December 7, 2021 Newfane Special Town Meeting Minutes

Selectboard Members Present: Angela Sanborn, Katy Johnson -Aplin, Ann Golob, Shelly Huber; Absent: Michael Fitzpatrick

Moderator: Deborah Luskin

Presiding Officer: Gloria Cristelli

Moderator Deborah Luskin called the meeting to order at 6 pm

Introductions – Frederick Noyes, BCTV, Martha Werman, Brookline, and Kate Gehring, South Newfane but not a registered voter.

Headcount: Approximately 65 people were present at the meeting who are registered Newfane residents.

Housekeeping details – 2 exits available in case of emergency;  – Roberts Rules of Order will be used throughout the meeting; raise your hand to speak and wait to be called on; everyone can speak once before people speak a second time.  Moderator will ask the Selectboard or Chris Williams, Road Commissioner, and Jay Wilson, Road Foreman, for their response.

Ann Golob gave a PowerPoint presentation on the need for sand and gravel. Other towns in Vermont have purchased gravel pits; we can buy 21 acres on Radway and River roads for $450,000. Engineer’s analysis shows over 30 years’ worth of gravel and more for sand. (A copy of the presentation is available on the Town’s website.)

What does it mean to an individual homeowner if we vote to go forward with this purchase? Remember, our town budget is made up of about 200 line items. We are discussing just two line items right now – one for sand, one for gravel. Whether or not your taxes go up depends on ALL of the line items.

But just focusing on those two lines: If a home is worth $200,000, expect an increase of $60 for just these two-line items, for one year only. We are almost paying double in the first year because we have to purchase the winter sand and gravel on the market while repaying the loan and waiting for the Act 250 permitting process to complete and getting the pit up and running.

The road crew budget is one of the largest items in our budget. We are paying off two loans this year, so the overall road crew budget for these three line items (loan repayment, sand, gravel) will go down, and the impact on people’s taxes will be an increase of $20 for the first year after the purchase.

The next nine (9) years would be the same as we budget now.

If we do not go forward with the purchase and prices continue to rise, we will be at the mercy of the market price. There is also a question of whether we can even find the sand and gravel; many towns have been struggling to find what they need.

The articles were brought up on the screen for the attendees to review:

The legal voters of the Town of Newfane, Vermont, are hereby notified and warned that pursuant to Title 17 V.S.A. Section 2655, they are to meet at the NewBrook Fire Department in Newfane, Vermont, on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at 6:00 pm to act upon the articles below.

ARTICLE 1: Shall the voters of the Town of Newfane authorize the Selectboard to purchase property known as parcel #B – 116.1 located off Radway Hill Road in Newfane, Vermont 21.67 acres+/- Gravel Pit for use by the Town of Newfane?

ARTICLE 2: Shall the voters of the Town of Newfane authorize the Selectboard to borrow funds for these capital needs?

ARTICLE 3: To transact any other non-binding business that may legally come before the Town.

Article One: Piet Van Loon moved the motion; Jon Mack seconded it. Discussion ensued.

Shelly Huber explained that when the option to purchase the property first became known in 2019 and was brought to the Selectboard’s attention, no one knew what was about to happen with the price of sand and gravel, so the board did not act on the option.

Deb Barry—brought up concerns regarding Brookline Bridge; in all of the rains we had in July, there was a huge washout that went across River Road.  She came home from vacation and found about one to three inches of sand in the basement of her house. She wants to know what, if anything, will be done to prevent the washout; will there be anything done to control erosion? Culvert drained the swamp above; stream running down through.

Jay Wilson- The Engineer during the Act 250process will most likely recommend removing the culvert that blew apart in the July 29 storm and replacing this with a stone line ditch to allow the water stream.

Greg Record; During Act 250 is when you can make concerns known so they can be addressed.

Dennis Wiswall looked up Dummerston’s purchase and the breakdown of gravel and sands. He asked if we knew the expected breakdown for our proposed pit. He also asked whether we do this without applying for Act 250?  He concluded by complimenting the work done for the presentation.

Ann Golob responded that we cannot avoid the Act 250 process and that the breakdown of sand/gravel is in the presentation, and the page was pointed out to the audience.

Carlos Escobar asked if anyone explored whether we could recoup some of our investment by selling gravel. She also wanted to know what negotiations had taken place regarding the price.

Selectboard members explained that if we decide to sell gravel, it would complicate the Act 250 process, and at this time, the Town prefers to keep it all for our Town’s use. In terms of negotiations, the owners were not willing to negotiate – they were happy to go forward with their plan of building houses on the site. The price was offered as a “take it or leave it” option.

Michael Granger asked if we have the right of first refusal.

Selectboard members explained that the owner is waiting for the outcome of our vote tonight. A signed letter of intent promises a closing within 120 days of tonight’s vote.

Joe Wright. Did the board look into buying the land the school bought?

Jay Wilson That land was conveyed to the Unified School District. No, there is no way to get it back.

Dennis Salzbrunn—Radway Hill Road. What will be the crushing decibel levels, compensating people if level above the limit; is this part of the budget?

Ann Golob and Jay Wilson responded that Testing will be with Act 250; crushing not expected to be more than week once a year; loader not likely to be heard outside of the property; Blueberry Circle won’t hear it; some rocks have louder decibels; It was asked whether water will be used to crush the rocks; the answer was no.

Walter Hagedom Suggested one way to pay for some of the property would be to ask the seller to pay the first year’s Act 250 costs.

The Selectboard responded that the owner would not accept that option, and it would open us up to further negotiation and the possibility of another party or another town moving in to purchase it.

Dan DeWalt moved to amend the motion by adding “sole” before use to ensure that the pit would ONLY be used for the Town’s use. Chris Hadden seconded the motion. A voice vote was taken and defeated.

Henriette Mantel asked how the Town found the pit.

Shelly Huber Michael Fitzpatrick brought it to the Selectboard’s attention in 2019, but at that time, the Selectboard did not foresee the sharp increase in prices or the lack of available gravel to purchase and did not pursue buying the property at $100,000.

Katy Johnson- Aplin- gave a geological overview of how sand and cobbles made the gravel come into being in the West River Valley.  The site in Newfane is one of very few that are left.

Chris Williams explained that no other possible pits are available.

Chris Williams moved to do a paper ballot, not seconded.

Karen Astley, Town Manager of Putney, explained how the property’s assessed value does not reflect the monetary value of what can be done once the parcel is developed. She also said that we could not compare one pit to another because, for example, the Putney/Dummerston pit cost $2 million, but it will last for generations. Ours will last for about three (3) decades as assessed now.

Karen asked for a friendly amendment to Article One. Add the words “not to exceed” ($450, 000) Four Hundred Fifty Thousand dollars for the land. Tristan Johnson seconded the motion.

Motion passed by voice vote.

Chris Hadden, Blueberry Circle, again asked about decibel levels.

It was explained that the times of the year and length of time for the operation would be part of the Act 250 process, and it is an ideal time for residents to express their concerns.

Tom Ely commended Ann Golob on the presentation and pointed out that the land that has been assessed is closer to River Road and Radway Hill Roads than to Blueberry Circle.

Tristan Johnson asked what the final disposition for the property would look like after the gravel pit was exhausted.

Shelly Huber explained that the Town would need to look into this during the Act 250 process; it is required to have this in place.

Jeryl Julian Cisse, Could the Act 250 permit be rejected?

 Ann Golob explained that there are no guarantees, but from the experts we have spoken to, and it is doubtful that it will be rejected; if there are problems, these will need to be resolved.

Jon Mack called the questions. Greg Record seconded. A voice vote was taken, and the motion to accept Article 1 (with the amended wording adding the purchase price) passed unanimously.

Piet van Loon moved Article Two, and Maia Segura seconded the motion.

Karen Astley asked for a friendly amendment to put in the wording “not to exceed $600,000.” Gloria Cristelli seconded the motion.

The amendment passed by voice vote.

Article Two, as amended, passed unanimously.

Article Three: any other business . . .

Greg Record stated that a “person of authority” told people that masks were required as part of NewBrook Fire Department’s policy. He noted that this is not true and put a stain on NBFD.

Piet van Loon moved to adjourn. Lauri Miner seconded the motion.

Passed. Meeting adjourned at 7:35 pm.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Gloria Cristelli

Wannetta Powling