Zoning issue could delay Bristol station

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard on Monday debated how to handle a discrepancy in town zoning maps that could delay the siting of a new firehouse.
A committee charged with researching a prime location for a new firehouse last month recommended to the selectboard that it be built on West Street. The site contains portions of the Bristol Recreation Club and a plot owned by Ed and Suzanne Shepard.
Town officials say the Recreation Club portion of the site is zoned for both recreation and residential/office/commercial (ROC), but concede that 2004 changes approved by voters to make the plot zoned entirely recreation were never made on town zoning maps.
In 2006, residents voted for more zoning changes, which did not affect the Bristol Recreation Club land. These changes, unlike those approved by voters in 2004, were made on town zoning maps.
In 2012, Bristol residents approved a new town plan, which included zoning maps without the 2004 changes.
Resident Ken Weston brought the discrepancy to the attention of the selectboard at a June 12 public meeting on the proposed firehouse site.
Town Administrator Therese Campbell said that according to town zoning statutes, the planning commission is charged with resolving any zoning inconsistencies. The planning commission has since ruled that the town should treat the Recreation Club property as both recreation and ROC.
Monday evening, the selectboard decided to seek a formal legal opinion from town attorney Kevin Brennan on how to treat the zoning for the Recreation Club.
Campbell said Tuesday that was done out of an abundance of caution. Before beginning talks with the Recreation Club to purchase some of its land for a new firehouse, Campbell said, the town wants to make sure it is standing on strong legal footing.
 “We’re trying to clarify at this point what the selectboard should do next,” she said. “In order to be sure we’re negotiating with the Recreation Club in good faith, we need to have it sorted out.”
Campbell said she hopes to have an answer from Brennan in time for the next selectboard meeting on July 28.
The selectboard also on Monday authorized the fire department to spend funds on new equipment.
Bristol Fire Department Chief Brett LaRose said that some of the company’s equipment was aging and needed to be replaced. Some of the department’s hydraulic tools, used for vehicle extrication, are more than a quarter-century old.
 “It is time,” LaRose said, noting that the department had to pull out of service “25-year-old tools … due to safety issues.”
The total cost of the hydraulic tools is $21,807.
The department will also buy new breathing apparatus cylinders. LaRose said the cylinders have a shelf life of 15 years, and that two recently passed that mark. The cylinders are $800 each.
LaRose said he believes it is a good practice for the department to ask the selectboard to appropriate funds every time equipment needs to be replaced, rather than deferring costs.
 “We are trying to stagger the purchase of these big-ticket items,” LaRose said.
The funds for the new equipment have already been budgeted in the fire department capital fund. LaRose said that even though the funds have already been approved by voters, he feels it is important to ask the selectboard to OK every use of taxpayer money.
“Even though it’s already been appropriated, we still go before the board to seek the OK,” LaRose said. “We never like to assume its OK to spend money without the selectboard’s permission.”
The selectboard also gave permission to LaRose to sell the department’s 1972 fire engine, which is no longer in service. LaRose said the truck is not currently safe to drive, as the brakes are worn and parts are hard to come by on a 42-year-old fire truck.
LaRose said he plans to list the truck on Craigslist for $2,000. If no buyer makes an offer, LaRose said the department will look into selling the vehicle for scrap.
 “It’s not one of our primary apparatus, and it’s time we part ways with it.”
July also marks a shuffling of chairs within the town municipal offices. Campbell, the former town clerk and treasurer, assumed her duties as the new town administrator. Jen Stetson, who formerly served as an administrative assistant, has succeeded Campbell as town clerk and treasurer.
Campbell said she and other town officials will soon conduct interviews to hire a new assistant, and hope to make a recommendation to the selectboard by July 28.

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