New Haven town plan progresses

NEW HAVEN — With its town plan expired as of this past March, the New Haven selectboard has stepped on the gas to get revisions completed in time to put a revised plan before voters on Town Meeting Day 2017.
The selectboard held a four-and-a-half hour work session on Oct. 22, said selectboard Chair Kathy Barrett, and hopes to OK a draft at its next meeting and hold a public hearing in early December.
“The work session went very well,” Barrett said. “We did have one member of the public come and that was wonderful. There was great input. I think we accomplished a lot, and we look forward to getting our version of the town plan before the public.”
The New Haven Planning Commission created an updated town plan this summer and the selectboard held its first hearing on the document Oct. 25. As required by state statute, this hearing focused on public response to the final draft of the plan as completed by the Planning Commission and turned over to the selectboard July 2016. At that meeting, the selectboard also provided handouts that summarized where the selectboard, together with town attorney Cindy Hill, has been focusing its revisions.
“I think the planning commission did a good job with the information that they had available to them as far as energy siting and all of that, and that’s where their focus was,” Barrett said. “Our focus is to overhaul the entire plan to include things that were not in there that needed to be and to try to meet the standards that are required for energy siting.”
In order to be on the March 7, 2017, Town Meeting Day ballot, the plan must be completed and warned by the latter part of January.
“It’s going to be very tight,” Barrett said. “But we very much want to have this done so that it can be approved by the voters or not approved — it’s the voters’ choice — at town meeting.”
Barrett reported that at the Oct. 22 work session the selectboard was able to finalize content and language on several sections, including those concerned with:
•  Town objectives, policies and programs.
•  The village center.
•  Roads and transportation.
•  Town demographics.
Barrett said that the group gave particular attention to the section of the town plan that addresses preserving rare and irreplaceable natural areas and scenic and historic features.
Present at that meeting were Barrett, Hill and selectboard members Steve Dupoise and Jim Walsh. Barrett said that Hill has worked closely with the selectboard on their revisions to the town plan since they began the revision process in July. The selectboard held a previous workday in August. Hill and individual selectboard members have continued to work on sections of the plan ever since.
Still not complete are the sections on utilities, economic development, flood hazard areas and energy.
Barrett said that the energy section of the plan is particularly important. According to the Renewable Energy Siting bill signed into law last June, towns that sufficiently address the state’s energy planning goals will see their town plans given “substantial deference” in cases before the Public Service Board. But the Department of Public Service has yet to finalize its energy criteria for town plans.
Barrett noted that “there were some more rules that were just announced the other day (by the Department of Public Service), so it’s like we’re trying to hit a moving target. Just when you think you’re all set, the target moves — which is very frustrating.”
In order to meet the fast-looming Town Meeting Day deadline, Barrett said that the selectboard hopes to finalize a draft by the end of its upcoming Nov. 15 meeting. Once the selectboard OKs the draft, it will warn a hearing and post the draft on the town’s website.
Barrett said the hoped-for timeline would be to hold a public hearing on the revised draft of the town plan in the first part of December.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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