Planning Board Minutes 08/18/2010
REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
August 18, 2010
Present: John Stirling - Chairman, Mimi Demers - Secretary, Bill Straub – Vice Chairman, Terrence Parker, Joe Rousselle, Code Enforcement Officer, and Kate Pelletier, Planning Coordinator.
Absent: Joel Moulton.
CALL TO ORDER
Chair John Stirling called the Planning Board meeting to order at 7:02 P.M.
August 4, 2010 – Planning Board regular Meeting: Motion by Mr. Straub, second by Ms. Demers to approve meeting minutes as amended, passed unanimously.
1. Memo from Joe Rousselle dated 8-10-10 concerning zoning district boundaries.
The Board agreed to take this up at the end of the meeting.
1. SP#10-4; South Berwick Water District:– Communications tower – new site plan application (Map 26, Lot 18 – Wadleigh Lane) R1 Zone
John Leach, Superintendant of the South Berwick Water District stated that in February of this year Chris Burbank of the South Berwick Police Department approached him and asked if the water district would have any interest in constructing a communications tower where the reservoir is. The water district began gathering information and eventually decided that the water district would construct a communications tower and lease space to the town for their emergency communications. He stated that the water district uses radio communications and already have a 55’ antenna at the reservoir attached to a telephone pole. He stated that he frequently receives interference or lack of communications from all of the stations back to the mainframe at the office. He stated that this would be a win-win situation for the water district and the town in that it would provide better reliability, more real-time information for tracking water leaks and high consumptions, and will aid in using fixed based meter readings in the future. He stated that he included a propagation study in the Planning Board packets from Sensus Meter Reading Systems. The district gave Sensus all of the addresses for all of the meters and they told the district that if they put up an antenna up at 80’ on a 100’ tower they could read all water meters from the office.
Chris Burbank of the South Berwick Police Department stated that there is currently a 60’ antenna on a tower on the roof the town hall building. The Police Department uses a talk-out system where the dispatcher presses a button and a radio signal goes out. However, this is a line-of-sight signal so when the signal runs into trees, buildings, or Powder House Hill, for example, the signal dies. When the police use their 5-watt portable radios in the cruisers they are faced with the same type of challenges. As the population of South Berwick grows, especially in the back part of town, the police are spending more and more time out there. In areas like Hooper Sands North there is no communication coming in and officers and ambulances are relying on cell phones or other frequencies, which is not ideal or adequate. He stated that no abutting towns in Maine and New Hampshire are using the line-of-sight anymore and are all using repeater systems instead. Over the last five years the department began doing a build out where they would purchase new portables, new radios for the car and a new dispatch center that allowed them to start talking out. In 2009 after having many radio problems they consulted with Two-Way Communications to maximize the existing system. Two-Way determined that they could not improve on the existing system whatsoever and recommended building up. He stated that after that he applied to the FCC for a new license. The Police Department currently has a wide band license. In 2013 the FCC has regulated that all radio frequencies must convert to a narrow band system, so as of January 1st, 2013 the town will no longer be adequate. In addition, the power will be cut to the existing frequency. So, the town was granted a new license from the FCC for split-band, which means that a tower with an antenna is required. Signal would be sent out to a high point where it would be amplified and sent out. The next challenge was where to locate a tower like this. After meeting with the town manager, the fire chief, the rescue chief and the highway department they decided to go to the cell towers. They began doing radio frequency studies at those sites and found that each one ran into Powder House Hill. So, he went to Powder House Hill, studied it and found that not only was it the cheapest route, but the most effective as it reached all areas of town without obstruction. The Powder House Hill location provides adequate power, a secured fenced area, and a road that is maintained 24-hours a day. In addition, there is nothing within the fall radius of the tower if it were to fall and there are no trees that could fall onto the tower. He stated that both the water district and the police department are very conscientious of what Powder House means to the town so they went with the lowest tower they could possibly get away with while keeping in mind future growth of the town. He stated that he provided an illustration in the packets that shows the comparison of cell towers in town to the proposed repeater antenna. The Route 91 cell tower, for example, is 180’ in height where the proposed antenna at Powder House Hill is only 100’. They also chose to use a lighter color tower set back farther from the tree line keeping in mind the visual impact.
Joe Rousselle, South Berwick Code Enforcement Officer stated that the applicant consulted with him to determine if this was an allowable use. He stated that this is an allowed use under “essential service”, which would incorporate everything they are trying to do. The only reason they have to come before the Planning Board is because of the height exceeding 55’.
Mr. Straub asked if the tower would be made of steel. Mr. Burbank stated that it would be made of galvanized steel in a light gray color.
Mr. Straub asked if there would be two antennas on the tower. Mr. Burbank stated that was correct. One antenna would be for the water district and the other would be for the South Berwick public safety repeater antenna.
Mr. Straub asked if the building shown in the illustrations was already constructed. Mr. Leach stated that the building would be constructed after approvals were granted and would house all of the electrical equipment used by the town and the water district. Also, there is an existing 8’ fence around the reservoir. The tower would sit about 7’ in front of the current fence so that they can continue to maintain security of the reservoir and would be building a double fence.
Mr. Parker asked if the height of the tower on the illustration was 100’ to the tip of the antenna or the top of the structure. Mr. Leach stated that it was 100’ to the tip of the structure. The antenna was only about 1.5-2” in diameter.
Mr. Parker asked if they anticipated needing a higher structure sometime in the future. Mr. Burbank stated they would not. Going any lower than 100’ would have caused a problem. He stated that no one wants to have to build this twice and they do not anticipate a need for a taller tower.
Mr. Straub asked what the schedule of this project was. Mr. Burbank stated that the town voted to approve the bond needed to fund this project in June. The town will go to the bond bank in October and they hope to start sometime this fall.
Mr. Straub stated that it didn’t appear that too much was involved in the construction of this tower. Mr. Leach stated that they have to dig a hole and pour a foundation, which would be 9’ x 9’ at the base and 5’ high. Mr. Burbank added that because of the high demand for FCC licenses one of the conditions of the license is a one-year build out period.
Mr. Parker asked if there was currently public access to these grounds. Mr. Leach stated that people are allowed to walk and run there and passive recreation is allowed, however the road access is gated. Mr. Parker asked if passive recreation would still be allowed after the tower is constructed. Mr. Leach stated that it would.
Mr. Straub asked what the dimensions were going to be of the additional fence. Mr. Leach stated that the new fence would be 10’ off the original fence and 40’ long.
Mr. Parker asked what the antenna height would be. Mr. Rousselle stated that the entire structure, including the tower and antenna, would be no more than 120’.
Ms. Demers asked if abutters were required to be notified for this application. Mr. Rousselle stated that abutters were notified. Mr. Straub asked if any abutters were present. There were none.
Mr. Straub stated that when he looked at the definition of an essential service it says it,”… shall not include buildings that are necessary for the furnishing of such services or transmission towers as defined herein.” He asked how the building was going to be handled. Mr. Rousselle stated that the building was considered an accessory structure to the actual tower.
Mr. Straub stated that he was happy to see the fall distance of the tower was more than adequate. He also stated that Table B regulates height and says, “The height requirement shall not apply to farm buildings, flagpoles, chimneys, ventilators, water towers, domes, church towers, tanks, windmill towers, or other structures or building accessory features usually erected at a height greater than the main roofs of buildings provided that such structure or accessory feature is not for human habitation or occupancy an further provided that any structure or accessory feature higher than 35 feet is set back from all property lines a distance equal to its height. Special height requirements shall be reviewed by the Planning Board under site plan review.”
Motion by Ms. Demers to accept SP#10-4 to approve the height as proposed under Table B, footnote 16, second by Mr. Parker, passed unanimously.
1. Memo from Joe Rousselle dated 8-10-10 concerning zoning district boundaries.
Joe Rousselle, Code Enforcement Officer, stated that in looking at some of things that have been problems in zoning over the years he has been looking at correcting little issues that frequently come up. One of those issues is an inequity in the zoning district boundaries. For example, Emery’s Bridge Road from Hooper Sands and Belle Marsh above, they chose to go 300’ from the center line to the northeast side of Emery’s Bridge to incorporate the boundary line so that both sides of the street would be equal up to the 300’ limit. Whatever the reason, in most other districts the road was used to split the zoning districts. This has been an issue, particularly in the R3 and R4 zones where you can do some things on one side of the street but not the other. He suggested measuring the districts 250-300’ outward in any direction from the centerline of the road. Using the least restrictive zone would make this more palatable to abutters and would not create any nonconforming lots. He stated that the Planning Board could use the rear property lines as the zoning boundary as opposed to 250-300’, however, this could backfire in that lots could be added onto in the future thus extending the zone even further.
Mr. Parker asked if any analysis had been done to determine exactly which parcels would be affected. Mr. Rousselle stated that he has not gone through every lot, however, most houses are within 200’ maximum to the street. He pointed out the areas in question on the official zoning map.
Mr. Stirling suggested that rather than following the rear lot line the ordinance could say, “300’ or the rear lot line, whichever is closer.” The Board agreed that a statement like this would make sense.
Mr. Parker asked if changing the ordinance would solve a current problem in town. Mr. Rousselle stated that there weren’t any current problems, but this has been an issue at times.
Mr. Straub asked if this change would affect any zone where the zone boundary is the center line of the road. Mr. Rousselle stated that was correct. This has been done in some zones already.
Ms. Demers stated that some of the issues that came up in the past had to do with land use and some of those issues were remedied when Table A was revised. For instance, on one side of Belle Marsh Road someone could have a minor or major home occupation but those on the other side of the road would not be allowed the same uses.
Mr. Parker asked if a public hearing would need to be held for a change like this. Mr. Rousselle stated that the Planning Board can present the changes to the Council who would have a public hearing on it. Mr. Straub stated that he thought the Planning Board could have their own public hearing. Ms. Pelletier stated that a public hearing wasn’t required of the Planning Board.
Mr. Straub asked how many times a year this issue came up. Mr. Rousselle stated that he would estimate it came up about three times per year.
Ms. Demers asked Mr. Rousselle to give some examples. Mr. Rousselle stated that on Academy Street, for example, there is R1 and R2 zoning. Someone wanted to split their lot into two lots and couldn’t because he needed 30,000 sq. ft. in R2 where he was located while only 10,000 sq. ft. was required on the other side of the street.
Mr. Straub stated that he could see this issue being debated. While changes like this towards the back side of town would probably go uncontested, changes in denser areas closer to the center of town may cause some controversy.
Ms. Demers asked what would change in the R3, R4 and R5 zones. Mr. Rousselle stated that there are still some uses that are different in R3 and R5.
Mr. Parker stated that he would like to have some sort of workshop to understand what people in town would like to do. Mr. Rousselle suggested a workshop with the Council first to gauge their feelings on the matter.
Ms. Demers stated that looking at Table A she sees that in R3 and R4 automobile graveyards and junkyards, and bed and breakfasts, churches, day care centers, clubs and fraternal organizations are allowed whereas they are not allowed in R5. Mr. Straub stated that it appeared the only areas a change in the R5 zone would affect were in the Belle Marsh Road area. Mr. Rousselle stated that was correct and that density would not be affected at all in that area.
Mr. Rousselle asked Kate Pelletier how Eliot defines their zones. Ms. Pelletier stated that the zoning map defines the zones since each parcel is shown on the map except for the Commercial/Industrial zone, which follows extends back from Route 236 a certain distance.
Mr. Straub stated that it would probably be a good idea to highlight the areas on a zoning map that this change would affect and present that to the Council. The Board agreed.
Mr. Straub asked if there had been any discussion with the Council on this issue. Mr. Rousselle stated that he wasn’t sure if they were aware of it.
The Board agreed to schedule a workshop with the Council. Mr. Stirling stated that he would talk to Roberta Orsini about this once the Board has seen a mark-up of the zoning map.
Mr. Stirling stated that the next issue he would like to present to the Council, perhaps at the same time as this, is the matter of private road acceptance. Mr. Rousselle stated that he would be happy to come back to the Planning Board to discuss that issue as well.
Ms. Pelletier stated that she could help provide some ordinance language from other towns regarding their road acceptance policies.
1. Set a policy to allow the Planning Board Chair and Planning Coordinator to refer applications to Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission for review.
Mr. Straub stated that now that the Planning Board has some budget to refer site plan and subdivision reviews for technical review to SMRPC. He stated that in interest of saving the applicant’s and the Board’s time, he believed the Planning Coordinator and Planning Board chair could make the judgment to refer applications to SMRPC without coming to the Planning Board first. Something like this would need to have a policy in place first.
Mr. Parker stated that he was in favor of a policy like that so long as the Board could decide to refer an application to SMRPC later if needed. Mr. Straub stated that would be fine.
Mr. Parker asked if there was a budget for this in place already. Mr. Stirling stated there was but he wasn’t sure how much it was. Mr. Straub stated that the town manager would keep the Planning Board on track in terms of the budget. He stated that it was his understanding that there was about a $25,000 budget for technical reviews.
Motion by Mr. Straub to authorize the Planning Coordinator and Planning Board chairman to use their judgment to refer applications to Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission, second by Ms. Demers, passed unanimously.
Kate Pelletier stated that she would periodically give the Board updates on the budget.
Mr. Straub asked when the public hearing on the shoreland zoning changes was scheduled for. Ms. Pelletier stated that the joint public hearing was scheduled for August 24th at 6:30 PM. She stated that she would email the Board a copy of the most recent changes along with Table C.
Motion by Ms. Demers, second by Mr. Straub to adjourn the regular meeting. The meeting was adjourned without objection at 8:49 PM.