Draft of Tuesday, January 17, 2023, Selectboard Special Meeting

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BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:
Angela Sanborn, Katy Johnson-Aplin, Jeffrey Chevalier, Ann Golob, and Mike Fitzpatrick (phone)

OTHERS PRESENT:
Carol Hesselbach, Melissa Brown (Treasurer), Kate Gehring (Planning Commission) Charles Bergmann, Lori Damato, Darlene Eisenhuth, Gil Eisenhuth, Christine Druke, Dan Dewalt, Carol Ross, Chris Triebert, Jennifer Stanchfield, Peter Kelleher (Producer BCTV), and Wannetta Powling (Administrative Assistant)

Zoom:
Doris Knechtel (Lister), Merle Tessier (Zoning Administrator), Jane Douglas (Planning Commission), Alyssa Sabetto (Windam Regional Commission), Amy Donahue, Violet Gannon, Maia Segura, Daimian Lix, Patty Johnson, Peter Webster.

CALL TO ORDER:
The meeting was called to order at 6:00 pm by Selectboard Chair Angela Sanborn.

CONFIRM PROPERLY WARNED
Powling confirmed the meeting had been properly warned.

SCHEDULED MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
FEMA/State buyout program – Alyssa Sabetto Windham Regional Commission (WRC)

Golob started the discussion by giving some history of the property at the corner of Dover Rd and Auger Hole Rd (formerly the South Newfane General Store).

Twelve years ago, when the South Newfane store closed, and Lisa Murch had left the area, the property was on the market for sale.  Several members of the South Newfane community held several meetings to discuss what people wanted for the community. Everyone wanted a store and a place with food.

A building contractor went through the house and store in detail to figure out what basic renovations were needed to make the house safe and habitable.  Back then, when the property was still in relatively good shape, the estimate was in the $70,000 range to do the repair work.

We researched what it would take to reopen the general store. Two of us attended a conference of general store owners in Warren, Vermont. The margins to make a profit on a general store are very, very small. Another group of us visited several general stores that had been taken over by a community to learn what was working for them and what wasn’t. We met with the Preservation Trust who had funded the purchase of some general stores.

We ran the numbers, we met with experts, we met with others in Putney, Shaftsbury and Guilford to see what they were doing. In every case they had a bigger footprint, a larger septic and the ability to experiment with options that we just didn’t have in South Newfane.

Typically, what makes a general store in a small-town work is the ability to have in-store seating for customers to eat. It is a way to get people to linger, a reason to come back, a way to build community.  But the problem with that location is the septic. The capacity of the septic is too small to expand seating. You could not rent out the house and have seats in the store. If you removed the store, the house is a very small space to allow a rental property and a small store with food.

Given how much you would have to spend to purchase and renovate the property, perhaps put in a new septic with expanded capacity, the space was so small that you could not make back your money. We could not find a way to make it work financially. And we tried. We really tried.

The group also researched other general stores in the area including Putney, Guilford and Shaftsbury to learn what it would take to reopen the general store. The margins to make a profit in a general store are very, very small.

Many people asked about the status of the oil tanks. This is what has been learned by Alyssa contacting the State.

  • The tanks were removed in 1991 and soil contamination was found. The site was declared a hazmat site and remediation was conducted until the problem was solved.
  • New tanks were installed. In 2006 – 17 years ago – the tanks were emptied and closed. However, the Agency of Natural Resources continues to monitor and test any existing tanks. The tanks were last tested in 2020 and no problem was found.
  • We have good reason to believe the tanks are safe and that we do not have a hazardous situation. But what if we do remove the tanks and find contamination? We would apply to the State for funding from the Brownfield Remediation funds to get it cleaned. That’s what the money is there for.

If the Selectboard votes to move forward, we would be in the pre-implementation stage. This is where we complete a series of documents explaining everything we know about the property, signing that the property owner and the town are interested in moving forward.

The signed paperwork goes to the State Emergency Management office and from there they forward it to FEMA. Then we wait for FEMA to get back to us. It will take several months. If FEMA says they will accept the property, then we begin the implementation process which includes getting an official assessment of the property’s value, conducting a number of tests to ensure that what we told the state is correct. All of these tests are included in the payout.

With the finalization of the paperwork, we then go to the closing. If for any reason the home owner or the town change their mind, we have until the closing to do so. Should someone come out of the woodwork that wants to purchase the property, the process can be stopped as long as we haven’t signed off on the closing.

FEMA’s budget would cover removing all the structures on the building, the septic tank would be emptied and left in place but crushed, the property would be left to return to nature.

Alyssa Sabetto further explained that the area is in a floodplain and can be considered vulnerable. FEMA would cover 90% of the funds; the match funds are through the Flood Resilience Community Fund (FRCF). WRC would advise that the Town enter the State’s Brownfield Reuse and Environmental Liability Limitation Program (BRELLA) to protect against legal liability from future liability. The cost is $500 a year.

Carol Hesselbach spoke as a resident and asked if the Town paid the ($500.00) fee to enter the BRELLA program, would this cover the Town as an insurance policy if contamination is discovered years from now?

Sabetto confirmed that it would cover the Town.
Fitzpatrick asked how this property was selected and what makes it necessary when there has been no flood damage.

Sabetto said that the location is in a floodplain and that makes it eligible for this program.

Fitzpatrick wanted to know who determines the value of the property.

Golob said that during the implementation phase, the town would put out a bid for a real estate appraiser and that appraisal would determine the current value; FEMA would not use the Town’s assessed value.

Doris Knetchel (Lister) said that there are concerns about the hidden cost,

  • Fuel tank and gas pumps removed.
  • Septic tank
  • Buildings remove.
  • Retaining wall along the Auger Hole Rd. (after the buildings are gone)
  • Guard rails
  • Remove the parking lot pavement.
  • Current storm drains in the parking lot.
  • Easement removed from Brown’s deed.
    What is the projected time frame for the project and completion of the work?

Sabetto – responded that the septic tank would be crushed in place; all structures would be removed. When the Town assumes ownership of the property, no development can take place. With no septic, the easement to the Browns would not be necessary and could be removed.  Sabetto was unclear at whose expense.

Doris Knetchel asked if there were considerations for establishing a retaining wall once the structure was removed. It was explained that the house is currently supporting the Auger Hole Rd. What keeps the road from undermining? Golob said she would look into the question about the retaining wall.

Further discussion and support from Charles Burgmann, Chris Triebert, Dan Dewalt, Peter Webster, and Jennifer Stanchfield. Sanborn read an email of support from Alan Darling.

Johnson-Aplin asked for clarification on who would be responsible for ground maintenance so that it did not become overgrown like the other property along Dover Road that was affected by the flood.
Golob indicated that it would need to become part of future budget discussions.

Melissa Brown (Treasurer) had information on the impact on Newfane homeowner taxes if the property was to be removed from the Grand List; this was shared with the Board and the public.
A home valued at $ 100,000 would likely notice an increase of 0.49 cents.
A home valued at $ 200,000 would likely notice an increase of 0.99 cents.

Golob made a motion to move forward with submitting the application. Chevalier seconded the motion. Motion passed 5/0
Golob made a motion to authorize Chair Sanborn to sign the FEMA application for the Town. Johnson-Aplin seconded the motion. Motion passed 5/0

ADDITIONS/AMENDMENTS TO AGENDA:  
Golob asked to amend the agenda to add January 3, 2023, Special Meeting minutes to the agenda.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:

  1. December 19, 2022, Selectboard Minutes (Already approved 1.3.23)
  2. December 21, 2022, Special Budget Minutes      (Approved as Amended 1.3.23)
  3. January 3, 2023, Special Meeting (Amended to add)

Golob made a motion to approve the January 3rd minutes. Johnson-Aplin seconded the motion.
Motion passed 5/0

January 6, 2023, Special Meeting
Golob made a motion to approve the January 6th minutes. Chevalier seconded the motion.
Motion passed 5/0

ROAD FOREMAN’S & ROAD COMMISSIONER’S REPORT:
(Angela Sanborn read the Foreman’s report as Jay Wilson was unable to attend this meeting.)

  1. We have one more repair on South Wardsboro Rd to put out to bid. If the weather cooperates, I will try and get it written up by the end of the week.
  2. The sand/salt shed group is planning to have a meeting to go over the cost.
  3. The Depot Rd Box Culvert is ready to bid, but cost estimates are more that we have for money.
  4. I have attached the draft design for the Loop Rd. box culvert.
  5. There is an access permit to approve on Cemetery Hill Rd. Chris Williams and I have looked at it and have no problems with it.

Based on the Road Foreman’s recommendation, Fitzpatrick made a motion to approve the access permit for Cemetery Hill Road. Johnson-Aplin seconded the motion.
Motion passed 5/0 (Board will sign during pay orders)

Golob made a motion to accept the Road Foreman’s report.  Fitzpatrick seconded the motion.
Motion passed 5/0

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT’S REPORT: 

  1. NewBrook News requests a status update on their request for $ 3,000 ARPA funds. This was requested at the November 7th Selectboard meeting.
  2. I have been working on the Town Report. An issue limits the completion of the budget process; the wages and benefits information should have been shared in an open meeting; the Selectboard was in an Executive session on December 12, 2022.
    I recommend that Selectboard make a motion to approve the figures for the budget.

 I also need to be given this vital information to complete the projected 2024 budget process in NEMRIC.

  1. The Articles for the 2023 Town Meeting Warning needs to be approved, and a motion to sign needs to be made.
  2. I need two committees or officer reports from the Town Report (Treasurer / Tax Collector, Development Review Board)
  3. Email from Newfane Town Clerk regarding the Legislative update on Bill H.42. further information will be coming by the end of the week on the Senate vote. The deadline to change in person Town Meeting is January 26th.
  4. Reminder to submit your voter-signed petitions by January 30th at 5 pm if you are running for an election. This deadline is set by the State of Vermont.

Golob made a motion to approve the Administrative Assistants Report. Chevalier seconded the motion.
Discussion ensued.

  • Documentation was reviewed for the requested funds for Newfane Anew / NewBrook News. Sanborn read the request into the minutes.

Fitzpatrick made a motion to approve the funds requested. Johnson-Aplin seconded the motion.
Motion passed 3/1/1. 

Fitzpatrick made a motion to approve the Articles for the Town Meeting Warning (on the Agenda under OLD BUSINESS). Chevalier seconded the motion.
Motion passed 5/0

COMMITTEE REPORT
Traffic Calming Committee update (Johnson-Aplin).

Sanborn wanted to clarify the confusion posted recently on Front Porch Forum. The Sidewalk Scoping study in the Incorporated Village of Newfane and the consultants from Dubois and King will be presenting information designs on possible upgrades to the sidewalks, as well as placing crosswalks on Route 30 in the village this Thursday, the 19th.  The traffic study grant was applied for in the fall of 2020. The consultants started work in the summer of 2022 with a walk through of the village with a member of the Selectboard, a Village Trustee, the Road Foreman, a representative from Windham Regional, and a representative from VTrans.

It was necessary to address traffic concerns in other areas of the villages. Recently a Traffic Calming Committee was formed by volunteers to address these issues. Katy Johnson-Aplin has additional information. The next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, January 31st,  at 6 pm at the Town Office.

Golob mentioned that during the budget planning, Law Enforcement was increased to address the speeding issues. And it is important to acknowledge that the Incorporated Village funded the Newfane Village Scoping Study. Since the 2019 road safety audit was done by VTrans, it is recommended that Newfane follow the recommendations before VTrans makes additional safety study recommendations.

Kate Gehring (Planning Commission) – Gehring shared information with the Selectboard regarding a funding program that is available to help homeowners that are experiencing failing septic and wells for drinking water. This opportunity is available through the State of Vermont by using ARPA funds, and it will end on January 30, 2023. The handout is available at the Newfane Town Office. Moore Free Library offers the use of computers to send an online application.

Housing – is an ongoing conversation that Planning Commission commissioners are looking at. On February 9th, Windham/Windsor Land Trust will be joining us as guest speakers to discuss and share some resources with Newfane.

Jane Douglas (Planning Commission) – Douglas announced that the Planning Commission is holding a public hearing on February 23rd at 6:00 pm to discuss the proposed changes to the River Corridor and Floodplain Bylaws. Alyssa Sabeto from Windham Regional will be presenting. All Selectboard members are urged to come to this meeting to hear the discussion as the subsequent hearing will be at a Selectboard meeting before the changes can be implemented.

Merle Tessier (Zoning Administrator) – Tessier mentioned that Wednesday, January 18th, at 6 pm, the Development Review Board is holding a public hearing to review the Old Newfane Inn application.

UNSCHEDULED MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
None

OLD BUSINESS

  1. Vote on Articles
    Brown provided an explanation of the figures for Articles #34, #35, #36, #38, and #39.

Brown recommended that if the voters approve Article #38, the Budget Stabilization Fund, a policy will need to be established. Article # 39 would be the transfer of $150,000 from the current surplus funds account.

Fitzpatrick made a motion to approve the Articles as presented. Golob seconded the motion.
Motion passed 5/0

  1. Vote on Budget
    Golob made a motion to approve the Budget of $ 2,307,143.80 as proposed. Fitzpatrick seconded the motion.
    Motion passed 5/0

3.  Cannabis Updates: (Johnson-Aplin)
No updates for cannabis. The DRB will be holding a public hearing on February 7th to review the first application for a Cannabis establishment (formerly Rick’s Tavern)

  1. Town Beautification suggestions (Chevalier).
    No updates to report.
  1. Evaluate whether we should put oil purchases for heating out to bid to lock in a lower price.
    Tabled until February 6th –this will be added to Road Foreman’s Report and the highway fuel usage information.
  1. Discuss ideas for a 250-year celebration of Newfane’s founding. (Johnson-Aplin).
    Powling mentioned an idea to consider a promotional advertising idea (4-Imprint) to raise money and celebrate Newfane’s 250th Year.

Discussion of the Legislature bill to extend COVID-rules allowing towns to decide whether or not to have a Town Meeting or to rely on an information meeting and Australian ballot process instead. Golob made a motion to affirm that Newfane would conduct an in-person Town Meeting on March 7th regardless of the outcome of the bill.  Johnson-Aplin seconded the motion. Motion passed 5/0

Hesselbach will keep everyone informed if there are Legislative changes.

NEW BUSINESS
No update

CORRESPONDENCE
Alan Darling – Opinion for FEMA buyout of South Newfane General Store (Sanborn read into the minutes during the FEMA/State buyout program.)

Mike Fitzpatrick, who attended remotely, withdrew, and left the meeting at 8:12 pm

 PAY ORDERS

  1.  Payroll Warrant No # 11603                         Amount $    7,577.17
  2.  Payroll Warrant No # 11604                         Amount $    5,586.30
  3.  Account Payable No # 23015                       Amount $    2,500.00
  4.  Account Payable No # 23016                       Amount $   85,815.42
    Chevalier made a motion to approve Pay Orders. Johnson-Aplin seconded the motion.
    Motion passed 4/0

ADJOURN:
Johnson-Aplin made a motion to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 8:25 pm.

Respectfully Submitted,
Wannetta Powling, Administrative Assistant
ALS/AG