Town of Pelham, NH

Pelham Conservation Commission

6 Village Green

Pelham, NH 03076

 

 

MEETING OF  February 11, 2004                          Approved 3/10/04

 

Members Present                                                         Absent

Robert Yarmo, Chairman                                            Frank Culbert

Marc Duquette                                                 Bill McDevitt, Selectmen Rep.

Paul Gagnon

Sanjay Kakkad

Deborah Scott

 

Chairman Robert Yarmo brought the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m.

 

HEARINGS:

 

Map 9; Lot 145 – Pelham Fish and Game Club, 100 Simpson Mill Road,

Wetland Violation, Dredge & Fill Application

 

Peter Schauer of Schauer Environmental Consultants, L.L.C. represented this case.

 

Mr. Yarmo gave some history on this violation to other board members:  “DES had contacted him last August to have him take part in a site walk at the Fish and Game property. He met with Dr. Richardson and Arlene of Enforcement and another woman from DES.  There were four of them on the site walk.  There was also another wetlands scientist, Matt Geiger of Oak Hill Environmental, the Fish and Game Club and the Club’s attorney.  What was explained to Mr. Yarmo at that time and what we reviewed was that basically there are 12 acres of land that had been cleared for what was suppose to be a 600-yd shooting range.  In that process there were some wetlands violations.  Oakhill Environmental that was there explained the violations.  We reviewed the violations.  There were 47,000 sq. ft. of impact and there was a vernal pool that was severely impacted.  A mitigation plan was also discussed.  We left the meeting/site expecting that something would occur or something would be submitted to Conservation but nothing had been submitted until we got the dredge and fill application from Schauer Environmental.

 

Mr. Schauer spoke and said that he got involved in this project sometime in late September, 2003 after he had received correspondence from DES that required him to submit something back to them in two (2) weeks.  He said he requested an extension until the end of October.  He said that he was not trying to avoid the public session, only that he was trying to get through the enforcement action and decide what DES wanted on the plans and for mitigation prior to coming before Conservation.  He said he had met with DES the night before our last meeting, January 13.  Mr. Schauer said he was unable to meet with Conservation because of a procedure that he was having done in the hospital.

 

After meeting with DES he has summarized and is open for discussion to see what Conservation’s concerns are still and to see if there is some remedy on this.  Mr. Schauer showed the area of wetlands.  According to Mr. Schauer, there was a berm built and is where the first shooting platform is.  The location that is referred to is dictated by the property lines says Mr. Schauer.  There are a couple of roads that come into the site, there’s one crossing that have been upgraded and it’s believed there was no permit to do so said Mr. Schauer.  There was an old culvert in the area for a farm crossing a long time ago when it was farms.  They (F & G Club) upgraded this in order to do the logging and there was an impact.  There was approximately 4,000 thousand sq.ft. of fertile un-scrapped (?) impact pointed out and said it will remain if a permit is granted so that there is access to a piece of land.  A larger area of wetland was impacted where the road crossing was put in – that is 6,400.05 sq. ft. of impact.  The area was also stumped in the wetland, trees taken out and that is considered impact and is 12,670 sq. ft.  There was 9, 639 sq. ft. that was stumped along the side of the wetland and is 6, 898 sq.ft.  Mr. Schauer says the long and short of it is that there is 39,649.05 sq. ft. of disturbance to wetlands on the site.  There is a little discrepancy from what Oakhill Environmental reported.  Oakhill had the entire area in front of the shooting platform classified as a wetland.  Mr. Schaufer said he totally disagrees, vehemently disagrees, and it is not a wetland.  It may come in as a wetland now because they have pushed all the materials up into a berm and almost to the water table.  It may be a wetland now because of pushing the materials into a berm, and that is the discrepancy between Oakhills calculations of impact and his calculations.  He said in the plans that he submitted with the application he planned to tie into another area and that would be a moat area.  DES did not like that option he says.  They advised me to create what we call a plus equestrian scrub shrub – a wetland that will become forested wetland over time.  Mr. Schauer said they plan to create some vernal pools by intercepting the groundwater.  It is not very easily done because it is very dependant on having water in it in the mid-summer months, i.e., June and July.  Schaufer Environmental will be on site when it is built to make sure the elevations are correct before the plantings proceed.  Mr. Schauer listed all the bushes, grasses, etc. that will be used to re-plant the affected area.

 

Mr. Schauer says there will be posting of signs, “Conservation Area”, so that there is no mowing in those areas.  They will be monitoring and make reports to DES and Pelham Conservation once the project is done so that it is a success.

 

Mr. Yarmo said that some of the information was new and not in the package.  Mr. Schauer said yes and it would be submitted to Conservation after this meeting.  Mr. Yarmo stated to Mr. Schauer that this is the biggest wetland violation that the town of Pelham has had and we’ve invited Mark West to help us out.  The quantity mentioned out on the site was 47,470.5 sq. ft. of impact, and now you say it is 39,000 – Mr. Yarmo said he didn’t know whether he could agree with or disagree with the figures but does understand the explanations.  Mr. Yarmo said the dredge and fill application states that the work was performed by Club members who did not realize that the portion of the area contained wetlands.  The Pelham Fish and Game is one of the largest landowners in the town of Pelham.  Mr. Yarmo asked what assurances do we have that this will not happen again – that was one of the questions in his correspondence to DES.

 

Mr. Schaufer said that P.F.& G. has hired him to be their environmental wetland person.  Mr. Schaufer says they have another project coming up where they want to build a pond, a trout pond.  Mr. Schaufer stated to them to “let’s do it right this time and get someone in there that knows what they’re doing and have the Conservation Commission be part of the process”.  They totally agreed said Mr. Schaufer.  The volunteers who had done this project took the advice of the forester and Mr. Schaufer said that he didn’t think that some foresters know what a wetland is and they took the advice from the wrong person. Mr. Schaufer said with all due respect to that profession there are some very difficult areas that are hard to tell if they are wetlands or not, especially when you get into sandy soils.

 

Mr. Yarmo questioned Mr. Schaufer about what they meant by mowing.  Mr. Schaufer replied that it is like mowing your lawn; they take the brush off to keep the brush down so that saplings coming up do not encumber the shooters.  Only the wetland in the middle would be mowed.  This was a forested wetland before it was cut.  There is an area that will be hand-clipped at a 2 to 4 foot level so that there will be line of sight.

 

Mr. Gagnon had a question about the wetland that was to be restored – it’s 40-ft. wide and 1500-ft long?  Mr. Schaufer answered that is correct.  Mr. Gagnon stated that the WCD is 50-ft around all sides of the vernal pool, how can you have a vernal pool when you only have 40-ft to work with; there will be no buffer around the vernal pool?  Mr. Schaufer stated that there would be opportunities for elevated temperatures in the water in those pools for the first few years until the canopy starts to grow.  Mr. Gagnon asked Mr. Schaufer if the state requires that you re-create more square footage than what was originally described?  Mr. Schaufer answered yes.  He said the draft mitigation rules now require one and a half times the disturbance. There are 2,000 herbaceous plants/plugs being planted and shrubs, somewhere in the hundreds.

 

Mr. Yarmo said the dredge and fill application states that there is no impact on habitats of migratory fish, wildlife and that wildlife can still use the area and that the range will provide diversified open grass which will benefit large game species.  Also that it will act as a recharge area for wildlife habitat and all these functions will still exist with the construction of the range.  Mr. Yarmo asked how does this area act as a wildlife habitat area if it’s a firing range?  Mr. Schaufer says there will only be 10 events per year, i.e., 10 weekends, 20 days that is predicted that they will use this site.  Mr. Yarmo asks if that includes incremental use for practicing?  Mr. Schaufer said that was his understanding, that it would only be 10 events during the year.  I don’t know if we can hold them to that, but that is how it has been explained to him.  It’s a special range, and will only be used to train people from all over the state, in fact all over New England; there isn’t another 600—yd range in New England that he knows of said Mr. Schauer.  Mr. Yarmo said if it’s the only one in the New England area how come it would only be used 10 times per year for practicing, etc?  Mr. Schaufer said he had asked the same question and the answer was that it would be used approximately 10 times per year. Mr. Yarmo said if there is practice a couple of times a week that it will not function as a wildlife habitat area.  Mr. Schaufer said while he was out there that three deer (does) came across the area.

 

Mr. Yarmo said that when he went out on the site walk last summer there was some mention of endangered species and habitat removed.  Mr. Schaufer said he contacted NHI and they sent a letter back saying there was Eastern pond muscle and bog floaters on Golden Brook coming out of Simpson Mill.  Mr. Yarmo asked when did all this work occur, and when was it cleared?  Mr. Schaufer said did not know that he only got involved in late September, that they had already stopped and put the silt fence up around the edge of the wetlands and had been in a holding pattern for a couple of months.  He believed it was either during the summer or early spring last year.  Mr. Yarmo asked what is going to happen to the vernal pool at the shooting area.  Mr. Schaufer said it will still exist.  What DES requested that we do is to plant rosabagosa or the vine that has barbs (briar bush) on it to stop people from going into see the vernal pool egg masses and stuff like that to protect it from anyone going into that area.  They didn’t want it fenced because it would draw attention to it.

 

Mr. Yarmo introduced Mark West of West Environmental and said that he was asked to come down to help us with this, as this is way over our head.

 

Mr. West said it was not clear to him where the entire holdings of their property are in relation to the big picture.  Mr. West asked if that particular area had already being used as a range, or did they just build this range in this area at this time, that it would help in understanding the alternatives.  Because of the boundary lines, etc., you can’t avoid impact to the wetlands of where the range locations are.  Understanding how this all happened would be useful in understanding application.  Mr. West asked Mr. Schaufer if he was cutting trees to build the mitigation and Mr. Schaufer answered no.  Mr. West suggested that maybe the pools could be constructed right adjacent to the tree lines so they could get some shade right off the bat.  Mr. West asked if there were other disturbances of wetlands during the cutting process?  Are there large skidder ruts?  Are there any areas that need to be repaired?  Mr. West also asked how the determination was made regarding wetland impact?  Were there aerial stereo photos or was their actual delineation of what the wetlands were prior to the disturbance was another question by Mr. West.  Mr. West said it would be very beneficial if there were any old surveys of the area or old mapping.  Mr. Schaufer said there were none available to him.  Mr. West said if there were to be a new wetland, how was it going to be managed in the future? Mr. Schaufer agreed with Mr. West when he brought up the statement that there was one major stream crossing.  Mr. West asked if the culvert had been upgraded because the Club may not have understood the hydrology and is it a significant size culvert for the amount of water and a culvert that would allow biological connectivity in other words? If the stream is 2-feet wide is it large enough to handle the flow of water that comes down?  He suggested that these comments be put on the plan and justified.  Mr. West commented about another crossing and asked if that had a culvert or does it not need a culvert?  Mr. Schaufer said that there was a 2.5 –ft steel culvert at the major stream, i.e. 30 inches.  Mr. West said sometimes the State likes an equalizer culvert so that over time it creates "ponding" or changes hydrology.  He said it is more common in a forested wetland where they don’t want you to block it off and kill the trees.  That will be looked at the final site walk.  If it’s determined that it doesn’t need a culvert it should be explained why said Mr. West.  Plantings of red maples should be included in the forested wetland so that they will grow taller than the low type shrub plantings that Mr. Schaufer stated earlier.  Mr. West also brought up the issue of lead contaminants being deposited into the ground at the firing range and whether that lead might enter into the stream or surface waters.  Mr. West said he didn’t know if there were “best management practices” applied in this situation being relative to wetlands and surface waters.

 

Mr. Yarmo referred to the day that the site walk was done.  He questioned about what looked like a fill area.  Mr. Schauer agreed that a lot of material had been moved.  Mr. Yarmo said that the representative of Oakhill addressed that area as being one of the areas that were impacted, that it was a wetland.  Mr. Yarmo said he asked the Oakhill representative how he knew as we were standing on high and dry soil.  He told me to look to my left and look to my right.  What I saw was ground water trickling out of the hillside.  Mr. Schauer said that that was basically what he saw.  When looking to the right there was groundwater going downhill.  When asked how he knew it was a wetland and he (Oakhill) said he did excavations and did test borings and found wetlands soils there.  Mr. Schaufer said that is because he was digging in the area that had already been excavated – it was not originally a wetland, they have dug so low, this being one, they were close to intercepting the ground water table.  There were questions between Mr. Yarmo and Mr. Schaufer as to whether this was originally a wetland.  Mr. Schaufer says that is because there was excavation in that area that included blasting and there was a fracture.  Mr. Yarmo said he had been told that there had been no blasting there.  Mr. Schaufer says there was either blasting or they had a big machine in there because there is bedrock torn that would not be the result of just your typical excavator or backhoe; it had to be a pretty good sized machine.

 

Mr. Gagnon said that it appears that only Mr. Yarmo had gone on the site walk, and even though he had gone on the site walk he still has some questions.  No others Conservation members have done a site walk.  He suggests that once the plans presented tonight are gone over that maybe another site walk could be done with Commission members.  Mr. Yarmo was in favor of others going along for another site walk, including himself.  Mr. Gagnon proposed that the site walk be done in March.  There was discussion pro and con on when to do the site walk.  It was the intention of Mr. Gagnon that the ground be visible rather than be covered with ice.  Mr. Schaufer says there seems to be an urgency through the Commissioner’s office to get this settled.  Mr. Yarmo said this is an old issue and he didn’t think we should circumvent any process as this is the biggest wetland violation that the Town of Pelham has ever had and we need to make informed decisions – this is new information for us.  Mr. Yarmo asked whom he should make a request for an extension through.  Mr. Schaufer answered it would be to Dr. Frank Richardson as he is the inspector for this project.  Mr. West said he felt that you could gain a lot by going out there now, but you would gain more if there was no snow cover but said you could get an idea with these issues and get answers done now.  Mr. West said that in areas that have been disturbed they would not be able to dig because we’ve had such a wet fall and early winter and with all the big rains it would be like spring conditions.  Mr. Schauer said he had asked club members if this had been used as a range and was told yes but they now wanted to extend it to a 600-ft range.

 

Mr. Yarmo asked about the proposed construction of a trout pond and asked if it wouldn’t be prudent to identify the entire parcel and understand all the wetlands systems on that parcel so that it would be clearer to understand what the overall wetland impact is.  Mr. Schaufer said absolutely. Mr. Schaufer said there would be a fair amount of work before the pond would be done to make sure that there is a proper water supply and not impacting very poorly drained soils.  Mr. Yarmo said he would feel a lot more comfortable in knowing that this is the only place that this (pond) can go.  Mr. Schaufer said they could GPS them and walk the boundaries and superimpose them onto aerial photos and know roughly where the boundaries are from within 3 to 10 feet.  The size of the parcel that the Pelham Fish and Game owns is between 4 to 5 hundred acres according to Mr. Schaufer. There were aerial photos taken in 1998 and in 1927 there were USGS sheets.  Mr. Schaufer said he could not find any old mappings.  Mr. Yarmo asked Mr. Schaufer what assurances do we have that the restoration plans are going to be carried out?  Mr. West said that the State will monitor the site during construction, monitoring in the spring and fall for at least the next 5 years probably and those reports can be requested by the Conservation Commission.  There will be photos showing growth of trees, how deep the water is, and if there are egg masses the State will take all kinds of pictures of them.  Mr. West says that if you see problems, even in the first year, they should get fixed right a way.  Mr. Schaufer says the Pelham Fish and Game Club will be required to do so under the conditions of the permit.  If they fail to fix or comply with conditions they will go before the Attorney General’s office said Mr. Schaufer.  Mr. West advised the Commission that a letter would have to be written and submitted stating the conditions in violation of the permit.  The permit has to be recorded at the Registry of Deeds says Mr. West.

 

The date of the site walk, weather permitting, will be:  2/21/04 – 9 am.

 

Map 29, Lot 7-116, Timothy Peloquin, Land Surveyor, L.L.C. for Mary Frances Renner

Ms. Renner is interested in purchasing this land in order to construct a farm stand but needs to know if this 2-acre parcel can be built on.  There are questions regarding the backside of the property that is adjacent to wetlands, actually the overflow of Beaver Brook.  This parcel is located on the westerly side of Bridge Street when going south and is opposite the southerly end of Chunky’s Cinema.

 

Mr. Peloquin presented a “layout” of the parcel of land.  Ms. Renner has a purchase and sales agreement on this property and is trying to develop it into an agricultural farm stand for her want and use.  This land is the next parcel south of the Getty Gas station (the A-frame building).  Mr. Peloquin says he has a whole file on this parcel that was prepared in 1986.  “They” were given a 11,200 sq.ft. permit to fill a good portion of this land to make this a commercial development and put a 60,000 sq. ft. building there.  They actually got a permit and had plans and a site plan done, according to Mr. Peloquin.   He says the problem is they never did it.  In 1991 they went through the process again and the plan was scaled tremendously when they wanted to put a donut shop there.  It was an approved site plan that would have been a donut shop; they got a variance to do it, they had another wetlands permit to do it and a retaining wall out back and fill a small amount of wetlands said Mr. Peloquin. Prior to this meeting tonight, Ms. Renner asked Mr. Peloquin what she could do with this piece of land and he told her that this was a very confusing piece of land, that it was a tight parcel and there’s a 100-year flood plan.  She wants to make it agricultural use such as a farm stand type of things, selling plants, produce and flowers, etc.  Also there is a need for a small parking area.  Mr. Peloquin offered to show the approved site plan from 1991. Ms. Renner would like to construct a 20 by 60-foot building with a small overhang.  Mr. Peloquin said that maybe she could replicate the plan that expired in 1995.  It included a small filling of the wetland.

 

Mr. Gagnon referred to the edge of the wetland and said the entire proposal is in the WCD.  Mr. Yarmo questioned Mr. Peloquin as to why he was before the Conservation Commission and whether or not he had talked with the Planning Director, Wil?  Mr. Yarmo said to compromise anything around Beaver Brook is not wise.  Mr. Peloquin says that Beaver Brook is about 500-ft away from this proposal.  Mr. Yarmo asked if the embankment went down towards the wetland and the answer from Mr. Peloquin was yes.  Mr. Peloquin said that in 1991 the owners were given a small wetland filling and that he had that information in the file.  Mr. Yarmo said that the Conservation Commission members should do a site walk before any further action and that it could be done at the same time that they would be walking the Fish and Game Club property.  Mr. Yarmo said he was not in favor of putting anything in there that is contrary to the wetlands protection.

 

Mr. Duquette commented that it would be interesting that if it was permitted then it would have had to come before the Conservation Commission and added that he knows that the rules have changed quite a bit, but it would be interesting as to what happened. Ms. Renner said there had been a lot of research and history on this parcel and included input from Clay Mitchell, the interim planning director.  Mr. Yarmo said he would like to take a look at it and make a recommendation or at least have a more informed opinion on it.  He said compromising the wetland buffer for commercial use isn’t something that he would probably support.  Mr. Peloquin asked that he be part of that site walk and that he is willing to hire Peter Schauer to help facilitate seeing that he would be part of that group and get his opinion.  The Commission agreed to meet at the site at 8:30 and then pick up Peter Schauer at 9 at the town hall and proceed to the Fish and Game Club. Mr. Yarmo said he walked this property two weeks ago and the wetlands is right at the edge of the embankment and that you couldn’t possibly put a building there.

 

OTHER:  Mark West gave members a brief introduction concerning prime wetlands.  He said that an inventory would be done of all the wetlands over 2 acres in the town – that is in chapter 700 of the RSA’s.  There is also an aerial photo interpretation.  Down the road, if you ever wanted to digitize it, you would be able to map all those wetlands and have them be able to pop up on any of your fancy maps and will be much more accurate than the hydro A and B mapping.  This could be done for the whole town as Phase I, and you wouldn’t have to spend a fortune.  The next phase would be to evaluate wetlands and members can set a threshold for that, we would only evaluate wetlands over 5 acres or over certain aquifers or whatever – you make the call said Mr. West.

 

Mr. Yarmo asked if the total proposal that would identify all of the town’s wetlands of 2 acres or more could be designated as prime wetlands?  Mr. West said that you wouldn’t have to do that mapping for the state.  He made reference to what he had done for the town of Freemont, NH.  The process for Pelham’s wetlands would probably take one year to complete and that often a town will fund it in a 2 or 3 year plan. The town would have to vote on the designation of a prime wetland.

 

Mr. Gagnon asked what were the implications to the town and the use of the land once a prime wetland has been designated?   Mr. West responded that it has a much higher level of protection with the state of New Hampshire.  Mr. West gave an example of a company who might come in and want to have a spring water company and they wanted to put in a bunch of wells and take water out of the ground.  They would have to prove that they were not altering the hydrology of the prime wetland.  Mr. Yarmo asked about a prime wetland being on private property, how do we do a study when this is the case?  Mr. West said that you didn’t have to go on private property, but to do the field work, if the land is posted, we need to ask permission to go on the property; nine times out of ten people are really interested that people in the town are trying to protect habitat and are usually very supportive.  Every once in a while a person doesn’t want you on their land in order to verify it and we make our report which indicates that we weren’t able to verify it.  State law says that you “attempt” to verify the prime wetland boundaries and only where owner’s permission allows it.

 

Mr. Yarmo asked about the location of the prime wetlands at the end of Benoit Avenue – referring to the prime wetland map and says it is different than the wetland border? When he walked the site with Dr. Richardson the map showed that the wetland line stopped short of the wetland.  Mr. West explained how there are little fingers that come off the prime wetland and that is why they do more technical mapping so that there is extreme detail.  We check connections and fingers and once that boundary is done we say this is the core portion of the wetland and is the most important area to protect and that gets put on the tax map.  Mr. Yarmo said that Conservation would probably have to invest around $16,000.00 in the next couple of years to do this project.  Mr. Gagnon asked if the prime wetlands that have already been identified are part of the project or if they are ignored because they have already been done.  Mr. West said he does not ignore those wetlands but looks at all the other wetlands and we could potentially double check them.  Mr. Yarmo asked Mr. West to email him the proposal and he would forward the information on to other Conservation members. Mr. West said it is becoming the hot topic because of all the development; it’s a tool of protecting the town’s resources.

 

Mr. Gagnon asked that this be put on next month’s agenda as it will prompt members to read the proposal and come prepared.  Mr. Duquette said that the Conservation Commission had a couple of developments that had been looked at in the last couple of years where we’ve questioned the proximities to the wetlands; we thought that they might have been prime wetlands but there was no data to go by.  Developments of concern were named by members and included Irene Drive and off Mammoth Road across from Muldoon Park and others.

 

9:05 p.m. – short break

 

9:15 – Discussion of Warrant Article #5

 

Mark Duquette read the following:

 

TOWN WARRANT, ARTICLE #5

“To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of three million dollars ($3,000,000.00) to purchase land and easements for conservation purposes, and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to issue bonds or notes in compliance with provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA 33:1 et seq., as amended); provided, however, that notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, the Town shall not issue more than one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) of bonds or notes in any one calendar year; to authorize the Selectmen to negotiate and determine the rate of interest thereon and the maturity and other terms thereof, and to take any other action they deem appropriate to effectuate the sale and/or issuance of said bonds or notes, however, no such bonds or notes shall be issued with a term of maturity of not less than ten (10) years or more than fifteen (15) years, and additionally to raise and appropriate the sum of twelve thousand dollars ($12,000.00) for the first year interest and costs. Land or property interests to be purchased with bond proceeds shall be acquired in the name of the Town by the Conservation Commission, subject to the approval of the Selectmen, pursuant to RSA 36-A: 4. (Tax impact .02) (Recommended by Selectmen)(Recommended by Budget Committee 7-2)(3/5 Vote Required)”

Mr. Yarmo addressed the television viewers and said that the Conservation Commission members had worked very hard to put this warrant article together. This was a joint effort of the Forestry Committee, Conservation Commission and concerned citizens who formed the Open Space group.  He continued to say that we have done our homework that included detailed mapping of parcels that include protecting our groundwater and drinking water resources.  Also, detailed mapping of farms and prime farmland soils and forested areas that help us identify and understand how to preserve Pelham’s wildlife corridors was done.  These maps are constructed so that they can be overlaid on tax maps that help identify the parcels which gets us the most bang for the buck by not identifying house lots but identifying and preserving our forestry and farm land and protecting our water supply and creating recreational opportunities.  There was also a build-out analysis done with data from the Conservation Commission along with Nashua Regional Planning Commission (NRPC).  The study helped to understand the future growth, the timing of that growth and fiscal ramifications of that growth.  In all probability it’s indicated that in 13 years or less the town of Pelham will be built out to 2,028 homes, a final population of almost 17,000 people with an additional 1,400 school aged children which is half again that of our current school system.

 

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously, 4-0 to support this warrant article.  The Budget Committee voted to support this bond with a 7 to 2 vote in favor.  A survey sponsored by the League of Women Voters indicated that preserving the rural character, protecting the environment and concerns about growth were very high priorities.  It is the goal of the Conservation Commission to conserve 25% of Pelham’s land.

Deb Waters spoke about the build-out analysis.  She began with the history of how the open space and conservation have tried to work together.  About 10 years ago the Conservation Commission created a sub-committee to specifically look at open space issues and to begin to recommend how Pelham should move forward in the future.  As a result of that effort the sub-committee started worked with NRPC, the REP program and proposing the Conservation Fund.  One of the first purchases was the Wolven property, then purchasing Little Island Pond Conservation Land where it was possible to coordinate with neighbors, the developer and LCHIP for a grant.  That project was brought to completion.  What Pelham is experiencing now is the progression of the growth of this initiative.  When this was first put into action it was unknown if it would even be successful or whether or not the town would be interested.  We now have an established conservation fund and have landowners who are contacting us and landowners who are willing to work with us said Ms. Waters.  She says the list keeps getting greater and greater.  Ms. Waters said it’s amazing to see that small beginning and where we are now. The reason for the three million (3,000,000.00) dollar bond, in her mind, and how she looks at it, it’s a way to have another tool to use to work with landowners.  It has become evident that we now have more people interested than the conservation fund can accommodate.  The funds are only used if land becomes available.  The build-out analysis was an important factor in determining where we were in terms of Pelham’s build-out.  It had to be determined what remained and if there were enough landowners who might be interested to make it worthwhile.  It is estimated that the year 2017 will be completely developed.  We learned very early in the process that open space pays said Ms. Waters.  Residential land is usually taxed negative – it usually cost more in services than it generates in income.  Putting land into protection means tax rates stabilize.  There is also the possibility of payback.  The Master Plan also recommends protecting open space.  Ms. Waters said the Commission/Open Space people have included selectmen, budget committee and the Planning Board who recommends protection of open space and purchase of land.  We’ve also worked along with NRPC and have willing landowners but it is now up to the voters to decide if they want to fund these projects.

Paul Gagnon gave a slide presentation.  He showed the homework that has been done with the aid of the slides/charts and numbers so that it’s not conceived as a ill-fated plan or some wild idea that is just going to be a waste of money.

Mr. Gagnon said there are two primary goals in protecting open space; stabilize the tax rate and keep Pelham rural.  You cannot just spend the money says Mr. Gagnon.  You must have willing landowners and the price must have reasonable negotiations and pieces of land that are worth buying. He says that this warrant article is an investment not a cost, will pay itself back; both the 3 million dollars we spend, interest on the three million and interest on that.  This is an investment for the town of Pelham. Who is going to spend this money is explained by Mr. Gagnon:  The entire area of Pelham is about 17,000 acres – the amount to be protected is 4,000 acres.  The Society of Protection of Forests, which is over a 100-yr old organization is one of the first conservation organizations in the country and a well respected organization that  recommends 25% of the land in each town in New Hampshire be protected.  Some areas are already protected such as water bodies, we have two major ones in town (Little Island Pond and Gumpus Pond) – they represent about 400 acres.  There is a huge area in town, about a thousand acres that are zoned RCA, which is known as Residential Conservation and Agricultural.  The biggest piece within that category is the Pelham Fish and Game Club on Simpson Mill Road that represents about half of it says Mr. Gagnon.  The town owns several parcels, one being Raymond Park, about 250 acres and Peabody Town Forrest that is about a couple hundred acres and Kirby Town Forrest.  The town of Pelham is fortunate in having a Girl Scout Camp on Little Island Pond, a beautiful piece of land, and is 300 acres.  We have to do whatever it takes to keep the RCA zone as an RCA zone.  Mr. Gagnon said we need to designate more town-owned land as town forests and this will be worked on in 2004 to be put on the warrant in March of 2005.  It is hoped that this committee can meet with members of the Girl Scout Camp to secure a ‘right of first refusal’ so that the people in Pelham will have the opportunity to purchase this land should the Girl Scouts decide that they don’t want it any more.

One of the main reasons for this 3-million dollar bond is to use it as a main lever to protect an additional 1000 acres.  If you take the 2,500 acres that is already protected in one form or another, we are up to 3,500 acres but it does not quite bring us up to the 25% of the town of Pelham.  There are only 3,800 acres left in the town that are undeveloped.  We can’t purchase a 1,000 acres overnight, the time to act is now said Mr.Gagnon.

Mr. Gagnon went on to say the committee has put together an aggressive plan.  The sources of funds, taking 2/3rds of the 3-million dollar bond, and make straight out-right purchases, which we believe can be done at $7,000 per acre.  Mr. Gagnon said he has backup to support his statement:  The Wolven and Picard properties and sources outside the town where this can happen, would protect 300-acres.  If the remaining 1/3rd of the bond was used to purchase easements, this is a case where someone wants to maintain their land, they might want to have a farm on it, or they might like to take some of the value from the property, in that case the town would buy an easement that would say the owner would never build on it but they could continue to own it and continue to farm it.  Mr. Gagnon gave the example of Mack’s Apples in Londonderry, NH.  The town of Londonderry took a conservation easement to purchase Mack’s Apple Orchard.  It will never be a development.  There is money in the Conservation Fund that Deb Waters helped make happen said Mr. Gagnon.  There is approximately $700,000.00 in that account and at $7,000 an acre there is another 100 acres.  There are also matching grants.  It’s important that we leverage these public funds with private funds (state, federal and private sources of matching grants).  What we would like to see happen, but not predicting it will happen, but we will make every effort, would be for people who decide to donate property to the town or sell it for very reduced prices.  Our plan is ambitious but not out of reach said Mr. Gagnon.

Mr. Gagnon went on to say the plan to use the 3-million dollars will be spent over time as property becomes available.  It will not happen in one year, it’s most likely to take 3 years, but more likely to take 5 years.  We will not be borrowing money right up front, only if we get a deal then we will have a public hearing and the selectmen approve it, we will use a bond anticipation note to fund the project. We can take bonds out in steps so that the town is not paying back 3-million dollars all at once.

Mr. Gagnon refers this acquisition of land as an investment as growth is expensive. Pelham has had between 100 to 150 homes built every year since year 2000.  Since that time the number of students in the schools is steadily growing, and so is the tax rate. The tax rate has grown between 5% and 10% a year over the last 4 years.  Our taxes are growing at 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation.  During this time homes are being built at a “frantic pace” said Mr. Gagnon.  The more homes you put in the town the more services are demanded and the more taxes go up. There is data across the country showing that residential property does not pay itself back – it’s actually tax negative said Mr. Gagnon.

The build-out analysis states that residential property in Pelham is 3% tax negative.  Mr. Gagnon says by implementing this warrant article/bond Pelham can save $140,000 in the first year and that number grows every year forever, including interest.  The bond will be paid off somewhere between 10 and 15 years, the warrant article leaves it up to the selectmen to decide.  Each parcel must meet some selection criteria which the Open Space Committee put together and have shared with the selectmen.  Each parcel must be reviewed at a public hearing. The public gets to decide on every single parcel that is being considered, whether to purchase or not.  Since year 2000 there are 19 towns that have taken out bonds to protect open space.  Unbridled growth has led to tax increases, taxes going up 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation.

 

MINUTES:  No review of minutes because of the lateness of the meeting.

 

MEETING ADJOURNED:  10:00 P.M.

 

                                                Respectfully submitted,

 

Glennie M. Edwards

Recording Secretary