VERGENNES CITY COUNCIL
JULY 18, 2017
Senior Alderman Renny Perry called the regular meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. An amendment to the agenda was made; an application from American Legion Post #14 requesting an Outside Consumption Permit will be taken up as 5.i. and item 5.i will become item 5.j. Alderman Jeff Fritz advised he failed to disclose, at the last meeting, that he is on the Board of Directors of the Addison County Economic Development Corporation. Those in attendance were:
Senior Alderman Renny Perry Robert Trepanier
Alderman Mathew Chabot Rena Trepanier
Alderman Mark Koenig Cheryl Brinkman (6 p.m.)
Alderman Lowell Bertrand Mike Winslow (6:18 p.m.)
Alderman Jeffrey Fritz James Amblo (6:30 p.m.)
Alderman Lynn Donnelly
City Manager Mel Hawley
City Clerk Joan Devine
MINUTES: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the minutes of June 27, 2017. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz. Amendments made: Grammar corrections were made and Mark Bellinger from UTC Aerospace Systems was added as an attendee at that meeting. A vote on the motion with the corrections showed all voting in favor except Alderman Lynn Donnelly who abstained due to her being absent.
WARRANT: City Manager Hawley explained there are two Warrants. The Warrant totaling $106,409.94 was for current fiscal year expenses. The other Warrant, totaling $34,480.98, was for last fiscal year expenses. Both Warrants were circulated for review and signatures of approval.
VISITORS: Robert Trepanier inquired about the status of delinquent property taxes and sewer assessments. Delinquent Tax Collector Mel Hawley reported there are a number of people who have delinquent sewer assessments but their taxes are current. This happens because the property taxes are paid through their bank’s escrow agent, he advised. Generally if a property is more than three years in arrears for sewer assessments a tax sale is initiated. He advised that the delinquent property tax account that goes back to 2012 is the result of a tax sale that was initiated and had to be cancelled due to wrong information on the mobile home. He advised the tax sale notice referenced a mobile home that had been replaced with a newer mobile home without the mobile home bill of sale being recorded in the City Clerk’s office. Mr. Trepanier inquired about a discount for the elderly who are on the City sewer system similar to that offered by Vergennes-Panton Water District or based more on water usage. City Manager Hawley advised state statutes that govern the way to charge sewer allows various methods but, in his opinion, does not allow for age-based rates. Billing people fairly is the goal, he advised, and the revenue needs to be about $680,000. Commercial properties that have a history of using more than 6,000 gallons a month are billed based on water usage. He said the Northlands Job Corps Centers is also billed for excess flow as measured at the wastewater pump station that serves the facility. Manager Hawley advised the base rate needs to cover infrastructure and operation so billing can get very complicated based on the variables but we try to eliminate discrepancies.
PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised four Planning Commission members have terms that will expire on August 1, 2017. Two of the members did not wish to be reappointed; Jason Farrell and Morgan Kittredge. He advised the re-appointments would be two-year terms expiring August 1, 2019. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to reappoint Michael Winslow and Timothy Cook to the Planning Commission. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly with all voting in favor.
DEVELOPMENT REVIEW BOARD APPOINTMENTS: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised the Development Review Board has four members and an alternate board member whose terms will expire on August 1, 2017. These are two-year terms as well expiring on August 1, 2019. Alderman Matt Chabot moved to reappoint Brent Rakowski, Jason Farrell, Don Peabody, Steve Rapoport and Lowell Bertrand (Alternate) to the Development Review Board. Alderman Lynn Donnelly seconded the motion with all voting in favor.
CITY MANAGER AND CITY CLERK/TREASURER APPOINTMENTS: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to reappoint Mel Hawley as the City Manager, seconded by Alderman Matt Chabot, with all voting in favor. Alderman Jeff Fritz moved to reappoint Joan Devine as the City Clerk/Treasurer, seconded by Alderman Lowell Bertrand, with all voting in favor. Compensation for both positions will be discussed at the next meeting of the City Council.
APPOINTMENT OF CITY ATTORNEY: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised James Ouimette has been the City’s primary legal counsel and suggested the City Council appoint the firm of Ouimette & Runcie as the City Attorney. Alderman Lowell Bertrand made that motion. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly with all voting in favor.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS AND SPECIAL FUNDS: City Manager Hawley presented a report of capital improvement and special funds. He recommended closure of some of the funds, indicated which funds have been voter-approved, as well as the history of the various funds. The reserve funds that are sewer-related do not need voter approval, he advised, and there is no current policy for those three funds. He recommended the $10,823.24 in the Fire Department Vehicle Replacement Fund be closed out and returned to the Fire Department fund as of June 30, 2017. He also recommended closing the Tree Planting Reserve Fund ($2,146.70) and the Pumphouse Restoration Fund ($436.46) and that those dollars be put in the General Fund. The West Main Street Improvements Fund is an account required by the State for resurfacing West Main Street when needed. He recommended looking at that portion of the highway to ascertain if it will need work within the next two years and determine if there are sufficient funds. The Records Restoration Fee is required be statute; he recommended restoring more books in the vault. The Lister Education Fund was created with State funds for training for the listers. Vergennes Recreation Events Fund used to be for Vergennes Day but has since been combined with other events. He was not sure that it was even needed any longer. The Records Computerization Fund was created when the State raised recording fees and the City Clerk asked the City Council to set the additional fees aside to help cover the costs to computerize the land records. He questioned the legality of this fund and proposed that allocations to this fund cease until a plan in place as recommended by the City Clerk and approved by the City Council. Alderman Lynn Donnelly suggested no action on these accounts until the next meeting so we have more time to consider.
ZONING AND SUBDIVISION PERMIT FEE STRUCTURE: City Manager Hawley reported the fee structure is fine but it is silent on what to do with fees for permits that are denied. Following discussion Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved that any fee involving an application to the Development Review Board, regardless of outcome, is retained. Any application fee for a zoning permit, if denied, is to be returned to the applicant. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
PUBLIC HEARING: The second scheduled public hearing by the City Council was called to order at 6:30 p.m. for the following purpose: Pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 4384, the Planning Commission proposes to amend sections 1.3, 3.1, 3.2, 5.1, 5.2, the Land Use Map and the APPENDIX of the Municipal Development Plan. The public notice was read by Senior Alderman Perry. Property owner James Amblo advised he was present to address residential use in the Central Business District. The last change in the municipal development plan allowed for residential use on the ground floor provided it was not more than 20 percent of the building footprint, he advised, yet when he applied for such he was denied. He requested the percentage be increased this time. Cheryl Brinkman stated, as she understands it, Mr. Amblo would like the proposed change prohibiting residential use on the ground floor in the Central Business District (on page 96) to revert back to what we presently have yet increase the maximum percentage of the ground floor for residential use to a higher percentage than 20. City Manager Hawley advised the Development Review Board conducted a site visit and determined Mr. Amblo’s proposal exceeded the square footage so his application was denied. Senior Alderman Renny Perry closed the public hearing at 6:37 p.m.
AMENDMENTS TO THE MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the amendments to the municipal development plan as proposed by the Planning Commission. The motion was seconded by Alderman Lynn Donnelly. Senior Alderman Renny Perry, speaking as the President of the Vergennes Partnership, stated that he wanted to be supportive of a local business trying to sustain their building. He informed Mr. Amblo the apartment could still be established under current zoning but would have to comply with the 20 percent figure. He also reported having researched other designated downtowns and some do not allow anything but retail on the ground floor. Alderman Lynn Donnelly felt the downtown has such a limited area and we should not lose that space to an apartment if they were allowed in the Central Business District. Alderman Jeff Fritz said he agrees with both Senior Alderman Renny Perry and Alderman Lynn Donnelly. James Amblo pointed out that his proposed apartment is in the back of the building but it subsidizes the front retail space. Alderman Mark Koenig felt the flip-flopping means there is no solid foundation either way as it was switched last time to what the regulations reflect today and now we are reconsidering going back to what we had. City Manager Hawley explained the process Mr. Amblo went through up to the point of the application denial. At that point, he advised, he could have appealed the Development Review Board’s decision to the Environmental Court. A vote on the motion showed all voting in favor except Alderman Mark Koenig opposed.
CERTIFICATE OF NO APPEAL OR SUIT PENDING: The certificate of no appeal or suit pending for the 2016 Grand List was passed for signatures. Once signed by the Board of Listers and the City Council the grand list is sealed and its validity shall not be an issue by any party in any hearing or trial in any court going forward.
OUTSIDE CONSUMPTION PERMIT: American Legion Post #14 requested a one-day outside consumption permit for their annual family picnic on August 13th. A space approximately 150’ x 200’ of the upper parking and some lawn area will be roped off. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to approve the application. The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeff Fritz with all voting in favor.
CITY MANAGER’S REPORT: City Manager Hawley advised he didn’t print and distribute a budget report for the current fiscal year because there has been little activity. He informed the City Council the June 30, 2017 numbers will continue to move a little as bills get paid for prior fiscal year purchases and journal entries are made. Delinquent property taxes that were deferred were $24,016 for FY2016. Currently, delinquents total $57,818.98 for FY2017. He reported the year-end fund balance for the Fire Fund is strong but the balance of the Sewer Fund is headed toward a small deficit without a rate increase. He suggested the City Council have a discussion by October 15, 2017 on whether they want a rate increase for the quarterly billing that will be due on November 15, 2017 or wait until the first quarter in 2018. Alderman Lynn Donnelly felt that delinquent sewer accounts need to be addressed. Manager Hawley agreed but stated collection of delinquent sewer assessments will not change the projected deficit in the fund balance.
COMMENTS: Senior Alderman Renny Perry advised Mayor Michael Daniels will have his first Cracker Barrel on July 25th at 11:15 a.m. at the senior housing on Armory Lane.
City Manager Hawley reported there will be a public hearing on August 8th at 6 p.m. at the Vergennes Fire Station for the Main Street sidewalk extension project through VTrans Small-scale Bicycle and Pedestrian Program grant. Stantec Consulting Services will present the proposed project and solicit comments from the public.
ADJOURNMENT: At 7:05 p.m. Alderman Lowell Bertrand moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Alderman Mark Koenig with all voting in favor.
Vergennes City Clerk