TOWN OF NORTH HARMONY
TUESDAY, 01/11/2022, 7:00 PM
MEMBERS PRESENT: PAT RICE PHIL STRAND
RICHARD JOHNSON JAMES GOODLING
OTHERS PRESENT: Stephanie Gibbs, Dick Sena, Don McCord, Kelly Johnson
- PAT RICE OPENED THE MEETING AT 7:00 PM.
- Mr. Sena gave the Town Board report from the 1/10/2022 meeting.
- SOLAR PROJECT- DON MCCORD
Mr. McCord said the state does not consider solar panels impervious but that does not prohibit
the town to be stricter than the state and on any of the laws they can’t be less strict. He shared a map with the board and said the AR district runs parallel and goes to Butts Rd. He said he looked at aerial photos along Butts Rd. and it appears that up towards Ramsey Rd. there are open fields and a farm along Cheney Rd. He said Steinhoff Rd. down to Open Meadows Rd. there are fields, but with solar they are looking for an area that the lines run through like on Open Meadows Rd. and Stoneledge Rd. He said the properties he mentioned are in the AG district but the property on Open Meadows Rd. that was in question at the last meeting is not but the lands around it is.
Mr. Rice asked what the red box on the top of the map represents.
Mr. McCord said he sees potential in that area for solar in the future.
Mr. Rice said it looks like it is right next to the expressway.
Mr. McCord said not exactly. He said he is probably a little off, the land he is talking about is off the expressway about a quarter mile. He said under the current guidelines solar would be permitted in that area.
Mr. Sena said he looked at the property on Open Meadows Rd. after the last meeting and he doesn’t think it is a good location. He said its on a steep hill and full of trees that would need to be cleared.
Mr. McCord said it would be an environmental nightmare.
Mr. Strand said regarding drainage and environmental aspects is this too close to Goose Creek.
Mr. McCord said the state is going to be concerned about the distance to Goose Creek and Goose Creek is the biggest water shed in the county. He said regardless the location they are going to have to go before the board for approval. He asked when the time comes do, we want to approve the project.
Mr. Rice said it isn’t in the right district. He said he doesn’t have a problem looking again at the AG and AG residential districts but as Mr. Sena reported today, we see more building in the township and it seems like the properties in the AG residential areas are going to be developed more.
Mr. Sena said Dale made a good point last month when he said three average houses or two nice houses would equal the value of a solar farm, so take 35 acres and put two or three houses on them, what would everyone rather see.
Mr. Rice said he agrees with that.
Mr. McCord said that is an option to say we are comfortable with where we are at and just notify the company of that.
Mr. Rice said he feels like the Open Meadows Rd. is a boundary line. He said where we see the most development is from Open Meadows Rd. down to the lake.
Mr. Johnson asked if anything should we expand the AR out to Open Meadows Rd. and west of Open Meadows Rd. be the AG district. He said it doesn’t make sense to expand the AG district if we are building.
Mr. Rice said there are maybe three active farms in the town. He said if we expand the AR district it wouldn’t impact the existing farms because they are already there so they would be grandfathered in.
Mr. McCord said a lot of farmers today farm in a different way they not only rely on their own land but other land that they may lease and if we categorize it as agricultural land that land might not be grandfathered in. He said we need to be cautious and look at the law to be sure.
Mr. Rice said if you look at Open Meadows Rd. and Erickson Rd. there has been quit a few houses build on those roads.
Mr. McCord said if you look at the districts and you go to the lake the restrictions are pretty stiff and as you progress you get fewer restrictions. He said the AG has the fewest restriction.
Mr. Strand asked if changing the districts will affect future owners if they want to continue farming on those properties.
Ms. Johnson said if it is not actively being used for that purpose for an amount of time it will lose its status as grandfathered in.
Mr. Rice said if you change it from AG to AR how much are they loosing. He said they won’t be able to build solar farms, but we don’t really want them in that area anyway.
Mr. McCord said compare them and if there isn’t much of a difference put in a recommendation. He said he could have that comparison for the board at the next meeting.
Mr. Sena said they can always get a variance also.
Mr. Rice said the world has changed drastically since the laws were implemented. He said the township and county has changed. He said losing the farms in the town is a huge loss
Mr. McCord said to relay to Mr. Lawson and the town Board that the solar project is off the table.
PLANNING BOARD ROLES
Mr. McCord said he talked to the town Supervisor the other day and he said that occasionally things like permits take to much time. He said Mr. Lawson only has 15 hours a week to deal with everything that comes across his desk. He said the best thing to do is try to figure out a way to smooth out the process. Mr. McCord said the Planning Board should not be the board to look at for an opinion, but they should make the decision on these permits. He said there are plenty of communities that use their Planning Board to make decisions. He said ultimately the Town Board makes the final decision, but the recommendation would come from the Planning Board.
Mr. Rice asked if that would help streamline the process if the Planning Board heard Special Use Applications.
Mr. McCord said a lot of time they ask their opinion then it goes to the ZBA, so he doesn’t see why it can’t be a one board approval.
Mr. Rice said he doesn’t have a problem with that.
Mr. Geist asked if it has back logged the applications doing things the way it is done now.
Mr. Rice said there are a handful of applications a year that are delayed because they send it to the Planning Board for their opinion to send it back to the Zoning Board, so it delays it a few months the way it is now.
Mr. Geist said he doesn’t think it is that many
Mr. Rice said we have had a few just in the last few months.
Mr. Goodling said it is very confusing to the people as well and he agrees it would streamline the process.
Mr. McCord said he agrees that it helps make the public understand when there is a process that flows.
Mr. Rice said the way it is now there can be a 2–3-month gap.
Mr. Geist asked if it has been an issue. He said if it hasn’t been an issue why try to fix it.
Mr. Goodling said you might not know if it is an issue because people don’t want to complain when they are in the system because they are looking for an approval. He said that doesn’t mean they agree with it.
Mr. McCord said nobody in the town knows the purpose of the laws better than the Planning Board because they are the ones that drafted it and recommended it to the Town Board. He said when someone comes before them with an application, the Planning Board knows the law best.
Mr. Winger asked what it takes to make the change being suggested.
Mr. McCord said they would just have to revisit what board does what and recommend it to the Town Board. He said there would have to be a public hearing also. He said creating the language isn’t long, but the process is probably 3-4 months. He said it is something for them to discuss because ultimately, they will be the one making the decision. He said the Planning Board having he right to make decisions also validates the existence of the Planning Board and gives it more of a purpose.
Mr. Rice said they have never had issues attracting board members. He said he can think of once or twice that they did not meet a quorum.
Mr. McCord said there was talk about when the water and sewer come through the town how it would impact the lot sizes and there has also been a change in the intersection. He said the sewer might change what they were thinking when they did the Comprehensive Plan before. He said we might want to look at that and see if what they talked about before is what they still want.
Mr. Sena said the only interest in the property on Route 394 was a Dollar General and a car lot. He said he thinks there needs to be a conversation on what they want to see in that area.
Mr. McCord said even if there was a Dollar General interested, we can put in some design guidelines in place. He said we can revisit those guidelines.
Mr. Strand said Dollar General is willing to implement our design guidelines if you reinforce it. He said the intersection is the Gateway for the lake, when people come off that ramp, we really have a great area here he said if we pay attention to the design guidelines it could be something great.
Mr. Rice said he agrees it is a nice intersection for the Highway.
Mr. Sena said we are the most unutilized intersection. He said he is sure water is going to come through after sewer so with water and sewer its going to change things.
Mr. Rice asked what the best way is to go about changing the Planning board to approve the Special Use permits.
Mr. Sena said he thinks they should bring it up at the next Town Board meeting and get their input and he could have a conversation with Mr. Lawson.
Mr. Rice asked Mr. McCord if they could get a recommendation from him
Mr. McCord said yes.
Mr. Goodling asked if the Zoning Board would have any input.
Mr. Sena said he thought they would. He would have Mr. Lawson present it to the board.
Next regular meeting scheduled February 8, 2022, at 7:00 P.M.
- ON A MOTION MADE BY MR. GEIST, SECONDED BY MR. WINGER AND NONE BEING APPOSED, THE MEETING WAS ADJOURNED AT 8:25 PM
Deputy Town Clerk