January 16, 2024 Cons. Comm. Minutes


Conservation Commission Meeting
Tuesday, January 16, 2024, at 6:30 P.M.
via Zoom Only
Meeting Minutes

Members: Bob Fireovid, Bridget Kerr, Mark Naud, Cristin Lemieux Pullis

Public attendees: Emily Alger, SHLT

1) Call to Order – Bridget called the meeting to order @ 6:29p.
2) Finalize the Agenda – Bridget asked to move the budget proposal to first in the meeting.
3) Public Input (items not on the agenda) – None.
4) CC Budget Proposal Follow-Up – Bridget followed up with Anne regarding her questions at the Selectboard budget meeting. Bob relayed that the Selectboard voted to level fund the Conservation Commission, and expressed concerns that the CC was not coordinating with the SHLT, which is not accurate. Mark offered to follow up with Anne and the Selectboard on this issue, including at the next meeting on 1/22/24. There is some confusion as to timing and process for budget approval.

5) CC Membership Effort & VACC Membership, Fundraising – Membership effort tabled until FB page is up. Bob will activate the VACC membership. Bridget inquired whether we should continue to fundraise for small grants; the consensus is to pursue any fundraising opportunities. Bridget noted the VACC Small Grant application she shared

6) Brief Report on the status of wastewater feasibility study – There has been a bit of progress on the wastewater study. Bob has attended the meetings and reported on the status, with a 60% report delivered last week. There have been 3 test pits (Robinson parcel, Camp Ta-kum-ta, and Allenholm) with only the Allenholm parcel having suitable soils. The grant funded study initially was targeted in Keeler Bay and South Hero town center, though with the HOME Act, that area is expanded ¼ mile. Keeler Bay is too far to be serviced by an Allenholm facility. The study committee will explore other landowners for Keller Bay. Next is for the Selectboard to approve the 60% study.
Emily updated the Commission on the SHLT assessment of the study and progress provided by the Study Committee members, and noted that the Allenholm parcel has a Conservation Easement (held by the VT Land Trust), and would need approval from the easement holder to allow any wastewater facilities. This might require an easement amendment, given that a municipal wastewater system is not currently an allowed use. There was a question about next steps, which are extensive and complex: financial commitment, engineering, conservation easement issues, landowner approval, allocation mechanisms, capacity for 75, etc.
The Commission is looking for more information regarding minutes, and related data. Mark asked about the prioritization of potential wastewater systems for failed septic systems, given the paucity of data on septic systems.

7) Update on town trails (see this week’s Islander article) – Bridget reached out to the Recreation Commission and SHLT regarding the new proposed connecting trail between South Street and Tracy Road. She thanked those advocating for the connector and asked whether they need volunteers.
Emily noted that the Trails Subcommittee is now wrapped into the Recreation Committee and in partnership with SHLT and other partners (State of VT – Parks, Fish & Wildlife, landowners, Town of South Hero). The board walk at Folsom is the first project with ADA accessibility needs volunteers, and working with builders and engineers to plan for removal and reinstallation. Guy is leading an Adopt-a-trail program for monitoring and regular maintenance and perhaps the CC could adopt a trail?
The Island Acres trail will go from the Masonic Lodge through the Island Acres parcel to the Roy Marsh and ultimately to the Tracy Woods trail, and will cost ~$70K, for which two funding sources are identified. The South Street to Roy Marsh section would be ADA accessible.

8) CC Facebook & Education Outreach – Bridget was told that there would be no town commission specific e-mails. Cristin will follow up with a personal account for the Commission with Bridget and her as administrator/access management. Cristin suggested information about the Commission, its members, and events or workplan, to start, with images and related content. The page is setup, just not live or structured. Bridget and Cristin will get together to initiate the program. Bob moved, Mark 2d. to have Bridget and Cristin moderate the page. Unanimous.

9) Approve minutes from December 19 meeting – Bridget moved, Bob 2d. Unanimous, Cristin abstained.

10) Preparation for Next Meeting – Next meeting is February 20, 2024. Facebook page update; budget proposal update; VACC membership and Tiny Grant RFP. The Commission will provide Zoom meeting only for February meeting also.

11) Adjourn – The meeting was adjourned @ 7:35p. Bob moved, Cristin 2d. Unanimous.