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, APRIL 10, 2012
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, April 10, 2012, at 7:07 p.m.
Secretary Gretchen Pfeifer Hall called the roll.
Present were: Chair Karen LaPlante and Commissioners Mike Dynia, Tim McGuire, Natalie George, Gretchen Pfeifer Hall, and Rich Szewczak.
Absent were: Commissioners Kathleen Vose and Joanne Kneiss.
Also present were: Guest John Szykula, and Kathleen DeGray, Recording Secretary.
Chair LaPlante introduced Kathleen DeGray, ECC’s new Recording Secretary, to the Commissioners.
Mr. John Szykula, who was present at the Farm and Open Space Meeting on March 13th, said he came tonight to hopefully get more information on the tax exemption available for farm buildings. He said that based on the presentations at the Farm and Open Space Meeting, this tax exemption was being offered in other towns, and he would like to see it offered in Enfield. Chair LaPlante said the Commission would be discussing how to approach the Town Council and gain their support for bringing this tax exemption to Enfield.
Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Szykula if he had noticed his assessments had gone up. He said he had, that they had gone up a lot because of the farm buildings. Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Szykula if he had disputed it in any way. Mr. Szykula said he did appeal his assessment. He said the while his appeal efforts lowered one of the assessments by $1,000, the other was increased by $7,000, so it ended up hurting him rather than helping him.
Commissioner McGuire asked what the Board of Assessors (BOA) gave as a reason for this increase, when most buildings and houses in town have gone down in value. Mr. Szykula said the BOA cited the measurements, the size of the buildings as their reason for the increase. He said that he had meetings at the town hall to appeal the assessment again last week. Chair LaPlante asked if he brought appraisals with him to the meeting, and Mr. Szykula said that he had. Chair LaPlante said that should help.
As an example of some of the assessment increases, Mr. Szykula described a pool that he had that was installed in the 90s. He said that in 2006, the pool was appraised at $7,600; but in the last appraisal, this went up to $16,000. He said this is one of the items he is disputing, for obvious reasons.
Chair LaPlante said she had spoken with an appraiser today, and what they did with farmland, using Visions Standard Operating, was to set aside two acres as the lot size for the house, regardless of the zone, and appraise it at full market value. The rest of the acreage would then be appraised as farmland under the PA-490 guidelines. She said this is why a lot of farmers saw an increase in their assessment, because two full acres were pulled out of PA-490 and were assessed at full market value.
Commissioner George said that on the 490 land, the house lot always used to be separated out from the farmland for assessment. Chair LaPlante said that was true, but the new two-acre requirement, regardless of zone, was what likely caused the increase. As an example, she said in an R-33 Zone, 1,300 square feet were separated out for the house lot and assessed at full market value. With the new two-acre requirement being used, there would be over 87,000 square feet set aside for the house lot and assessed at full market value. This is a significant difference. Chair LaPlante commented that this doesn’t seem right or fair to the farmers.
Commissioner McGuire again said that he did not understand why there was such an increase in Mr. Szykula’s assessment and asked him if he was given a specific reason. Mr. Szykula said he was not. Commissioner McGuire asked if the BOA compared the calculations used this time to those used last time. Mr. Szykula said he did not know.
Commissioner McGuire asked Mr. Szykula how much his assessment had jumped from last time. Mr. Szykula said he has a total of 24 acres. He said five acres of that includes a horse barn, which was assessed at $14,000 in 2006, but is now assessed at $34,000. He said this was because of the building.
Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Szykula if there was anything else from the last meeting that he found particularly beneficial to farmers. She asked Mr. Szykula specifically about what he does on his farm. He said he boards horses and raises beef cattle. He said that his farm was on Mullen Road. Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Szykula if he would want to sell the meat on his farm, and he explained that he was doing that now. She asked if he was required to have any kind of special permit for selling the meat. He explained that it was people buying beef by the side – either one person buying a side of beef, or two families splitting one. He said he did not have a need for a “retail” operation on his farm.
Chair LaPlante said that in talking with Ms. Nichols after the presentations last meeting, Ms. Nichols explained that most towns offering the tax exemption for farm buildings are exempting $100,000 for each farm building. This would include each barn and accessory building, but not the house itself. Chair LaPlante said that the Commission would start the discussions to try to get this exemption in place for Enfield.
Commissioner Dynia asked if it was Town Council that the Commission needed to talk to. Chair LaPlante said she believed the Commission would need the support of the Town Council. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall asked if this was something Commissioner Szewczak could bring to Economic Development. Chair LaPlante said that it would be great to have Economic Development on board. Commissioner Szewczak said that he had a meeting with Economic Development tomorrow morning (April 11th), and he would bring up this topic.
Commissioner Szewczak asked if Ms. Nichols recommended starting with the assessor’s office to see if there was something they could do. Chair LaPlante said that the assessor’s office would have to do a study, but the ECC cannot tell the assessor’s office to do that. She said it has to start with a recommendation from the ECC to the Town Council. The Town Council can then talk to the Town Manager. She said that the ECC should go through the Town Council and should not go directly to the Town Manager or the assessor. Chair LaPlante said that before anything is approved, the Council would do an impact study to assess what the tax exemption will cost the town and weigh that against the benefits of having this exemption available to farmers.
Chair LaPlante said that according to Ms. Nichols, the cost has not been too much in other towns. Chair LaPlante said this was certainly something the ECC could recommend to Town Council for review to see if they can get something going on it before next October.
Commissioner George said that getting Economic Development on board would help a lot. She said that even if ECC did the majority of the work, having the support of Economic Development would increase the chances of Town Council agreeing to go forward in pursuing the tax exemption for Enfield farmers.
Commissioner McGuire asked Mr. Szykula if his building that went up in value was the tobacco shed that was converted to a horse barn. Mr. Szykula said that only two bins on one end of the barn are used for horses, not the whole barn. The rest of the barn is used for storage. Commissioner McGuire asked Mr. Szykula how many horses he currently boarded. Mr. Szykula said he has 12 stalls, but currently only boards six horses. Mr. Szykula said that if the town keeps going up on his taxes, he might be forced to shut down. Commissioner McGuire asked why Mr. Szykula only had six horses when there was room for 12. Mr. Szykula said that it was a lot of work, and six wall all he could manage at this time. He also said that the horse industry was declining, and the business just wasn’t available.
Commissioner McGuire asked Commissioner Szewczak about discussing this issue with Economic development. The town is raising this farmer’s taxes, but because of the nature of his business, the farmer cannot easily raise additional money or increase his income to offset the increase in taxes. Commissioner Szewczak commented that there was a significant increase over the 2006 assessment. Chair LaPlante commented that the mil rate would be going up also, which will increase taxes even more.
APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES:
February 14, 2012 Regular Meeting
Commissioner George made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall, to approve the minutes of the February 14, 2012, ECC Regular Meeting as submitted.
The motion was carried with a 4-0-2 vote. Commissioners Dynia and Szewczak abstained.
March 13, 2012 Farmland and Open Space Forum
Commissioner George made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Szewczak, to approve the minutes of the March 13, 2012 Farmland and Open Space Forum as submitted.
The motion was carried with a 6-0-0 vote.
Real Estate Matters
There were no real estate matters to discuss.
Open Space Fund and Acquisition Priorities
There was nothing to discuss on this topic at tonight’s meeting.
Commissioner George made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Szewczak, to move discussion item 2, Farms and Farmland Preservation, to item 1 so that Mr. Szykula could participate in the discussion and then leave if desired.
The motion was carried with a 6-0-0 vote.
1. Farms and Farmland Preservation
Chair LaPlante said she wanted to talk a little bit about the $100,000 tax exemption. She thinks ECC should move this forward, and she doesn’t see how the program would cause any harm.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that the town does have an abatement program for renovating properties in special districts, both Hazardville and Thompsonville. She said the $100,000 tax exemption certainly would not be precedent setting, and that the town should be doing the same for farming as it is doing for other areas of town.
Chair LaPlante said she agreed, and when the ECC formulates the letter or the discussion with Town Council, it should include bullet points. She asked if anyone wanted to help come up with what those bullet points should be – how to explain to the Council the ways in which this program would benefit Enfield farmers and encourage the Council to go forward with implementing the program.
Commissioner Dynia asked if ECC could get a list of the other towns in the area that were already offering this program. Commissioner Szewczak said that Ms. Nichols may have a list. He said she discussed a number of other towns that had the program during her presentation. Chair LaPlante said she had looked on the website today and had found the list of towns offering the open space classification, but she couldn’t find a list of the towns offering the $100,000 exemption.
Chair LaPlante asked if such a list might be in the 490 Book. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that the 490-Book might also be a good source for the bullet points discussed above. Chair LaPlante suggested giving a copy of the 490 Book to each of the Town Council members. After discussion, it was decided that the entire book would be too much information. Commissioner Szewczak suggested selecting and marking certain pertinent pages or sections and providing the Book to the Council with that information highlighted to make it easier for them to find.
Commissioner McGuire suggested calling Ms. Nichols and asking her for a list. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that even a partial list, say of the towns in North Central Connecticut, would be helpful. Commissioner McGuire suggested limiting the list to towns in North Central Connecticut that have similar government to what we have in Enfield, a Town Manager, Town Council system. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that she doesn’t think that Suffield and Somers should be excluded, even though they have a Selectman system. Commissioner McGuire agreed that they shouldn’t be excluded. He just thinks if ECC is going to ask the advice of other towns regarding getting the $100,000 exemption, they should ask towns that have the same system as Enfield, because the process will be more similar.
After discussion, it was decided that providing the Council with a list of area towns that have the $100,000 tax exemption was a good idea. It was also decided that it would be a good idea to seek the advice of an area town with a government system similar to Enfield’s as to how to go about getting the program approved and put into motion.
Chair LaPlante asked Commissioner McGuire if he would either email Ms. Nichols or call her to request a list of area towns that have the $100,000 tax exemption. He said he would. She also asked each of the Commissioners to come up with some bullet points for the next meeting so that a list could be put together of the advantages of the program to present to Town Council. She also said that steps needed to be taken to get on the Council Agenda as soon as possible. She said she wasn’t sure if they should be an actual agenda item or just speak during the Public Input portion of the Council meeting.
Commissioner George said we should wait to see what kind of response we get from Economic Development. She also said that this should definitely be an agenda item, not something discussed during Public Input. She said as an agenda item, it would get more focused attention from the Council and ECC would have more time to make a formal presentation. Also, with an agenda item, the Council has to take some kind of action. Public Input participants are given a very limited amount of time, and the Council is not required to take any action.
Commissioner McGuire asked Mr. Szykula if he had talked with anyone else in town that was in a situation similar to his. Mr. Szykula said that he did talk with Dan Stauffer of Stauffer Farm. He said Mr. Stauffer was a really good friend of his, and his building assessments also went up quite a bit. He said that Mr. Stauffer had a meeting scheduled to appeal the increase.
Commissioner McGuire suggested bringing Mr. Szykula, Mr. Stauffer, and any other farmers in a similar situation to the Council meeting, once ECC is able to get on the agenda. The Commissioners agreed, saying that there were many farmers in town that would benefit from this tax exemption. Commissioner McGuire commented that there was power in numbers, and that if you put all the farms together, it would be quite an economic force.
Chair LaPlante told Mr. Szykula that the best thing would probably be to have a group of farmers come to the Town Council meeting the night that ECC is on the agenda and speak during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. The Commissioners collectively agreed that this would be at least a month or more down the road, as they still had to put together a thorough, informative presentation for the Council and also get on the Council agenda.
Chair LaPlante asked Commissioner Szewczak if he would speak with Mr. Warren and ask if he would be willing to speak in favor of the $100,000 tax exemption at the same Council meeting that ECC will be presenting at. Commissioner Szewczak said he would bring the subject up at tomorrow’s meeting and explain the $100,000 tax exemption that is offered as part of PA-490 and the benefit this program would provide to Enfield farmers. The Commissioners discussed the cost of community service that Ms. Nichols discussed during her presentation and agreed that it was important to include an explanation of this so that the Council understood the cost of community service was much lower for farmland and forests than for residential areas.
Commissioner McGuire said that the along with the benefits of the tax exemption, the presentation also needs to show the benefits the farms themselves provide to the Town and why it is important to keep them operating here.
Chair LaPlante asked about setting a percentage of the appraised value for exemption, rather than a flat $100,000, as this would accommodate taxes either increasing or decreasing. She asked if there was anything in the 490 booklet that specified it had to be a specific dollar amount. The Commissioners discussed the $100,000 figure, and Chair LaPlante said that Ms. Nichols stated that most towns that are offering this exemption are offering $100,000, but there is nothing that says it has to be $100,000.
Commissioner George said that the values of the different farm buildings in town were so different that a percentage might make sense. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that if using a percentage of value made sense, she would expect other towns to be doing that, and they are not. She suggested keeping it simple – she thought suggesting percentages would confuse things. She said it was safest to emulate what other towns are doing or have already done.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall asked Mr. Szykula what his farm buildings are valued at. Mr. Szykula said he has one barn that is assessed at around $30,000. Chair LaPlante said that the $100,000 would give him a zero assessment on his farm buildings, and should be more than enough. Commissioner George commented that the Council would never go for a zero assessment. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that other towns are doing the $100,000 and that is what the Commission should propose. She said to let the Council come back and ask for something different if they thought the $100,000 was too high. She said the Commission shouldn’t present a plan that settles for less than the maximum without at least trying to get the $100,000 first.
Chair LaPlante asked the Commissioners if there were any more comments on the Farm Presentation Special Meeting. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said she was disappointed in the presentation on the Small Farm Preservation Program and thought Mr. Shannon could have done a more thorough job in explaining it. Chair LaPlante said it seemed like he thought everyone who was there knew about the program already. He didn’t explain it as if it was new to everybody. She also said that there is not very much information available on the website either. Commissioner McGuire commented that it was a new program, and that he agreed that the presentation was not very informative.
Chair LaPlante commented on Ms. Nichols’ presentation and what a dynamic speaker she was. Mr. Szykula said her presentation was very good and that she had been very helpful to him in getting some of his land under PA-490. Chair LaPlante asked Mr. Szykula if he was a member of the Farm Bureau. He said that he was and had been for many years. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall asked Mr. Szykula if most of the farmers in Enfield were members, and he said as far as he knew they all were.
Commissioner George said that maybe the ECC could follow up on the Small Farm Preservation Program and provide clearer information about it on the Town website. Chair LaPlante said that it sounded like some of the money to fund the Small Farm Preservation Program was federal money. Commissioner McGuire said that farmers wanting to participate in the program would need to work with FSA (Farm Service Agency) to write and submit a preservation plan.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said she thought Mr. Kelliher from Easy Pickin’s Orchard did a very good job. Commissioner McGuire suggested that the Commission send thank you notes to all of the speakers, copying their bosses where appropriate. The Commissioners agreed this was a good idea.
Chair LaPlante asked the Commissioners if there was anything else to discuss regarding farmland. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall discussed the property on the corner of North Street and Taylor Road. She said it was sold recently to Flower Dog Farm, LLC. She said they are putting up greenhouses and they have plants out for sale. She said the sale closed on March 19th and it was for 35.6 acres that sold for $450,000.
Commissioner George said she thought this was the group that was trying to get a permit to be able to use their greenhouses for retail sales. She said as far as she knew, they didn’t get the permit, because it required changing the zoning regulations in industrial areas to allow retail sales on farms, similar to what is allowed in residential areas. There was discussion on this topic, and it was determined that the Planning and Zoning Commission did add regulations for farms in industrial zones allowing for retail sales that for the most part mirrored the existing regulations for retail sales on farms in residential zones.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said she was glad to see that this property would have continued agricultural use. Commissioner McGuire asked if she knew who the owners were. She said it was Flower Dog Farm, and they were from Tolland. She said the gentleman’s name was Benjamin Lupien.
2. Open Space Inventory and Referrals
Chair LaPlante showed the Commissioners a map that she has been working on where she color-coded open space property. She said that these properties are scattered all over town. She said there were different categories, and when she could identify a specific category, she coded it accordingly. Some of the categories included Farmland, PA-490 land, Town-owned property, Open Space 1 and Open Space 2. Chair LaPlante said that the map was not complete, but it was at least a start. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall pointed out the Bird Sanctuary, Grasshopper/Sparrow property over by the prison and suggested it be marked on the map.
Chair LaPlante said that ECC needed to start doing something with open space. She said she received an email from Bill Lee regarding open space grant applications, and the deadline to submit an application is June 28th. She said Mr. Lee emailed both Mayor Kaupin and Mr. Coppler regarding a list of available open space property that could be purchased and priorities for conservation. Chair LaPlante said there is not a specific list with priority properties that the Town Manager can reference, and there should be. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that the Town should be developing relationships with property owners ahead of time. That way when money becomes available, and the Town would like to purchase property, there is already an established relationship.
Chair LaPlante read into the record an email from Mayor Kaupin to Mr. Coppler:
I feel a well-coordinated effort spearheaded by the Town and the Conservation Commission should be undertaken. We cannot let opportunities like this pass us by. We have the funds set aside for open space acquisitions, so let’s do it. Matt, how should we proceed?
Chair LaPlante said this email was back on March 10th, and she has not seen anything further. Chair LaPlante said that the Open Space and Watershed Grant Program has $5 million available, and Enfield would get 65% of fair market value. Chair LaPlante said she thought the Commission should provide the Town with a list of properties.
Commissioner Dynia said that the Commission did put together a list of properties that were along both the Connecticut and Scantic Rivers. Commissioner George said that the Connecticut River Watershed Association had sent a letter asking the Commission to identify properties along the Connecticut River that should be looked at for conservation/preservation. She said that the properties along the Scantic River were also added to the list, as there are flood plains along the Scantic River, and it flows into the Connecticut River.
The Commissioners spent some time discussing different properties in Town that should be included on the list given to the Town of properties they should consider purchasing.
Commissioner LaPlante said that an open space inventory needed to be done. She said the Commission needed to decide what it would include. She said this was a good lead-in to Open Space Planning. She said that NIMO has a program where they will come to the Town and give a free workshop covering identifying open space, characterizing open space, funding open space, and acquiring open space. She reiterated that the workshop was offered free of charge and would last about an hour. She said she would ask Mr. Giner to get NIMO to come and also would like to see representatives from PZC, IWWA and the Town Council to attend the workshop.
Chair LaPlante went on to say that once you have your open space properties planned and identified, there is a Community Resource Inventory that can be done that talks about all the different things you have in Town, including theaters, shopping, recreation, open space, etc.
The Commissioners discussed getting color copies of the map Chair LaPlante has been working on. It was decided that copies would be made for Commission members, and then the properties can be broken up and assigned to Commissioners for further review/analysis. Commissioner George said that the areas that needed to be focused on are those marked on the map as Town Owned, Open Space 1 and Open Space 2. Chair LaPlante said there needs to be a list so that when a project comes up that the Town needs land for, there is an easily accessible list of available properties.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall asked that discussion return to the Open Space Grant and what could be done about it. Chair LaPlante said it should be pursued, but she wasn’t confident it would go too far this year, because it is so late. The grant would have to be written and appraisals would have to be completed. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said the Commission should at least give the Town a list of some worthy properties owned by residents that have shown a willingness in the past to sell and try to get an application in on time. The Commissioners looked at the map and discussed potential properties to include on this list.
The meeting was paused at this time (8:25 p.m.) while ECC switched rooms with the Board of Education at the Board’s request. They needed a projector, which was not available in the Scitico Room.
The ECC reconvened in the Scitico Room at 8:35 p.m.
The Commissioners discussed the map and how they wanted to proceed. They discussed updates and how they would be handled. Chair LaPlante said she thought the 490 land should have a separate layer on the map; some form of color-coded overlay identifying what type of 490 it is. She said this type of overlay would be good to have for other town maps as well.
Commissioner George discussed open space and that in the definition she read in the town plan, agricultural land, even if it is privately owned, was defined as open space. She said she saw no reason why these parcels could not be shown on a working map. Chair LaPlante said that Ms. Nichols indicated in her presentation that towns had to legislatively approve open space classifications. Chair LaPlante said as far as she can tell, the town does have some land that is considered privately owned open space, but Enfield is not on the list of towns that have legislation saying they are open space towns.
Chair LaPlante said she does not think the town agreed to have open space classification. She said farmland was one thing, woodlands another, but private open space was something different. The Commissioners discussed the map again and where open space properties were located. A large amount of the open space parcels on the map were cemeteries, and others were owned by utility companies. Chair LaPlante said the open space parcels shaded in purple were all town owned properties. The Commissioners identified parcels on the map that still needed to be classified. Chair LaPlante again mentioned the NIMO Seminar and thought it would be a good idea to have them come before addressing the unclassified parcels.
Commissioner George brought the discussion back to the grant application and said that maybe sending a letter that states there are several parcels being looked at, but we are not at the point of being able to submit a formal application would be the way to go. Commissioner McGuire said that he thought submitting a list of properties to the town, suggesting that these be the properties to use if they were able to submit the grant application for this year. The Commissioners discussed the grant application and said that even though it was late in the game, they still wanted to submit something to the Town in an attempt to get them to complete and submit the application.
There was further discussion about the process of getting appraisals and making sure the owners of the parcels identified were interested in selling. The consensus was this is an expensive and time-consuming process. Commissioner Szewczak suggested providing the Town with even just a couple of suggested properties to make the process more manageable. He emphasized the need for a quick approval if the grant application was going to be submitted on time.
The Commissioners continued to discuss different properties. Commissioner LaPlante suggested that she and Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall make a wish list of properties and then identify just a couple to include in the grant application. There was discussion about proposing an Executive Session with the Town Council to discuss potential parcels and save some time.
The Commissioners discussed the recent Land Use Training session given by Attorney Chris Smith. Chair LaPlante said she has a PDF file of the presentation he gave and would provide it to anyone who wanted a copy. She said it was well presented, but that there was nothing in the presentation about conservation. She said the focus was on PZC, ZBA, and IWWA issues, and it was concluded that this was because it is these Commissions that encounter the majority of the legal issues. Chair LaPlante said that even though there was not a presentation specific to conservation, there were slides included in the PDF presentation, which she again offered to provide to any Commissioners that were unable to attend.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said that it was a good presentation that showed how land use commissions should objectively review applications and how they should be making their decisions. She said a lot of it was review for her, but it was good for anyone who was new to one of the Commissions.
Commissioner McGuire said that the training emphasized that the approval or denial of applications should be based on the applications themselves, not on the person/entity applying. The primary reason for this is that the applicant over time will change, but the change in use or the approval of a certain application will remain in effect for eternity. The training also emphasized the need for the Commissions to know their regulations and to act on them consistently.
Chair LaPlante said that she went to the Farm Bureau’s Website, and there is an annual report that each municipality has to send to the DEEP, Division of Forestry, that includes a list of all land parcels classified as farmland, forestland, and open space, including total acreage. She said she would like to get a copy of the report that Enfield submitted.
3. New Applications – IWWA and PZC
There were no new applications for discussion.
4. Aquifer Protection
There was an Aquifer Protection Meeting on April 5, 2012. There were no new applications.
5. Archaeological Protection
There was nothing to discuss regarding Archaeological Protection.
6. Special Projects and New Ideas
a. Invasive Species Project Update
Chair LaPlante said that the Commission applied to the Garden Club for a grant and did not get it.
b. Escarpment Soils Project Update
There was nothing to discuss regarding the Escarpment Soils Project.
c. Earth Day Display
Chair LaPlante said that there is an Earth Day program coming up at the Town Hall on Friday, April 20th from 4-6 p.m. She said that Clean Energy and DPW would be there. She said that ECC was invited to attend and set up a display for Conservation. She said she has not committed the Commission to a display, and opened the matter up for discussion. The Commissioners discussed some different ideas, but decided that they would not have a Conservation display this time.
Chair LaPlante pointed out that May was American Wetland Month. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall asked if the Watershed Association could have a display the Earth Day program. Chair LaPlante said absolutely. She said the theme of the program was Recycling, so maybe something that had to do with recycling water would be good. Commissioner Dynia said that he would attend if he were able to.
Commissioner George discussed the trees the Commission agreed to plant on either side of the entrance to the Cemetery on Hazard Avenue and said she had gotten some prices. She said the options discussed were either Honey Locust trees or Morton Elm trees.
Commissioner George said her prices did not include the 10 percent Town discount, which would have to be taken into account. She said that the Morton Elm trees were $429 each for a three-inch caliper and $329 each for a two-inch caliper. She said that the Elm was a slow growing tree and that if this was what the Commission chose, she recommends the larger caliper. She went on to say that the Honey Locust trees were $259 for a two-and-a-half to three-inch caliper and $199 for a one to two-inch caliper. She said that this was a faster growing tree than the Elm.
The Commissioners discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the two options, and decided to plant the Morgan Elms. Because of the higher cost, it was decided that one would be planted at the end of this fiscal year, and the other would be planted at the beginning of the next fiscal year. This way, they would be planted fairly close together in time, but the funds would be spread out over two fiscal periods.
There was some discussion as to whether or not the property where the trees would be planted was owned by the Town or the State. The Commission was going to find out to see whom they would have to work with to get the trees planted and keep them maintained.
Commissioner Szewczak made a motion, seconded by Commissioner McGuire, to plant two, three-inch caliper Morgan Elm trees, one on either side of the entrance to the cemetery on Hazard Avenue. One tree would be planted this fiscal year, and the second would be planted next fiscal year.
The motion was carried with a 6-0-0 vote.
Chair LaPlante referenced a recent article in the Hartford Courant about historic trees in Connecticut that were damaged during October’s storm. Some suffered minor damage, while others were damaged so badly that they had to be cut down. The Commissioners discussed some of the specific trees and the damage they had suffered.
Commissioner Dynia said he had seen in the paper today an article discussing state lawmakers’ dissatisfaction with the lack of funds available for conservation programs in the state. The article said that DEEP keeps cutting programs, and the state lawmakers are not happy about it. He said the article also discussed the possibility of putting the Department of Agriculture in charge of conservation.
Commissioner George mentioned the tree trimming guidelines contained in the new agreement between CL&P and the Massachusetts electric company. She said she hopes these guidelines are clearer than what is currently being used. She said she would like the Commission to review these documents before purchasing the new Morgan Elms, because currently the emphasis is on not planting street trees at all.
Chair LaPlante discussed an article in the Journal Inquirer about the Martha Parson’s Trust backing out of the Grange. Commissioner Dynia said this was because of the ongoing lawsuit. Chair LaPlante said the Commission should see what it could do to get something going on this with somebody else, because it would be a shame to let it go.
LIAISON REPORT – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
Commissioner Szewczak said that the Economic Development Commission was meeting tomorrow and there was nothing to report from last month’s meeting.
LIAISON REPORT – SCANTIC RIVER WATERSHED ASSOCIATION
Commissioner Dynia said the Watershed Association met last night and discussed re-doing their guide. He said there were a lot of new hiking trails that were not there at the time the guide was created. He said that East Windsor was doing a lot on their side with trails and that they also had a water trail.
Chair LaPlante asked if anyone had seen on the news that either a trail group or the state was putting iPhone Apps along their trails so that hikers can click on the App and get a trail map. She said there were over 100 hits in one weekend.
Commissioner Dynia discussed upcoming June activities. He said there was a hike along the Scantic on June 2nd. The following week, a paddle on the Scantic is planned – contingent on East Windsor getting their water park cleaned up from October storm debris. He said there was also a full-moon paddle planned for sometime this summer. He also said the canoe race they held was very successful, considering it was snowing the morning of the race, with 97 boats and 133 paddlers.
Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall asked Commissioner Dynia if the Land Trust was planning any walks on the Whitaker property. Commissioner Dynia said he thought there was a full-moon walk planned for sometime in May. He also said there was also a walk planned for June 3rd, but he was not sure of the details.
Chair LaPlante brought up the subject of a paddle with the different Commissions that was discussed by ECC last year. She asked if any one was interested and if it is something that should be pursued. Commissioner Dynia said it was a good time because the river was low. He said he would recommend doing it in either May or June. The Commissioners discussed getting some canoes and kayaks together. Chair LaPlante said she would like to do it because a lot of the members of the different Commissions have not seen the river from this perspective and don’t know what is going on in the different areas. Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall said you would have to decide who was going to be invited, and how many boats would be needed. Commissioner Szewczak suggested possibly doing different days for the different Commissions. Commissioner Dynia said it can be difficult paddling in that area, and it might be better to have someone experienced go and get pictures and then give a slide show.
NEXT MEETING DATE
The next meeting of the Enfield Conservation Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, 2012 in the Enfield Room.
Commissioner George made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Pfeifer-Hall to adjourn. Following a unanimous vote, the meeting adjourned at 9:50 p.m.
Gretchen Pfeifer-Hall, Secretary