“Many residents are deeply concerned,” Ferland began, asking visitors to the meeting to raise their hands if they shared that concern. The show of hands was unanimous. Noting that most Act 250 hearings are held during working hours on weekdays, making it difficult or impossible for many to attend, Ferland said that those who are not present at the initial hearing lose forever any right to interested party status in the legal proceedings.
But, Ferland continued, the residents have heard that it is possible for the planning commission to “demand that at least the initial hearing be held in the evening or on Saturday.” Ferland stressed that strong wording from the commission is required.
“Thank you,” responded chair Sirean LaFlamme; “That’s a very reasonable request. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”
While there was no further discussion on the residents’ request at that time, the subject recurred at the end of the evening. John Bennett, of the Windham Regional Commission, told the board that both it and the selectboard, “ideally both,” could make the request, since both are legal interested parties. Bennett suggested he could call District 2 Environmental Commission co-ordinator April Hensel to ask about the feasibility of getting such a request granted.
The planners spent the bulk of the evening continuing their line-by-line review of the zoning ordinance. Little substantive change has been made so far. “You’ve got a good document,” Bennett commented. But some provisions need updating to reflect changes. One such change is the state’s assumption of authority in granting water/wastewater permits. When the current ordinance was written, Halifax’s own health ordinance and officials ruled on wastewater permits. Bennett and the board also found several internal references that were incorrect or unclear. Members agreed to add the names of sections now referenced by number only.
In general, the board is taking a restrained approach to its revisions. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” quipped Bill Pusey. A number of items were flagged for further research. Is there, for example, an accepted definition of an adequate road? And Bennett suggested a “placeholder” provision for the new state rules on shoreline protection.
Bennett told the board that WRC is arranging a local presentation by state officials to answer any questions on those rules.
Zoning administrator Rick Gay asked if contact information could be added to sections requiring an applicant to go through a state agency. Everyone agreed that contact information is needed, but that it will be better handled separately, in an updateable pamphlet or insert, rather than including potentially dated information in the law itself.