THESE MINUTES ARE PRESENTED IN DRAFT FORM AND HAVE NOT
BEEN FORMALLY APPROVED BY THE ENFIELD CONSERVATION COMMISSION.
OFFICIAL COPIES OF MINUTES, WHEN APPROVED, CAN BE OBTAINED FROM
THE TOWN CLERK OR PLANNING OFFICE.
ENFIELD CONSERVATION COMMISSION
MINUTES OF A REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013
A Regular Meeting of the Enfield Conservation Commission was called to order by Chair Karen LaPlante in the Enfield Room of the Enfield Town Hall, 820 Enfield Street, Enfield, Connecticut, on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, at 7:08 p.m.
Commissioner Vose took the roll.
Present were: Chair Karen LaPlante and Commissioners, Timothy McGuire, Mike Dynia, Kathleen Vose, and Richard Szewczak.
Absent was: Commissioner Joanne Kneiss.
Also present were: Jim Luczak, Staff Liaison and Gretchen Pfeifer-Hall
Chair LaPlante asked if there was anyone present in the audience that wanted to come forward to address the Commission.
Gretchen Pfeifer-Hall came forward to address the Commission.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall referenced some articles that were given to her by Commissioner McGuire’s brother Ed. These were articles he had written for Connecticut Woodlands Magazine. Ms. Pfeifer-Hall shared a copy of the articles with the Commission.
Chair LaPlante also acknowledged the presence of former staff liaison Roger Alsbaugh in the audience.
APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES:
March 12, 2013 Regular Meeting
Commissioner Dynia made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Szewczak, to approve the minutes of the March 12, 2013, ECC Regular Meeting as submitted.
The motion was carried with a 4-0-1 vote, with Commission Szewczak abstaining.
There was no Executive Session.
1. Open Space Inventory and Referrals
Chair LaPlante referenced a Memorial Day event that was held on King’s Island. She said the Town of Enfield has entered into a licensing agreement with Rocky River Realty to allow Enfield to utilize this land for open space purposes.
Chair LaPlante read from a copy of the agreement, saying it would give the Town the license to maintain and manage the existing walking trails along the Connecticut River; to maintain the property and its natural resources in their existing rustic, wooded, undeveloped and natural condition; to prohibit access by motorized vehicles except those used for maintenance and municipal purposes; and to display appropriate signage that names the area, identifies the property owner, and displays allowable uses.
Chair LaPlante said the agreement was part of the Town Council’s packet for their meeting a week ago Monday night.
Chair LaPlante next discussed an 8-24 referral for the Town to purchase a parcel of land at the intersection of Church and Chapel Streets. She said she didn’t think too much of it when it came through because it looked like it was going to be used for additional parking for the Lamagna Center. Chair LaPlante said this was a two-building property that was a quarter of an acre in size. She said it abuts the little park that is on the corner of Church and Chapel Streets.
Chair LaPlante said she did not attend the Council meeting at which this public hearing was held because she had a family commitment and also because she did not think too much about it. She said when she read the minutes from the Council meeting, it said that the money for the purchase of this property was coming from the open space fund, and that made her furious.
She said the statute does state that the money in the open space fund can be used for the following reasons: to preserve open space, to acquire additional land for open space, or for recreational or agricultural purposes. She said that the land was being purchased to be available for future municipal and recreational needs.
Chair LaPlante read from the May 20th 2013 Council Minutes to give the Commissioners a feel for the discussion that took place. In summery, the majority of the Council Members were in favor of the purchase because it would allow for additional and safer parking for residents visiting the Lamagna Center.
The Commissioners discussed sending a letter to the Council expressing their dissatisfaction with open space funds being used for this purchase. Chair LaPlante said that PZC was never told that the funds for this purchase were coming from the open space fund, nor were they told the purpose for the purchase. She said that she spoke against the purchase at the Council meeting stating the ECC was never even considered or notified that such a purchase was being planning using open space funds. She said if the ECC was at least informed, maybe they could have had a chance to view the purchase more positively.
Chair LaPlante emphasized that nothing was stated during the public hearing that let the community know where the funds were coming from to purchase this parcel. She said that Town staff members also did not know the planned source of the funding.
Chair LaPlante said that ECC should make some kind of a statement. She said the Council does not have to consult ECC, but a heads-up would have been nice. She said it would have been nice if ECC were informed about the planned purchase ahead of time. She said ECC would likely have offered its support of the purchase. She said to be blindsided like this was not right. The Commissioners expressed concern of the open space fund being depleted.
Commissioner Szewczak suggested writing a letter expression the Commissions’ displeasure with the Council’s decision to use the open space funds. He further suggested asking the Council to replace the funds that it utilized in a timely fashion. He said that while this current use would be of some benefit to the Town, it would not be as beneficial as other uses of this money might have been. He said that paying that much money for such a small of a piece of property was not a responsible allocation of these funds. He said the Commission should state that the Council should not just take away funds that are allocated for open space and use them for personal use. He said this is a misuse of power and funds.
Roger Alsbaugh, 22 Russell Street, came forward to address the Commission.
Mr. Alsbaugh said it would be appropriate to mention that the Council continues to lose credibility, primarily because this parcel was not on any list of proposed acquisitions and was prioritized in a questionable manner.
Mr. Alsbaugh talked about property along the Connecticut River, stating that the purchase of property here has been in the POCD for over 25 years. He said the purchase of the Chapel Street parcel using open space funds is very questionable.
Gretchen Pfeifer-Hall, 4 Somers Road, addressed the Commission.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall said she agrees with everything that has been said so far, but there is a bigger issue. She said it is about procedure. She said the ECC received a grant in 1999 and put together the Open Space and Farmland Preservation in Enfield document, which was finally adopted by the Town Council a couple of years ago.
She said there are procedures recommended, including the formation of an open space task force where the ECC would have the most significant representation. She said that ECC, in conjunction with the Land Trust and people with businesses, real estate, and environmental backgrounds would evaluate property and recommend potential open space acquisitions.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall said the Council completely disregarded this document and the input of the ECC. She said the Council went behind ECC’s back and handled much of the discussion regarding the purchase of this parcel in Executive Session.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall said the way this was handled was reprehensible. She said it is not right that almost one-third of the available open space funds were used for the purchase of one small parcel of land. She also expressed displeasure with the fact that $25,000 was also taken from this fund to pay back taxes on this parcel.
The Commissioners discussed ECC and the fact that the Council might be looking to disband the Commission or combine it with Parks and Recreation.
Chair LaPlante said that she knows of several people who have applied to be part of ECC that have not been appointed by the Council. She commented that it took Commissioner Vose over a year to get appointed to ECC. She said she doesn’t understand why people aren’t being appointed when she is advertising on both E-TV and in the Kiosk that the Commission is looking for members.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall said the ECC needs to fight for itself. She read the following statement from the Open Space and Farmland Preservation document into the record:
The statutory authority for open space planning currently rests with the ECC.
She said to dismantle this Commission and turn it into something else takes that away. She said it also takes away resources that the ECC has, such as belonging to CACIWC and educational opportunities for Commission members. She said the Town has had a Conservation Commission for more than 30 years. She said to disband this Commission would be a giant step backwards. She said that people don’t realize how much ECC has done for the Town, and maybe it’s time that they did.
It was discussed that sending a letter to the Town would likely be useless, but there are some State agencies that would be interested in what was going on and how open space funds were being utilized. He said that some of them might even take some form of action. It was suggested that the letter be addressed to the Town Council, and that some of these State agencies be copied in.
Mr. Alsbaugh cautioned the Commission to be careful as to how it approached other agencies. He said the Commission might was to do some research and get some advice, as essentially this is a political issue and the commission could potentially be asking independent state agencies to take a stance on a political issue.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall commented that she does not know whether the Town got an appraisal on the Chapel Street parcel, and if they did she said it is unlikely that it came in at $225,000.00.
Chair LaPlante said that Commissioner Szewczak had some very good suggestions for the letter and she asked him to draft one for the Commissioners to review. He said that he would.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall said that nobody is opposed to the concept of additional parking for the Lamagna Center. Chair LaPlante said she agreed, it isn’t the parking that is an issue – it is the way open space funds were used that is the problem. The funds could have come from elsewhere, such as the general fund.
Commissioner Dynia made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Vose, to send a letter from ECC to the Town Council stating the Commissions’ position on Open Space funds being used for the Chapel Street parcel purchase.
The motion was carried with a 5-0-0 vote.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall asked about the Raffia parcel and said as far as she knows it has not been purchased yet. Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Luczak if he knew what was going on with this. Mr. Luczak said he had emailed the Town Attorney asking for an update, and negotiations between the Town Attorney and Raffia’s attorney to come up with a sales agreement are underway but nothing has been completed yet.
The Commissioners discussed the grant for this purchase and concern that the money would be lost if an agreement was not reached in time. Commissioner Szewczak suggested another letter from the Commission to the Town encouraging the Town to continue negotiations in good faith to purchase this property.
Commissioner Szewczak suggested the following wording:
We encourage the Town in good faith to be carrying on negotiations for the purchase of the Raffia property. We understand that we do have a grant and the grant has a limited life. Seeing the quick nature that other parcels have been purchased, we assume we can proceed in the same fashion.
Chair LaPlante asked how much the grant was for. Mr. Luczak said that $80,000 was requested and the Town received $60,000.
Mr. Luczak said the grant was requested for the Raffia property because of its high value and proximity to the Scantic River. He said there were other properties that might have been better located, but their value was too low to justify the costs associated with applying for the grant.
Mr. Luczak suggested to the Commission that if there are other parcels they would like to see purchased, they should get the ball rolling. He said there was money to spend and the Commission should spend it before someone else does.
Chair LaPlante said that the Commission did not have the authority to spend the money. Mr. Luczak said that there were many things the Commission could do to put things in motion and be pro-active. The Commissioners discussed different things they have tried, such as providing a list to the Town of suggested open space acquisitions.
Mr. Luczak said he would follow up on the Raffia property and provide a status to the Commission.
Chair LaPlante asked the Commissioners if they had anything else to discuss under Open Space.
There was no further discussion.
2. Farms and Farmland Preservation
Commissioner McGuire talked about a new act in the most recent Legislative Session. He said it kind of amends the old Purchase of Development Rights and the Community Farms Act, which is the one that allows the towns or municipalities to partner with the state. Commissioner McGuire said the new act makes changes to the state’s Community Farms and Farmland Preservation program, which allows the state to purchase development rights to certain agricultural land.
Commissioner McGuire said that the bill generally applies certain requirements for acquiring development rights under the program. He mentioned the following highlights of the new act:
- Requires the Department of Agriculture Commissioner to file a notice of acquisition of the land and development rights.
- Provides a procedure to remove restrictions within the development rights (Commissioner McGuire said he needed to look into this further to get some questions answered).
- Allows partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the municipalities to purchase development rights.
- Allows special terms when purchasing development rights with federal funds under an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Expands the development rights that a municipality may jointly own with the state under the Farmland Preservation program, if the municipality pays part of the purchase price.
- The current law restricts a municipality’s ownership to the development rights of the land within its border. This bill removes this restriction, thus allowing a municipality to jointly own all of the purchased development rights, even if some of the land is outside that municipality’s border.
Commissioner McGuire commented that most of the additions to the act are good ones.
Commissioner McGuire next discussed the meeting that he and Ms. Pfeifer-Hall had with the Tax Assessor. He said they met with Ms. Froment around two months ago. He said it was a really good meeting, and Ms. Froment had information readily available for them. He said she provided them with a list of all of the properties that have agricultural buildings and pay taxes on them. He said the list also included the values of the buildings.
Chairman LaPlante asked if the property had to be in 490 to be eligible for the tax exemption or if any agricultural property/building was eligible. The Commissioners consulted the exemption booklet, and it was determined that agricultural property did not have to be in 490 to be eligible for this exemption.
Commissioner McGuire said that Ms. Pfeifer-Hall gave him another list tonight from Ms. Froment of agricultural properties that already have a tax exemption for machinery. Chair LaPlante said that if these properties already had an exemption for machinery, they would qualify as farms, which is necessary to be eligible for the building tax exemption. Chair LaPlante said that this would be the list of “real” farms that would qualify.
Commissioner McGuire said that Ms. Froment did some calculations while they were meeting to determine the lost tax revenue that would result if this program were implemented. He said it was about $80,000, which really is not that significant when compared with the total budget. He also commented that this would only be if all of the properties on the list qualified. It would likely be much lower than that, especially if the program was implemented incrementally.
Commissioner McGuire said that Ms. Froment left it to the ECC to go over the list and make any necessary corrections, such as adding farms that might have been omitted. Once ECC has a list that it feels is complete, it will need to be presented to the Council.
Commissioner McGuire said that Ms. Froment had some suggestions for them, including notifying farmers about the exemption and getting them to give their comments directly to the Council.
3. New Applications – IWWA and PZC
Inland Wetlands – New Applications
Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Luczak if there was anything he thought the Commission would be interested in.
Mr. Luczak said IWWA had only had one meeting since March. He referred to XWI-1306, which is a Town exempt permit. He said there was a previous IWWA permit 369 for drainage repairs on Cooper Street, but time ran out on it before the work was done. He said the land between the end of Cooper Street and the Scantic River was slated to be sold to DEEP in exchange for some land that DEEP gave the Town to finish the South Maple Street Bridge. He said part of the deal was the Town had to repair the existing swale that was on the property. Mr. Luczak said the permit was approved and the work was completed last month.
Mr. Luczak said that Hazardville Water Company came in for and received administrative approval to replace the water main on Arbor Road.
Mr. Luczak said that Shaker Pines Fire Department came in for a DPN (Determination of Permit Need) to repave the parking lot, add some lighting, and improve the existing drainage. It was determined that a permit was needed, but that Mr. Luczak could handle it administratively.
Mr. Luczak said the only other thing was the ongoing Mayfield Apartments application. He said the only involvement IWWA had was regarding some mitigation work that the applicant was required to do to preserve Frost Weed discovered on the property. The work was within a regulated area, so IWWA needed to give approval, which it did. He said the actual apartment complex was being built in a non-regulated area and that existing drainage basins would be used.
Planning and Zoning Commission – New Applications
Chair LaPlante said that the Mayfield Place application was the biggest thing on PZC’s upcoming agenda. Mr. Luczak said he did not have a copy of the agenda, so he wasn’t sure what else might be coming.
He said the proposed apartments were very high end, and each would rent for $1,100 and $1,400 per month. Chair LaPlante asked if any open space was required for the application. Mr. Luczak said the parcel has already been approved for this use, but there is open space across the street where the Frost Weed was moved to as part of the mitigation.
Commissioner Dynia made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Szewczak to table Agenda Items 4, 5, and 6 (Aquifer Protection, Archaeological Protection, and Special Projects and New Ideas) for tonight’s meeting only.
The motion was carried with a 5-0-0 vote.
4. Aquifer Protection – Discussion Tabled.
5. Archaeological Protection – Discussion Tabled.
a. Shaker Property – Fire Training Facility Update
6. Special Projects and New Ideas – Discussion Tabled.
a. Invasive Species Project Update
b. Escarpment Soils Project Update
c. POCD Implementation Plan
1. Participate in Silvio Conte Refuge planning process
2. Work with CT DEEP to remove Springborn Dam
3. Educate residents about riparian buffers
4. Consider water protection requirements for agriculture
5. Revise open space donation standards
6. Blueway trail development
7. Identify and construct key scenic overlooks
8. Promote public access along the Connecticut River
9. Acquire land/easements along Freshwater Brook
for trail development
10. Implement Mancuso Park Master Plan
Chair LaPlante addressed Ms. Pfeifer-Hall stating that she has spent a number of years on the ECC. She thanked Ms. Pfeifer-Hall for her service on behalf of the Commission and presented her with a plaque. She read the contents of the plaque into the record:
To Gretchen Pfeifer-Hall, in recognition of your 20 years of dedicated service to the Town of Enfield, Enfield Conservation Commission, 2013.
Ms. Pfeifer-Hall thanked the Commission and said that she would much rather be voting along with the Commission than receiving the plaque, but it was nonetheless appreciated. Ms. Pfeifer-Hall said she has thoroughly enjoyed her time on the Commission and wishes she had been re-appointed so she could still be a part of it.
The Commissioners discussed Ms. Pfeifer-Hall not being re-appointed, and no one was given a reason. Chair LaPlante commented that there were several open spots on the Commission, so it didn’t make any sense. She invited all of the Commissioners to the Council of Chairs Meeting on Wednesday, June 19th. She said this might be a good place for members of the ECC to voice their opinions.
Commissioner Vose pointed out that several Commission members were coming up on their term expirations. She asked if Chair LaPlante had heard anything about their re-appointments. Chair LaPlante said she had not. She said that no one has approached her about any re-appointments or new appointments.
Chair LaPlante moved on to discuss the budget. She said it was the end of the budget season, and everything has to be turned in by tomorrow. She referenced the following items:
- Dues to the Northern Connecticut Land Trust - $50.00 paid in March
- CACIWC – Usually paid in July – nothing received from CACIWC as of yet. This is $170.00 and will be in next year’s budget.
Chair LaPlante said there is $120.00 left in the Dues, Fees, and Subscriptions budget category that will be lost if not spent tonight, and she recommends spending it as follows:
- Scantic River Water Shed Donation – $70.00
- Connecticut River Water Shed Council “Friend” Membership – $50.00
Commissioner Szewczak made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Vose, to donate $70.00 to the Scantic River Water Shed and to use the remaining $50.00 to become a “Friend” of the Connecticut River Water Shed Council.
The motion was carried with a 5-0-0 vote.
Chair LaPlante next asked for a motion to spend $125.10 from the Other Supplies and Materials budget item to pay Awards and More for three plaques to honor dedicated ECC members. One of the plaques was presented to Ms. Pfeifer-Hall at tonight’s meeting.
Commissioner Szewczak made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Dynia, to allocate $125.10 from “Other Supplies and Materials” to purchase three plaques from Awards and More to honor dedicated ECC members.
The motion was carried with a 5-0-0 vote.
Chair LaPlante next referenced the following Correspondence:
- A flyer for the Summer Solstice Paddle, which she is going to put up in the Kiosk. The event is Friday, June 21st at 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. starting at the Donald Barnes Boat Launch.
- Correspondence from Oxen Hill Farm, Suffield, CT, regarding their CSA program.
- Correspondence between Chair LaPlante and Mr. Lee regarding the South Windsor Open Space Task Force and what they have done and are doing.
- The Habitat
- Connecticut Federation of Lakes Newsletter
- Correspondence from Mr. Lee asking Chair LaPlante to be on the agenda for the next Council Committee Meeting scheduled for June 25th.
LIAISON REPORT – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
Commissioner Szewczak said the last meeting was just before Mr. Warren left. He said it was announced at that meeting that Mr. Warren would not be replaced on a full-time basis. Commissioner Szewczak said he expressed his concern about having someone who is not fully knowledgeable about the Town as the Economic Development Commissioner. He also said that the Town Manager and his assistant would be doing a lot of the Economic Development Work going forward.
Commissioner Szewczak said that Mr. Bryanton has been appointed to oversee Thompsonville, but no one specific has been assigned to the other areas of Enfield.
Commissioner Szewczak next talked about a potential medical facility coming to Enfield, and the legislation that needed to be passed to allow that to happen. He said that the legislation did not get passed, and as such, other geographic locations are being looked at for this potential facility.
Commissioner Szewczak said the next EDC Meeting was scheduled for June 19th and he would be attending.
LIAISON REPORT – SCANTIC RIVER WATERSHED ASSOCIATION
Commissioner Dynia said the Spring Splash held in March was the best ever. He said there were over 180 paddlers, and they were able to donate $1,000.00 to the Enfield Food Shelf and $1,000.00 to the Watershed.
He said June 1st was Connecticut Trails Day and the Watershed had a historical hike and a nature hike as part of the day’s activities.
Commissioner Dynia said the Association met last night and mentioned the following upcoming events:
- Full Moon Paddle – July 20th from the Mill Pond
- Annual Meeting – to be held in October.
Chair LaPlante said that ECC needed to elect a new secretary, as Ms. Pfeifer-Hall was not re-appointed. She asked for a volunteer, and Commissioner Vose said she would do it.
Commissioner Szewczak made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Dynia, to elect Commissioner Vose as ECC’s new secretary.
The motion was carried with a 5-0-0 vote.
NEXT MEETING DATE
The next meeting of the Enfield Conservation Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9, 2013 in the Enfield Room.
Mr. Luczak said that the walking trail at the Senior Center was almost completed. He said there would be a ribbon cutting ceremony at either 2:00 or 2:30 on Friday, June 14th. He said he would confirm the time and send an email out to the Commissioners.
Commissioner Szewczak made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Dynia to adjourn. Following a unanimous vote, the meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.
Kathleen Vose, Secretary