Derry board OKs action on Genser property, hires zoning admin

By Bruce Frauman
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board on Monday night, Sept. 19, agreed to proceed with state funding through the Community Development Block Grant to purchase the property formerly housing the Barn clothing store at the corner of Routes 11 and 100.

Kevin Beattie has been helping Bette Genser receive a buyout for her flooded Route 11 property. Photos by Bruce Frauman.

Kevin Beattie has been helping Bette Genser receive a buyout for her flooded Route 11 property. Photos by Bruce Frauman.

Former Town Administrator Kevin Beattie said owner Bette Genser “very much wants to go ahead with this.” The building was flooded and heavily damaged during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and the town had been pursuing a buyout with the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

When asked by board member Bill Wiley “what made this thing go sour,” Beattie replied, “The wall was already there, put in by VTrans in the ’90s … That wall was actually a flood wall … it looks like a plank wall, but its actually sheet steel. It goes down 6 feet.”

“Unfortunately,” Beattie continued, “FEMA is set on their rules on it and VTrans is set” on theirs. FEMA, he said, insisted that the wall be removed for the buyout to proceed but VTrans, backed up by an engineering report, insisted that it stay.  Since the wall belongs to VTrans, Beattie said, “we can’t remove it.”

Funding the buyout from the Community Development Block Grant  will allow the wall to remain, but other FEMA deed restrictions still apply, according to Beattie. Very few structures are allowed and the surface must be permeable. “It can be used for various kinds of public use” and will be owned by the town of Londonderry.

CDBG will fully fund demolition of the existing building and removal of the parking lot pavement. Beattie said “the application process is basically done and we can move ahead immediately.” Beattie’s goal is to have the demolition done by winter.

Unfortunately for the Gensers, Beattie said the CDBG “used the tax card value from 2011, which it turns out is $149,900, which is less money. The amount to go to the Gensers is 75 percent of that.” FEMA had been using a property value of $170,00 and would have paid the Gensers that full amount.

Jim Mullen is the town's new zoning administrator.

Jim Mullen is the town’s new zoning administrator.

In other news, Jim Mullen was approved as the new town Zoning Administrator. Planning Commission member Dick Dale said Mullen was interviewed by the Planning Commission, George Mora of the Development Review Board and Town Clerk Kelly Pajala. “We found him to be imminently qualified and potentially a first-rate appointee,” said Dale.

Mullen said he started as a carpenter in Londonderry, then went on to “about 25 years as a zoning administrator, 21 or 22 as a health officer, plus 15 years as town manager” mostly in southern Vermont. He concluded, “I enjoy working in a small Vermont town.”

Steve Prouty, who is stepping down as town health officer, asked Mullen if he would be interested in that position as well.

Mullen said yes, “The people that are contrarian zoning-wise also have the garbage out and all that stuff. The two go together.” The board approved recommending Mullen to the state to be the town’s health officer, which, according to Mullen, makes him an assistant to the Commissioner of Health. Currently this is a volunteer position.

Mathew Rawson was also hired by the board to join the highway road crew starting Oct. 3. Prouty said, “We’ve met with Mathew and I think we know most everything we need to know about him.” There was no further discussion before the vote.

Beattie said that there has been a setback in making Flood Brook School a local Red Cross certified emergency shelter. David Muse, the Red Cross disaster program manager for southern Vermont, told Beattie that “the approach that the Red Cross takes on shelters has changed … That they are just doing regional shelters, which means Rutland or Bennington. So, it doesn’t mean that Flood Brook can’t be a shelter. But what it means is that it changes the amount of support we get from the Red Cross.” Beattie will continue to work with the Red Cross to work out the details of what this means for Londonderry.

Irwin Kuperberg is seeking a solution to a stonewall he accidently had built 7 feet into the town's right of way.

Irwin Kuperberg is seeking a solution to a stonewall he unintentionally had built 7 feet into the town’s right of way.

The board also grappled with the dilemma of what to do with a stone wall that was built along Beattie Road, a Class 4 road, without a permit, and that extends about 7 feet into the town right of way. Irwin Kuperberg told the board, “it was built by Jeff Yrsha who didn’t tell me I was doing something wrong.” Neighbor Bob Twitchell “waited until I was done and then complained to the town. It doesn’t exonerate me by any means.”

Prouty said, “We could say leave it there, but we can’t be responsible for it afterwards.” Board members Bill Wiley and Will Reed agreed.

Since Kuperberg last came before the board about the wall on June 20, a 1996 policy was discovered covering Class 4 roads that states, “Selectmen shall control access into the right-of-way … for access of driveways, entrances, and approaches.” Prouty said, “If we are going to have a policy, we better adhere to it.” The board voted to consult with an attorney on the town’s liability should the wall remain and see if a variance could apply. A variance would allow the board to make an exception to its policy while still enforcing it “from this day forward,” according to Prouty.

Road Foreman Duane Hart offered an alternative to hiring tree contractors to work along paved roads. Hart said their cost over three years ranged from $118,000 to $195,000, while town employees could do the work for $80,475 over three years, but they would not cut back trees near poles or wires. Hart said, “My first and foremost desire was to sub that work out. It was not for us to do it, because I don’t think we can do it efficiently.” Both options will be considered when the board considers the budget for 2017.

Road Foreman Duane Hart, foreground, discusses ways to save money on tree-cutting.

Road Foreman Duane Hart, foreground, discusses ways to save money on tree-cutting.

The board also agreed to direct Marble Valley Engineering to proceed with plans for drainage solutions for the town office building but not include plans for any pathways to the basement doors and handicapped accessibility.  “We need dry storage (in the basement) at the very very least,” Gordon said, “so I don’t think there is any question that the drainage portion needs to proceed. And the rest (including handicapped accessiblility) of it is to be determined.”

Miles Waite of Waite-Heindel Environmental offered to test two wells and make other hydrology and water quality evaluations required for the proposed salt and sand shed at a cost of $1,540. This is more than the $600 estimate from Enman Engineering. The money would come from the highway budget surplus. Since Hart is in the process of reviewing this budget and cannot guarantee the money would be available, the board chose to wait until the next meeting to vote on Waite’s proposal.

Resident Candy Bliss asked the board to pay for a tire that was “slashed” when a “rock hit the bottom of my car” while she was driving on Boynton Road on Friday night. Prouty said, “It was a freshly scraped road. Yes there were some rocks in it.”  Bliss said there were no signs up, but Hart disagreed. Gordon said he will talk with the town’s insurance representative regarding the town’s liability of its road conditions before the board decides how to respond to Bliss’s request.

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