Minutes of January 7, 2004

Chairman Steve Hamilton called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Members present, in addition to the chairman, were Joe Fitzpatrick, Geoff Gardner, Dave Jakway, Don Primrose, Ann Sweet, and Bob Switzer. Rick Hotchkiss represented the selectmen. Many residents of Apple Hill Road were present, along with Selectman Dick Labadie and Road Agent Randy Smith. Also present were Tom Hanna, Esq., counsel to Mr. Primrose, and Anthony Costello, consulting engineer to Mr. Primrose.

Minutes of the December 3, 2003, were accepted as distributed.

Continuation of the hearing on the Primrose-proposed five-lot subdivision on Apple Hill Road: hearing on the merits

Mr. Primrose recused himself from his board position.

Chairman Hamilton opened the hearing. Mr. Hotchkiss, noting the presence of Mr. Primrose's counsel, made a motion to continue the hearing until Town Counsel could be present, since Mr. Hanna's former presence at the proposal for a six-lot subdivision had resulted in a court case. Mr. Gardner seconded the motion. Mr. Hanna objected that every applicant is entitled to counsel and that the proposal on the table is entirely new, unrelated to the pending litigation. Following a brief discussion, Mr. Hotchkiss (with the agreement of Mr. Gardner) withdrew the motion. Mr. Primrose proceeded with his presentation, declaring that the five lots proposed conformed to or exceeded town requirements. Mr. Hotchkiss, speaking as the selectmen's representative to the mediation session with Mr. Primrose in October, reported that the mediation had been no more than Mr. Primrose's presentation of the present five lot plan. Mr. Hanna concurred. Mr. Primrose spoke of his efforts to meet concerns of the board and of neighbors and introduced Anthony Costello, engineer, to explain how construction on the lots will not result in any new water runoff. Mr. Costello repeated what the board had learned about the inadequacy of the road drainage system created years ago by the state when it rerouted the beginning of Apple Hill Road. He said that the road drainage system currently works, despite its defects, and he was asked to provide ways of keeping additional water off the road. He pointed out the "generic" retention ponds that would keep all additional water on site. Asked how the water-retention systems could be guaranteed once Mr. Primrose had sold the lots, Mr. Hotchkiss pointed to the two notes on the plat that would require subsequent owners to meet the water-retention and erosion stipulations found in Mr. Costello's engineering report and in the State of New Hampshire's best management practices for water runoff, what Mr. Costello referred to as "the bible." The Town would be able to hold any owner of the property liable for following the guidelines and meeting the performance standards. Mr. Fitzpatrick expressed concern about retention pond maintenance and was assured the plat requirements made any owner responsible.

Mr. Stewart asked Mrs. Sweet whether the stratified drift aquifer extended as far as the Primrose property. Mrs. Sweet could not remember how far the aquifer extended across Route 9 from Valley Road.*

Chairman Hamilton invited the public present to speak. Eli Cinq-Mars, expressing appreciation for the plans to keep water off the road, nonetheless argued that this "compacted" subdivision would affect the character of the town. He pointed to inaccuracies on the plat regarding labeling of access easements. (Those "typos" will be corrected, Mr. Primrose promised.) Mr. Cinq-Mars argued for larger easements to accommodate cross-lot driveways and retention ponds. Mr. Costello said there need not be cross-lot retention ponds (with confusing issues of responsibility of maintenance) and that a driveway within the existing easement, bringing the driveway closer to the street, would provide more space for water retention on the lots. Mr. Cinq-Mars urged the Board to ask for locations of driveways, detention ponds, house, general drainage, and for a bond to cover the cost of the subdivision work.

Mr. Gardner asked the Road Agent where the road is most likely to ice up. Mr. Smith pointed to the curve at the height of the road. Mr. Gardner described his standing at the middle proposed driveway and having a motorist brake because he was startled. He declared the need for a 15 mph sign. He stated that, even though the driveways meet the requirements, their presence even with a speed limit and drainage limits, constitutes a danger.

John Morressy reported that he blows his horn up and down the road because Apple Hill Road is full of surprises. He was hit once and had a near-miss once. He worried about surprised drivers braking and sliding on ice when surprised. He reminded the audience of the tragedy of the death of a Sullivan resident at the jug handle on Route 9 feeding into Washington Street in Keene. After the death, the road was reconfigured. He concluded that the board had better err on the side of prevention than make amends after a tragedy.

Ray MacLean contrasted this proposal for a subdivision with the usual practice of a resident carving off some acres so that an offspring could build a house. This subdivision is not harmonious with the generous spacing of the houses on the road. He pointed out that Nelson has labeled Apple Hill Road as "scenic" and recently resisted a large subdivision just beyond the Sullivan line by purchasing development rights from the developer on a substantial part of the property.

Doug Keene declared that, although Mr. Primrose had addressed the issues of water runoff and shape of the lots, the proposal still does not fit the neighborhood. Dr. Keene said that if he were able to purchase a portion of the Primrose property abutting his own property, he would place the newly purchased property under conservation easement. He reported that the neighbors wanted to work something out with Mr. Primrose but that Mr. Primrose wanted to see what the Planning Board would do first.

Fred Stewart warned that Sullivan would come under increasing pressure from home-seekers as a result of commercial development in Keene. Sullivan should not set a precedent with this subdivision.

Risa Keene said her first concern was about setting the precedent of squeezing five houses in a small area in Sullivan where the average lot size is 14 acres per house. Her second concern was safety. And her third concern was the damage acceptance of the proposal would do to feelings of community.

Betty Hauck, who has lived on Apple Hill Road for 35 years because of its sense of community and its rural character, pleaded for an opportunity for the neighbors to talk with Mr. Primrose to work something out that would not, as a Planning Board vote would do, create winners and losers.

Gary Patnode, after declaring his objection to crowding five houses together, asked what, aside from the wording on the plat, would tie new owners to the guidelines for erosion and water retention. Mr. Hotchkiss said any builder seeking a building permit would be informed of compliance needs.

Fred Stewart argued that the real issue is safety and that the Planning Board had not paid sufficient attention to that issue. Mr. Primrose replied that enforcement of speed limits was the issue. Mr. Hotchkiss raised the question of whether sight distances are inadequate, given the slope of the road. State standards have different stopping distances for different slopes. He asked whether the driveway committee had considered this question. Mr. Hanna interjected that the committee had had a year to look into this and other questions. Mr. MacLean suggested there was no time limit for safety.

Several other neighbors expressed their concerns about safety, pointing out that during the summer on Tuesdays between 90 and 150 cars go back and forth to Apple Hill concerts and that delivery trucks of all sorts service the camp there.

Chairman Hamilton closed the public questioning part of the hearing and turned to the Planning Board members for questions and comments.

Mr. Gardner asked whether there was a substantial financial difference between four and five lots. Mr. Primrose responded that, given all his expenses during the past year, he could not make money on four lots. Mr. Gardner asked what benefits to the Town the proposed five-lot subdivision offered. Mr. Primrose cited the need for housing in the area; the possible addition of school children for a school losing students and therefore in danger of closing; and the carefully thought-out nature of the subdivision, rather than the ad hoc popping up of houses in a scattered way.

Mr. Hotchkiss asked which driveway posed the greatest risk to safety. Mr. Gardner declared the topmost driveway posed the greatest risk. Mr. Hotchkiss suggested that the proposed driveways be configured so that four lots would be served by one cut rather than two. Mr. Primrose responded that it would be harder to market such lots. He also pointed out that cutting into higher banks to change the location of cuts would be very difficult. Mr. Hotchkiss said he was trying to find a solution to the safety issues.

Mrs. Sweet asked to make three observations. She pointed out that Mr. Primrose's original explanation for dividing the parcel into six lots was that he wanted to build affordable housing. Since his current plans propose selling the land, it is possible that very expensive houses might be built upon them. She agreed that the Planning Board might not have spent enough time considering safety issues. And she expressed appreciation of Betty Hauck's idea that the neighborhood and the developer should get together, outside a Planning Board session, to work out a mutually acceptable agreement that might be brought to the Planning Board.

Mr. Hanna declared that the neighborhood group has had a year to follow the road map he outlined a year ago. They could have petitioned the Town to create a zone with minimum lot sizes of 3 or 5 or more acres. He said he felt offended by neighborhood concern about setting a precedent in the face of their inaction on a zoning petition. Landowners need a guide, and the zoning regulations give that guide. This orderly five-lot subdivision substantially exceeds minimum requirements. He averred that the driveway committee had given adequate consideration to safety and that the speed problem was an enforcement problem. Mr. Gardner agreed that the driveways met the Town driveway regulations, but there was still a safety problem. It was a matter of judgment beyond merely meeting the regulation requirements. Mr. Primrose and Mr. Hanna asked how, then, the driveway committee could have issued a permit. Mr. Gardner responded that he thought it was possible to meet the requirements of the regulations and still have an unsafe situation.

Mr. Gardner reminded the Board of the history surrounding the aborted four-lot subdivision proposal. The Board had declined to review the proposal LAST JUNE, on advice of Town Counsel, when the proposal on its face was not "substantially different" from the six-lot proposal. It had merely erased two lot lines, leaving a subdividable six-acre lot. When Mr. Primrose returned in September with the same four lot plan, it included a deed restriction preventing further subdivision of the six acre lot. Mr. Gardner said the board in September indicated its further hesitations about this plan and had offered various alternative suggestions with respect to lot configuration and driveways. When asked why he had not redrawn the lines to create four comparable lots, Mr. Primrose said the reconfiguration would be too expensive. Mr. Gardner asked why, if Mr. Primrose had withdrawn the four lot plan because he felt it would not find favor with the board, he had now returned with a five lot plan that was even less likely to find favor with the board.

Mr. Fitzpatrick pointed out that this was only the second subdivision of this type Sullivan had confronted. He referred to a string of narrow lots on Valley Road that had disturbed the town years ago. Mr. Hanna exclaimed: "You saw that as a red flag and you did nothing about it?" Mr. Fitzpatrick responded that that was before Sullivan had zoning.

Chairman Hamilton opened the floor to the general public once again. Mr. MacLean said that, as a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, he found questions of applicant's financial hardship personally compelling, but "you can't let that sway you." He argued that the question about whether the proposed subdivision was a benefit to the Town was a relevant question, because towns like Sullivan are facing development pressure and this decision would create a precedent. He thought the Master Plan Update Committee might be considering recommending changes to zoning. Several more neighbors reiterated concerns about safety. One recommended the Board members see for themselves by standing along Apple Hill Road at the site of the proposed subdivision.

Mr. Gardner suggested the issues should be resolved between Mr. Primrose and the neighbors. His motion, seconded by Mr. Fitzpatrick, to continue the hearing until the February meeting, in the meantime to encourage neighbors and Mr. Primrose to meet so that they can seriously discuss an accommodation that will be satisfactory to both. Mr. Primrose responded that he would look at any reasonable proposal within the next 10 days. Tricia Patnode offered to coordinate plans for a meeting. Mr. Primrose said, "Somebody call me, and I'll meet." Ms. Hauck asked whether a lawyer would be involved, and Mr. Primrose said a lawyer would not. The vote to approve the motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Hamilton declared the hearing continued to the February 4 meeting of the Planning Board.

Mr. Primrose resumed his seat on the Board.

Preliminary consultation on a proposed Site Plan Approval for A&L Trucking Chairman Hamilton had promised Mr. Alexander he would call him when the Primrose hearing concluded. Everyone agreed it was too late in the evening to begin consideration of that issue. Mr. Hotchkiss urged everyone to read the traffic and safety report offered by Mr. Alexander. He suggested that much accident information gathered from the Town Constable had been ignored, that safety issues had not been adequately addressed, and that the study ignored the effects of the increased trucking on all roads but Gilsum Road.

Atwood/ Martin subdivision
Mr. Primrose asked whether the state driveway permit had been received. It had. He also expressed concern about failure to find some pins that had been seen on an informal visit. Chairman Hamilton promised that they would be located formally once the snow was gone. Mr. Primrose fervently urged the Board to follow scrupulously regulations about process.

Wetlands Conservation District
Mrs. Sweet reported that the January 6 hearing had concluded with a Planning Board vote to have the proposed change to the Community Planning Ordinance placed on the March ballot. Selectman Labadie said he would find out the deadline for submission.

The hour being late, the meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Ann Sweet, Secretary