Grafton board pushes Planning Commission on Town Plan

In the 2nd meeting of the new Grafton Select Board since last Tuesday's election, from left, sit board members Skip Lisle, Ron Pilette, chair Gus Plummer, vice chair Al Sands, Cynthia Gibbs and outgoing Town Administrator Rachel Williams. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

In the 2nd meeting of the new Grafton Select Board since last Tuesday’s election, from left, sit board members Skip Lisle, Ron Pilette, chair Gus Plummer, vice chair Al Sands, Cynthia Gibbs and outgoing Town Administrator Rachel Williams. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With a sharply critical response directed to the Grafton Planning Commission, Grafton Select Board member Ron Pilette on Monday called on the commission to make specific changes to the Town Plan that was rejected in late December.

In a short, 1-1/4-page draft response, which will be sent on the Planning Commission, Pilette says the Town Plan, which was submitted to the board in late 2015, “fails as a coherent planning document … and fails to address the by far single most important issue to arise” in the last eight years — the placement of renewable energy systems and projects.

On the first issue, Pilette wrote that the planning document needs updating on dozens of “values and dates,” the reconstructed roads list and a discussion on communications. To make those updates, he suggested that individual Planning Commission members tackle specific items, with the updated numbers sent to the Windham Regional Planning Commission for approval.

On the second issue, Pilette inferred that the Planning Commission, in not addressing renewable energy at that time, was taking an “anything goes” attitude, asking, “Would 1,000 solar panels at the Grafton Ponds be ok? Would 60 600 foot wind turbines on the ridges of Grafton Pond be ok?” He then urged the commission to take a sensible stand on what renewables would be appropriate.

Grafton Select Board member Al Sands.

Grafton Select Board member Al Sands.

Board member Al Sands, who took office just seven days earlier, disagreed saying, “Ron’s summary — some of the observations seem appropriate in the big picture …  (and that) some of the comments about numbers and updates would be more appropriate for a final plan.”

But, he said, addressing the original intent of the Planning Commission’s incomplete submission to the Select Board: “I thought that the Planning Commission wanted to push the Village Center Designation and deal with the flooding issue.”

The Planning Commission had been working to get the Village Center Designation written early in an effort to garner historic preservation grants. However, with the rejection by the Select Board, Town Administrator Rachel Williams said that the deadline won’t be met, but “there should be more” coming up.

Pilette responded that his document was “just addressing what I thought was missing.” Board chairman Gus Plummer agreed.

Planning Commission chair Eric Stevens added, “Given the current lack of desire on the part of the Select Board to advance what we had worked on, we should have a complete Town Plan in three to four months, maybe sooner.”

In an interview Tuesday, Stevens called the document “somewhat uniformed and in a few cases I take exception to the language that some of the chapters were incoherent and out of format.” And he added, “There seems to be a couple of places where he (Pilette) was trying to be inflammatory.”

Stevens said that the commission will take the document under advisement as it would any other comments but he expects that members “will be a bit bewildered when they get to the part about individual assignments because that is exactly what we have been doing.” Stevens added that the commission was headed in the direction Pilette was writing about “before the Select Board asked us to pursue the Village Center track.”

Williams’ departure, more complete minutes and liquor

In other news in an otherwise calm Select Board session, Rachel Williams announced that this would be her last Select Board meeting although she would be around for two more weeks in the Town Office.

  • Sands asked, and the board agreed, that it would like to see more complete minutes of the Select Board and Planning Board meeting since the information currently recorded doesn’t give a sense of what was said and what actually happened. Williams said, “every board is different and whatever the board wants” she or her successor will do. It was also suggested that the Planning Commission meetings be recorded by FACT-TV, which currently records Select Board meetings. However, the cost is $50 a session and Wendy Martin of the Grafton News said it would be willing to foot the bill.
  • Liquor licenses were approved and signed for the Grafton Inn, tavern and hotel.
  • And two positions still need to be filled: Town Service officer and Solid Waste representative. For more information about those posts call the Town Office at 802-843-2552.
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. J. Backs says:

    Thank you for your updates on Grafton Select Board meetings and other events.