January 31, 2015 Minutes

These minutes were posted by the Planning.

Pittsfield Planning Board
Town Hall, 85 Main Street
Pittsfield, NH 03263
Minutes of Public Meeting

DATE: Saturday, January 31, 2015

The meeting of the planning board convened at 9:02 A.M. in the town hall on 85 Main Street, Pittsfield, NH, in the audience of the meeting of the economic development committee (EDC). The meeting of the planning board was part of the EDC’s joint board/committee forum. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the development potential of land in the vicinity of Route 28.

EDC chair Ted Mitchell called the meeting to order at 9:02 A.M. and asked attendees to identify themselves.

Planning board members present:
Clayton Wood, member and chair of the planning board;
Jim Pritchard, member and secretary of the planning board;
Bill Miskoe, member of the planning board; and
Roland Carter, alternate planning board member.

Planning board members absent:
Pat Heffernan, member and vice-chair of the planning board;
Larry Konopka, selectmen’s ex officio member of the planning board; and
Gerard LeDuc, alternate for the selectmen’s ex officio planning board member.

Other town officials, employees, or contractors present:
Ted Mitchell, chair EDC;
Lyn Roberts, vice-chair EDC;
Ellen Barbasso, secretary EDC;
Paul Sherwood, EDC;
Linda Small, EDC/selectman;
Donna Ward, EDC;
Ralph Odell, chair master plan committee;
Denis Beaudoin, zoning board of adjustment;
Diane Westgate, conservation commission;
Brian Mika, conservation commission;
Owen David, conservation commission;
Paul Richardson, trail committee;
Mike Tardiff, executive director Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission;
Matt Monahan, planner, Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission;
John Reagan, state senator;
Helen Schiff, budget committee and Suncook Valley Regional Development Corporation;
Michael Williams, town administrator;
Jesse Pacheco, building inspector and code enforcement officer;
Stuart Arnett, Arnett Development Group;
Joe Cortese;
Fred Hast;
Newton Kershaw III;
Jacob Kitson;
Ed LaGraize;
Paul Nickerson;
Barry Podmore;
David Schleyer;
Brad Sterl.

Members of the public appearing before the planning board: None. The planning board did not conduct business at this meeting.

Mike Tardiff discussed aging demographics. There are fewer school children. Mike Tardiff discussed topics of the comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS). Growth is expected but at a lower rate. NH has less immigration. Growth management ordinances were big 15 years ago, but they are not so big now. How does Pittsfield promote itself as a nice place to live? The Internet is an advertisement medium. The all-boards meetings show the town government’s commitment to the community. Pittsfield should stay the course with the all-boards meetings. Pittsfield will need to be more proactive in promoting growth than Pittsfield was 15 years ago.

Matt Monahan discussed the purposes of the all-boards meetings. The meetings are intended to promote communication between boards. Matt Monahan recited the mission and vision statements that the all-boards meetings had adopted on September 27, 2014.

Mike Williams said that Rustic Crust is running again. Molly’s Tavern is coming to town and will open next Wednesday. The town has taken several properties by tax deed. The town has taken 37 Main Street, units 1 and 2. The town has acquired a quitclaim deed too. By the end of the week, the town will own 4 of 5 units. The owner of the last unit will probably sell. Mike Williams proposed that the first floor be commercial and that the upstairs remain as condominium apartments. The town also took 33 Main Street. The former owner is in chapter 11 bankruptcy. At 7 Depot Street, the building is demolished. 42 Chestnut Street, across from Drake Field, will become a town-owned parking lot. The town took several properties that may become a town forest.

Matt Monahan explained town taking and redevelopment. The main purpose of today’s meeting is development of Route 28. Matt Monahan discussed the zoning-district boundaries in the vicinity of Route 28. Attendees of today’s meeting received a map showing where water and sewerage utilities are. Matt Monahan discussed curb cuts. Route 28 is a controlled-access right-of-way (CAROW). Curb cuts are limited to certain parcels. Matt Monahan noted that the physical characteristics of the Light Industrial/Commercial District in the vicinity of Route 28 differ from the physical characteristics of the Light Industrial/Commercial District in town. Matt Monahan discussed wetlands in the vicinity of Route 28. Matt Monahan discussed tax incentive districts: RSA 79-E in the in-town area and RSA 162-N (Department of Resources and Economic Development, or DRED). The RSA 162-N area was not shown on the maps. Matt Monahan asked about steep slopes near Route 28.

Paul Nickerson said that there are steep slopes near Route 28.

Jim Pritchard said that he had scanned Paul Nickerson’s maps of Route 28.

Matt Monahan discussed traffic counts; they are around 10,000 vehicles per day. Route 28 is a control-access right-of-way. How can parcels share the limited number of curb cuts? The limited curb cuts are a curse but also a blessing to keep traffic moving.

Clayton Wood suggested conditional use permits for sharing access. Stating the conditions of a conditional use permit minimizes uncertainty.

Matt Monahan said that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) allows towns to participate in the state permitting process. The town executes a memorandum of understanding with the NHDOT.

Paul Nickerson said that Route 28 is in NHDOT district 5. Paul Nickerson explained the great width of the Route 28 right-of-way, as much as 450 feet at one place. There are areas to develop, but access is very difficult because the state owns it. Most of Route 28 has either steep slopes or wetlands, and the state does not allow access. The land on the southeast side of Route 28 is accessible, but the land on the northwest side of Route 28 is not.

The all-boards meeting took a break from 10:30 AM to 10:53 AM.

Stuart Arnett referred to Pittsfield’s community profile given on the state’s employment web site. 75% of Pittsfield’s residents work outside Pittsfield. This statistic is bad for downtown commerce. Pittsfield’s poverty rate is 18%. This statistic reduces people’s ability buy goods and pay rent. The reduced buying power and especially the reduced rent-paying power prevents buildings from being renovated.

Stuart Arnett said that Pittsfield is 223 out of 237 municipalities on the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration’s (DRA) list of equalization ratios. (DRA’s 2013 comparison of full value tax rates.) This statistic means that Pittsfield’s assessed property values differ from their true values much more than such values differ in other municipalities.

Stuart Arnett said that Pittsfield has $268 million assessed taxable property value. (The equalized value is $224,664,970.) To what extent can development on Route 28 bring about a 5% annual increase in the town’s assessed property value? To what extent can development on Route 28 address Pittsfield’s high unemployment situation?

Paul Nickerson said that revitalizing Main Street would be better than trying to develop Route 28. Businesses on Main Street once thrived, but they could not compete with the large shopping centers.

Bill Miskoe said that people used to come to Pittsfield to work, and those people would also shop in Pittsfield, but now 75% of Pittsfield’s residents work outside Pittsfield, and shopping follows jobs.

Joe Cortese said that Pittsfield’s downtown has “faster access” to revitalization.

Matt Monahan said that Route 28 and the downtown complement each other.

Stuart Arnett asked about budget increases.

Linda Small said that the budgets are pretty level. Increases are typically about 2%.

Stuart Arnett said that Pittsfield’s median age is 38. Younger people want to live near village centers.

Paul Richardson said that revitalizing Pittsfield’s downtown would not add much assessable value but would given the town more appeal. Shopping centers will become obsolete because of Internet trade.

Ted Mitchell said that the town can work on both Route 28 and the downtown at the same time.

Matt Monahan said Internet connectivity is important.

Brad Sterl said that Internet connectivity is awful in Pittsfield.

Matt Monahan said that the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission is doing a broad-band Internet study. Towns can contract with Internet service providers. The contracts are bad for the towns.

Joe Cortese said that he pays $250/month for bad service from Metrocast. His business uses much Internet. He could get 10 times faster service from Comcast for $25/month.

Clayton Wood said that the infrastructure is a problem. There is no real alternative to Metrocast.

Stuart Arnett said that improving Internet access must be a priority.

Attendees of the meeting had general discussion of how bad Internet access in Pittsfield is.

David Schleyer said that development would need natural-gas lines. There are no natural gas lines in the vicinity of Route 28.

Matt Monahan summarized the infrastructure issues: What do we have? Where is it? How can we expand it?

The following people agreed to be responsible for the following tasks:
Donna Ward: Research owners of properties on the southeast side of Route 28, between Concord Hill Road and Route 107.
Jim Pritchard: Provide maps of Route 28 to Matt Monahan.
Clayton Wood: Research Internet issues.
Bill Miskoe: Bill Miskoe said that the natural-gas supply is inadequate to serve more customers within the region. Bill Miskoe agreed to define this problem.
Denis Beaudoin: Report about sewerage utilities, water utilities, and zoning.

Attendees of the meeting had general discussion of possible commerce on Route 28. Joe Cortese suggested a medical building. Ted Mitchell suggested a hotel. Jesse Pacheco suggested a supermarket.

Linda Small said that the downtown is valuable. Apartment buildings are selling for $30,000 or $40,000.

Stuart Arnett discussed landlords abandoning low-value properties.

Jesse Pacheco said that Pittsfield thrived because of the mills that the town once had. Apartments were rooming houses. The town needs to focus on both Route 28 and the downtown. How does the town work with the state? The state stopped one property owner from lowering a hill to increase visibility.

Stuart Arnett listed issues to discuss: land-use regulations, especially zoning, sewerage utilities, water utilities, configuration of existing lots, especially in relation to access or shared access, wetlands, and slopes.

Matt Monahan asked whether the town knows how the lots are owned.

Paul Nickerson said that there are three big parcels between Loudon Road and Leavitt Road.

Stuart Arnett asked what needs to happen to develop between Loudon Road and Leavitt Road.

Donna Ward said that there are inadequate sewerage and water utilities. Only Leavitt Road has sewerage.

Matt Monahan said that the town side (southeast side) of Route 28 is much more accessible.

Paul Nickerson agreed and said that the accessibility is because this area has all the roads leading from the downtown.

Attendees of the meeting discussed that the water service in Pittsfield is all gravity feed and therefore cannot service the northwest side of Route 28.

Bill Miskoe said that the town is considering purchasing the Pennichuck water company. The purchase would have advantages.

Stuart Arnett said that developers would want to know where sewerage and water services would be.

Joe Cortese said that developing the southeast side of Route 28 will augment the rest of the town.

Paul Nickerson said that there is no water or sewerage on High Street.

Ed LaGraize said that water is important for sprinklers and for reselling a building.

Bill Miskoe said that banks lend more readily to utilities-serviced properties.

Stuart Arnett said that insurance companies insure more readily to utilities-service properties.

Joe Cortese encouraged attendees of the meeting to network.

Paul Nickerson said that the town needs industry for jobs.

Ted Mitchell wrapped up the meeting. Attendees of the meeting agreed to schedule the next all-boards meeting tentatively to May 2, 2015.

The meeting adjourned at 12:05 A.M.

Minutes approved: May 7, 2015

______________________________ _____________________
Clayton Wood, Chairman Date

I transcribed these minutes (not verbatim) on February 5, 2015, from notes that I made during the meeting.

Jim Pritchard, planning board recorder and secretary