the parcel surrounding the school which contains approximately 52 acres. Upon further investigation, it was determined that this wetland was connected to an even larger wetland.
Mr. CaraDonna asked if Wetland #4 and Wetland #5 were connected. Mr. Partridge explained that these two wetlands, although they are across the road from each other, are hydrologically connected.
Attorney William Mason, representing J. Albert Lynch, asked if the UNH team participated in the drafting of the proposed revisions to the Wetlands Conservation District. Mr. Partridge said no and explained that the team evaluated the educational and aesthetic value and functions of the wetlands.
The Chairman declared a recess at 8:10 pm.
The board reconvened at 8:25 pm.
Review and Revisions to the Wetlands Conservation District – Inclusive of but not limited to, an increase in the size of the district
Mr. Gowan asked if the language being proposed tonight by the PCC will be presented to the voters in the form of a ballot question. Ms. Harshfield explained it would if the Planning Board recommends the language revision to the town. She noted that four separate ballot questions were needed to deal with all four prime wetlands. Mr. Gown stated that the board will need to schedule a vote on this issue.
Mr. Gowan read aloud the Conservation Commission memo to the Planning Board and the proposed revisions to the Wetlands Conservation District ordinance. (Attachment #1)
Mr. Farris asked how this proposed revision would effect the developer and his ability to develop land that abuts these WCD areas. He further questioned at what point does the environmental buffer stop and at what point is the board harming the developer’s ability to develop his land. Mr. Farris feels that this proposed buffer could take up a lot of buildable land. He questioned at what point the board would go beyond the environmental protection of the wetlands and when the developer could ask for compensation.
Ms. Deborah Waters, Conservation Commission member, explained that under the RSA’s, the Conservation Commission is charged with the duty of inventory of the natural resources and making recommendations as to the best use of those resources. In this evaluation, the PCC did not go into that. They looked at the issue from a strictly environmental basis. The research material gathered by the students was reviewed by professionals.
Mr. Gowan stated that the PCC has looked at this and made their recommendations based on the protection of wetlands. Ms. Waters stated that the PCC must focus on what is best for the protection of the town’s natural resources. Mr. Gowan stated that this puts the proposed language in the Planning Board’s “lap” for a decision. Ms. Waters stated that the Planning Board must make sure that the PCC has completed all of their work prior to making this recommendation for a revision.
Mr. Gowan asked for clarification on the decision to increase the setbacks. Ms. Waters stated that it is very difficult to evaluate and set an absolute determination on a setback. The most current approach is a “tiered approach”. She explained that not all wetlands are the same but the tiered approach will allow for flexibility to the buffer width. It has been found that a 50 ft. buffer is not adequate. Ms. Waters realizes that this is not an “exact science” and noted that many towns have taken a different approach. The PCC feels that Pelham needs to go to a more flexible approach to the wetlands buffer. This approach needs to take into consideration the “wetland at hand”.
Mr. Farris feels that there needs to be some kind of flexibility or “median ground” with this proposed language. Mr. Gowan stated that many of the conditional uses would be addressed by the Planning Board.
Mr. Farris questioned whether or not credentials of the person preparing the specific report would be necessary. He believes that a certified soil scientist should not have to state his credentials. Mr. Gowan disagreed and feels that credentials are important if a professional is appearing before the board for the first time.
Mr. Culbert feels that the proposed language brings into question “land taking” versus conservation issues. He also feels that the proposed language and definitions are full of terms that are subject to interpretation. Ms. Alicia Harshfield, Conservation Commission member, explained that many of the definitions utilized are from the Natural Heritage Inventory. The definitions are also standards that are set by the State of New Hampshire (RSA 310-A) for different species of plants. Ms. Harshfield explained that unless every acre is surveyed, they cannot account for every endangered species within the town.
Mr. Culbert asked if the proposed language had been reviewed by town counsel. Ms. Harshfield said it had not been to town counsel for review. The Conservation Commission utilized outside counsel on the formation of the language.
Mr. Danevich recommended that the numbers or footage requirements be clarified or tightened up. Ms. Harshfield explained that it is very difficult to say exactly what the exact footage should be in every case. The idea was to group those resources together to determine appropriate buffers in each case.
Mr. DeLuca suggested that the board consider inserting provisions for open space or cluster zoning in this language. This would give the developer another tool for creative planning and maybe avoid alarm. Mr. DeLuca believes that the board should be working on these two issues together. Mr. Gowan believes that these two issues do compliment each other but in order to meet current deadlines for the ballot, the board must be very careful with the wording of the language.
Mr. Culbert agrees that the wetlands conservation district language should be part of the open space article. He cautioned that the board be very careful about adopting language that could be construed as land taking and placing the town at a legal disadvantage.
Mr. DeLuca stated that many of the developers that come before the board live in Pelham and are just as interested in protecting the environment as the board members are. He noted that with current technology, it is easier to protect the wetlands.
Ms. Harshfield stated that once the land is developed, it does not return to it natural state. There is an enormous amount of land that has been taken out of current use and each year that the town waits, the more damage that will be done to the environment. Ms. Harshfield explained that the 150 ft. buffer is not a rare occurrence and she cautioned that the fragmentation of the wetlands not continue. She understands the boards wish to incorporate open space into this language as all of these functions contribute to the value of the wetlands.
Ms. Harshfield believes that many parcels are being taken out of current use because the country is experiencing one of longest periods of economic prosperity in history. There is a lot of money to be made on the land. She is mainly concerned with the protection of the drinking water of the town and the ground water supply.
Mr. Farris asked how the PCC determined the numbers in the tables given. Ms. Harshfield explained that these figures are based on recommendations from professional wetland scientists. Mr. Farris feels that the land coming out of current use is not “easy land” and the contours vary greatly. He questioned how the buffers would be established for these areas.
Mr. Gowan feels that “tiering of the wetlands” or creating different classes of wetlands makes sense for proper protection. The impact takes place when the buffer is established. Mr. Gowan does not feel that that town is adequately protecting the wetlands but believes that the proposed language may be a bit extreme.
Mr. CaraDonna explained that any ordinance by nature is a “hardship” but when it is equally applied, it is defensible in court. The Planning Board is responsible for protecting the wetlands and he recommended that the board bring this language to the town for a vote.
Mr. Farris does not feel that the proposed ordinance will effect everyone equally. He further stated that the proposed language is very difficult to understand and he does not feel that the voting public will pass it. Mr. Gowan noted that zoning language by nature is complicated. It is the responsibility of the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission to explain the proposed language to the public.
Mr. CaraDonna stated that the board needs to have a willingness to work on this language and try to come to a conclusion within the next two meetings. Mr. Culbert does not feel that the board has the technical expertise to deal with this very complicated language. He also has a problem with the given definitions.
Mr. Messina agrees with Mr. CaraDonna on many issues but realizes that the details of implementation will take a significant amount of work. He believes that a tiered approach to protecting the wetlands is the right direction. Mr. Messina also has problems with the given definitions. He agrees that the identified prime and candidate wetlands definitions are viable.
Mr. Messina feels that interpretation of the 50 ft. buffer needs to be clarified and exact size determined. He questioned how enforcement of the restrictions would be carried out and the legality of taking of land.
Mr. Messina is an advocate of the fundamental concept of the document but feels it needs further modification in order to properly protect the wetlands. He also questioned how one would evaluate areas outside of the boundary of their own property. Mr. Messina feels that this is a major planning issue that must be dealt with.
Mr. George Harris, 65 Ledge Road, believes that his land would be devalued by the proposed language if it is instituted.
Mr. David Hennessey, Dutton Road, Zoning Board of Adjustment member, stated that people will make economic decisions based on what the Planning Board does. He believes that there will be a dramatic acceleration in development if the board does not move on this proposal. Mr. Hennessey suggested that the board seek input and case law from town counsel on the issue of “taking”. The language regarding “land taking” is very specific.
Mr. Hennessey explained that the tiered approach to wetlands protection is not designed to make development more difficult. He feels that the language offers some flexibility to the Planning Board. Mr. Hennessey asked that development not be accelerated by not allowing this proposed article to be discussed.
Mr. Paul McLaughlin, Birch Lane, Conservation Commission member, stated that the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission are held responsible for the protection of the quality of the town’s drinking water. He stated that by delaying this article, the town incurs costs to posterity. Mr. McLaughlin explained that the Conservation Commission has come up with their best effort and he suggested that the board keep it moving.
Mr. J.R. Gauthier, Tenney Road, agrees with the board members and understands their tentative attitude. Mr. Gauthier explained that without the consumer to buy the homes, the landowner would not be selling his property.
Pelham has been designed and developed as a residential community. Mr. Gauthier feels that the proposed buffers “condemn” the taxpayer’s land and devalue it. He explained that many people have purchased their land as their “401K plan” and the town is trying to take this away from them. Mr. Gauthier suggested that the town cease to salt the roads if they really want to protect the wetlands and drinking water supply. He further suggested that the buffer not be discounted when calculating minimum lot sizes.
Mr. Kevin Talty, Tallant Road, asked how the proposed language would effect the person on a two acre lot who wishes to construct a garage on his lot and what expense would he have to incur to do so. Ms. Harshfield explained that it was never the intent of the Conservation Commission to take away any rights of the homeowner. This ordinance would not apply to them. Mr. Talty explained that he owns a piece of property on Currier Road that supposedly was “grandfathered” and part of a subdivision created in 1963. He stated that he has been in litigation over this lot for the last 20 months and they still have not gotten an answer to the problem with the wetlands buffer issue. Mr. Talty asked whether individual property owners would have to hire a certified soil scientist each time they wanted to construct a structure. Ms. Harshfield believes that the specifics of this particular case are different than what is being discussed tonight. Mr. Talty does not agree.
Mr. Philip McQuade, Sawmill Road, questioned how does the board address this problem when adherence to the law has not taken place. Mr. McQuade explained that an easement was granted on his property and he has been told that it is now wetlands and the easement is in the wrong place. He suggested that the board consider some language to address this type of problem.
Mr. Doug Hjorth, 31 Balcom Road, spoke in favor of the tiered approach to protecting the wetlands. Mr. Hjorth believes that our natural resources attract people to the town.
Attorney Bill Mason, Salem, asked how this language would address one acre parcels versus 50 acre parcels and how this proposed language will effect the value of the land. Mr. Mason referred to the provision that excludes land in the buffer zone from lot size calculations. He maintains that this will be a problem for the board and that the language leaves many things unaddressed.
Mr. David Lynch asked if there were any “science” to the setbacks. Ms. Deborah Waters, Conservation Commission member, explained that many studies speak to the need for wetland buffers. The UNH students were charged to come up with the scientific evidence in support of these setbacks. Ms. Waters explained that these were the figures that they came up with via scientific evaluation. Mr. Gowan stated that the information relative to the collection of the data would be made available at the Planning Department office.
Mr. Gowan asked for clarification on the recommendation made by the State for a 100 ft. wetland buffer. Ms. Waters explained that four State organizations including the Office of State Planning and NRPC, have indicated that it is very difficult to implement a flexible or tiered approach to wetland buffers. It was their finding that “adequate” protection would be offered with a minimum 100 ft. buffer.
Mr. Gauthier asked if the proposed setbacks were developed by the UNH students and if so, were there any professionals behind it. Ms. Waters explained that the students were charged with evaluating the professional literature. They evaluated these professional studies and were asked by the PCC to come up with a “tiered” approach”. The Conservation Commission believes that the State recommended 100 ft. buffer is not really responsive to what they know about environmental protection now.
Mr. James Gove, Gove Environmental, stated that there are some technical discrepancies in the report. Mr. Gove referred to the purpose and intent of “F” on Page 1 (“Protecting ecological balance, environmental diversity and wildlife habitat including but not limited to those values cited in RSA 482-A:1) He explained that the Natural Heritage Inventory Program is not a regulatory program, it is a voluntary program. It is administered by the Natural Heritage Inventory out of the Department of Resources and Economic Development. They do not require any landowners to protect rare or endangered species. They work with the landowner to protect the species. Mr. Gove explained that if this portion of the proposed ordinance were adopted, essentially all of the Buonarosa parcel off of Shelly Drive would have been taken out of use.
Mr. Gove referred to Page 2 - “Certified Soil Scientist” and suggested that the board remove the term “certified soil scientist”. On November 12, 1999, under RSA 310:A 76, it has been noted that a “certified wetland scientist” in the State of New Hampshire performs wetlands delineation. A “certified soil scientist” makes high intensity soil maps and site specific maps, not wetlands delineation. Mr. Gove assumes that under these definitions, the PCC wants to speak to the wetlands.
Mr. Gove referred to “Exceptional Wetland” and explained that there is no specific definition associated with the given characteristics. These definitions are listed under the “Method of Comparative Evaluation of Non-titled Wetlands in New Hampshire”. However, it states under the Limitations of the NH Method, that the NH Method is not designated for impact analysis, it is not designated to be used in legal proceedings where detailed information about individual wetlands. Mr. Gove is concerned about what measure will be utilized to determine exactly what is “ecological integrity, educational potential, historical site or noteworthiness”.
Mr. Gove pointed out that there is no definition of “wetlands” given in the proposed language or how the wetlands are to be delineated. It should be stated under “Definitions” if this is to be a complete document.
Mr. Gove stated that there is no map under “District Boundaries” which shows where the zoning districts are located relative to the rest of the community. Otherwise, you cannot have “Wetlands Incorrectly Delineated” in the following section.
Mr. Gove referred to Page 3 – and noted that “certified soil scientist” needs to be changed to “certified wetlands scientist”. He stated that under “Permitted Uses”, it speaks about forestry and tree farming and agricultural activities. However, on Page 4 “Wetlands Buffer”, it specifically states that “Cutting of any vegetation, disturbance of understory and/or soils, shall be prohibited in the buffer except for those activities that will contribute to protection of the wetland and/or the buffer area, activities granted by conditional use permits under this ordinance, activities for the purpose of mitigation, and/or permitted uses under this ordinance.” Mr. Gove explained that this is in conflict with the concept of forestry and tree farming and agricultural activity and operations.
Mr. Gove further noted that, to his knowledge, all Conservation Commissions are “advisory” to Wetlands Bureau and Planning Board. The proposed language would make the Conservation Commission a “regulatory body”.
Mr. Gove referred to Table I, Areas of outstanding value to the community: “Areas with rare plant or animal species” and “Areas of exemplary natural communities” and noted that these are not necessarily regulated just to wetlands. He stated that there are numerous upland areas which will also be regulated.
Mr. Gove referred to Page 5, Class II and noted that there is no designation for areas with very poorly drained soils. Under Class III, there is no minimum size delineation. It states that no matter what the soils, it is recommended that wetlands of less than 3,000 sq. ft. not have the 100 ft. buffer.
Mr. Gove referred to “Additional Provisions” and stated that there does not appear to be any basis or documentation in the literature to support that “Land immediately adjacent to the Wetlands Conservation District having slopes of 12% or greater shall require an additional 75 feet to be added…”.
The language “Area within the Wetlands Conservation District shall not be utilized to satisfy useable land requirements for minimum lot size” is in direct conflict with “Permitted Uses” on Page 3.
Mr. Gove referred to Page 6 and noted that there is no basis or documentation for Section #9. He explained that typically, you complete compensatory mitigation or create new wetlands.
Ms. Harshfield referred to the sizing issue and explained that the recommendation within the buffer book is in fact, 3,000 sq. ft. and the only justification was to keep it in line with current State regulations.
Mr. Eric Nickerson, local landowner, stated that most surrounding towns require a 50 ft. buffer to the wetlands. Mr. Nickerson explained that the Town of Windham has a very complicated way of calculating the wetland buffer and lot sizes. They have been working on the language for many years to properly develop it. Mr. Nickerson feels that the proposed language for wetland buffers in Pelham is extremely complex in comparison to Windham’s language. He does not feel that Pelham’s current language is endangering the environment.
Mr. Paul Zarnowski, Health Agent, explained that some of the proposed language would effect septic system installations. Mr. Zarnowski feels that this language will make it very difficult to repair or replace existing septic systems. He explained that waivers are required from the Board of Health to install these septics. Mr. Zarnowski further noted that there is the Shoreland Protection Act, which also offers protection to the ponds relative to the installation of septic systems. He feels that the proposed language will eliminate many of these lots and not help the landowners.
Mr. Zarnowski pointed out that the proposed language relative to the definition of the zone goes beyond the wetland definitions that exist in other town ordinances. He does not believe that poorly drained soils may not be jurisdictional wetlands according to the criteria in other town ordinances. Mr. Zarnowski recommended that the board stay with the “jurisdictional wetlands” and not “poorly drained soils”.
Mr. John Harris, 65 Ledge Road, does not feel that it makes sense to tax land that has been taken out of use, which is what will happen with the proposed language. Mr. George Harris asked why the town does not purchase the land that they are rendering unusable. Ms. Alicia Hennessey, Conservation Commission Chairman, explained that this is exactly what Article 21 proposes to do. She noted that the taxes charged on wetlands are minimal.
Mr. Kevin Talty, Tallant Road, referred to Page 5 and asked if the 100 ft. buffer zone is considered sufficient, why is it not used in the lot size calculations.
Mr. Peter Zohdi, Herbert Associates, stated that no town disallows the use of the wetlands buffer in lot size calculations.
Mr. James Gove, Gove Environmental, stated that the tiered approach is a good idea but when analyzed, you find that many communities have ended up going with “size of wetland” as their criteria in tiered approach. When you attempt to find a decent, comparative methodology for the functional assessment of the wetlands, there are not many. The ones that do exist are subject to interpretation and bias. Mr. Gove explained that often this is where the tiered approach breaks down.
Ms. Harshfield stated that three or four years ago, Mr. Gove stated that an “across the board buffer” is not something that he would advocate. She asked what Mr. Gove would advise the town do in order to adequately protect their wetlands. Mr. Gove recommends that the board look at the tiered approach based on wetland size.
Mr. Farris does not feel that if this ordinance is not passed this year that the developers will all rush to develop their land. Mr. DeLuca explained that the board must move toward a goal and give the developers and landowners another tool to utilize. He feels that cluster and open space zoning are good things for the board to work on and enact.
Mr. Culbert explained that in the past, the board has reviewed the old language and compared it to the proposed new language. He requested that a list of resources and professional people involved in this project be provided to the board for review.
Mr. Culbert noted that the Planning Board has required 75 to 100 ft. buffers to the wetlands in the past and they are not unfeeling when it comes to protection of groundwater resources. It is his understanding that “taking” is based on the parameters used to develop the specific ordinance. Mr. Culbert believes that there should be no room for “interpretation” or the board will end up in court. He asked that any public comments or suggestions be sent directly to the PCC.
MOTION: (Farris/DeLuca) To not accept the proposed revisions to Wetland Conservation District ordinance as presented.
VOTE: 5- 0 - 1 with Mr. CaraDonna abstaining. The motion carries.
MOTION: (CaraDonna/DeLuca) To continue this hearing and date specify it for January 17, 2000.
VOTE: 6 – 0 – 0 The motion carries.
This hearing is date specified to January 17, 2000.
Londonderry Lateral Project Tennessee Gas Pipe Line – Informational Discussion
Ms. Mary Usovicz, consultant for Tennessee Gas Pipeline, appeared before the board to discuss the proposed pipeline project. Ms. Usovicz explained that this project proposes to replace an 8 inch natural gas pipeline from Dracut, Massachusetts through Pelham to a proposed 720 megawatt power plant, AES Enterprises, which is located in an industrial park in Londonderry near the airport. The total length of pipeline to be installed will be 19.3 miles, 7.2 miles of which will be in Pelham. Tennessee Gas has met with the Town Manager, the Fire Chief, the Police Chief and the Parks and Recreation Director. It was suggested that they appear before the Planning Board to make a presentation on the proposed project.
Ms. Usovicz stated that the project is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2001 and conclude October 1, 2001. Tennessee Gas has recently filed for a permit with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on December 15. These papers are available for review at the public library. Last week letters were mailed to all landowners that will be affected by this proposed project. Ms. Usovicz explained that although many people have heard about this pipeline project for over a year now, the agreement to provide the energy for this plant was not actually signed until September 1999.
Ms. Usovicz explained that the current line, which is approximately 50 years old, is being upgraded from an 8 inch pipe to a 20 inch pipe. There are currently two lines in the easement, the 8 inch one and a 12 inch one. The new 20 inch pipe will supply the natural gas to AES Enterprises. The easement for the pipeline is approximately 40 ft. in width. If the power plant is not constructed, the pipeline replacement will not be done.
Ms. Usovicz explained that an application would be filed in New Hampshire on January 15, 2000 with the NH Energy Facility Site Evaluation Committee following discussion with the Conservation Commission and other town officials. Permits will be secured for work outside of the easement for construction purposes if necessary. There will be approximately 15 road crossings, including Route 38 and Route 128. Pipes for the project and the crew trucks will be parked at the Industrial Park to minimize impact to the residents. The entire project will cost approximately $32,000,000 and will take five months to complete. Typically, Tennessee Gas employees work ten hours per day, six days per week. The issue of work in the town recreation area, specifically Muldoon Park and its fields, is being worked out with the Town Manager and the Recreation Commission.
Mr. Farris stated that he is a property owner with a Tennessee Gas easement in his yard. He will listen to the discussion as a Selectman but will abstain from any vote on this matter. Mr. Farris stated that several members of the community are concerned about the recorded right of way or easements that do not exist. Tennessee Gas will be dealing with these issues on a case by case basis. Mr. Farris stated that the issue of the ball fields is a major concern that has not been resolved. He further expressed concern for crossing of a major wetland behind Memorial School Field.
Mr. Gowan asked what the Planning Board’s authority is regarding this issue. Mr. Messina explained that there are many questions from the community and there will be a number of road crossings that must be made to install the new pipe. The Planning Board needs to be aware of the scheduling of this project. Ms. Usovicz explained that they are here for informational purposes.
Mr. Gowan asked who will be the “point person” in this project. Mr. Messina stated that Mr. Pitts, the Town Manager, is the “point person” for the town.
Mr. Gowan asked if it were possible for the Town of Pelham to tap into this pipeline for residential and commercial use. Ms. Usovicz explained that the town would have to contact Energy North as they own the gas, not Tennessee Gas.
Mr. Culbert suggested that Tennessee Gas consider doing the ballfields first. Ms. Usovicz explained that they are working closely with the town to coordinate the best time to complete the work.
Mr. DeLuca asked if Tennessee Gas is responsible for returning the disturbed area to its original state. Ms. Usovicz explained that all disturbed area would be returned to its original condition and topography. Input is sought from the Conservation Commission prior to commencement of work. Tennessee Gas wants to make sure that all of the town’s concerns are addressed.
Mr. CaraDonna asked what the physical life span of a gas pipeline is. The engineer explained that the pipes are constructed of high quality steel, coated to prevent corrosion. If properly maintained, they can last 50 to 60 years. The 8 inch pipe being removed has been in the ground since 1950. The pipeline is continually monitored by Tennessee Gas.
Mr. CaraDonna asked how deep the pipe is installed. The engineer explained that there is a 36 inch minimum distance to the top of the pipe, more if the site specifics call for more depth. Mr. CaraDonna asked how the pipes would be installed. The engineer explained that the gas to the 8 inch pipe would be shut off. The pipe is pulled out in a “cradle fashion” in sections with minimal disturbance to the ground. The new pipe is then installed.
Mr. Farris expressed concern with following the contour of the land and in wet areas. The engineer explained that they attempt to follow the existing topography and noted that all restoration work is completed according to current wetland mitigation techniques. All work will be kept within the 40 ft. easement.
Mr. Farris asked how Tennessee Gas would deal with easements that are not defined. Ms. Usovicz explained that each case would be dealt with on an individual basis as they come up. Tennessee Gas will attempt to amend these right of ways and define the easement.
Mr. Philip McQuade, Sawmill Road, stated that the two pipelines go through his property. Mr. McQuade stated that he has been trying to establish this easement for two years and has not gotten any positive feedback from Tennessee Gas.
Ms. Usovicz explained that Mr. McQuade is one of the property owners with an “undefined easement”. Mr. McQuade stated that he has been told by the corporation that they will define the easement. He noted that individuals have been on his property and he considers them trespassers until the easement is defined.
Ms. Usovicz explained that until AES signed the agreement with Tennessee Gas to construct the pipeline, no work could be done and to have begun work on defining the easements would have been premature. They just recently applied to FERC on December 15th. Ms. Usovicz explained that the surveyors were out surveying Tennessee Gas lines and she agreed that Mr. McQuade’s easement may not be defined.
Tennessee Gas has pledged to work this issue out and resolve these undefined easements. Mr. McQuade feels that Tennessee Gas should make a commitment to resolve this issue prior to coming onto his property. He would also like to know exactly where the work will be done on his property. Mr. McQuade requested that a firm date be given for defining this easement. Ms. Usovicz explained that the majority of the 350 property owners throughout this project have defined easements. The project manager explained that Tennessee Gas has three title agents working in the four towns effected trying to understand and verify all property ownerships. He felt that the title agents should be approaching the homeowners as early as April or May 2000 to begin negotiations on the undefined easements.
Mr. Timothy Zelonis, Vassar Drive, stated that his excavating company was responsible for sand padding the entire length of the Tennessee Gas line in 1981. Mr. Zelonis also worked with them in 1991 and 1992 to work from Candia Road in Manchester to Suncook. He assured the board that the integrity of Tennessee Gas far surpasses the average company. They were attentive to the property owners concerns and addressed all conservation issues as they came up.
ML 10-255 – Jakon Development – Shannon Circle – Proposed Partial Bond Release
Mr. Messina reported that CLD had inspected and reviewed Shannon Circle. They recommend a partial bond release be approved and that it be reduced to $55,000. The original bond amount was $185,000.
MOTION: (Culbert/CaraDonna) To release all but $55,000 on the road bond for ML 10-255/Jakon Development.
VOTE: 6 – 0 – 0 The motion carries.
Mr. Messina reported that CLD had inspected and reviewed Countryside Drive. They recommend a partial bond release be approved and that it be reduced to $23,000. The original bond amount was $55,000.
MOTION: (Culbert/Farris) To release all but $23,000 of the road bond for ML 5-76 – Tokanel/Countryside Drive.
Mr. Messina explained that there is a cease and desist on four road within town to assure that cisterns will be completed prior to January 15, 2000. No occupancy permits are granted until these issues are resolved.
VOTE: 6 – 0 – 0 The motion carries.
Mr. Culbert reported that the Open Space Subcommittee met to discuss “marketing” the plan. Mr. Foote will work on definitions, Mr. Hennessey will look at marketing. Mr. Messina has gathered plans from five other communities for review by the subcommittee. All meetings are held on Thursday evening.
MOTION: (Farris/Culbert) To accept the minutes of the December 6, 1999 board meeting as read.
VOTE: 5 – 0 – 1 with Mr. CaraDonna abstaining. The motion carries.
November 15, 1999
MOTION: (Culbert/Farris) To accept the minutes of the November 15, 1999 board meeting as read.
VOTE: 6 – 0 – 0 The motion carries.
MOTION: (Farris/Culbert) To adjourn the meeting.
VOTE: 6– 0 – 0 The motion carries.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 pm.
Susan J. Tesch