April 20, 2020
The Board of Selectmen, Town Manager John Ward, and Director of Community Development, Abigail Kenyon, participated via Zoom.
Present: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, John D. Ward, Town Manager
Granby resident, Kate Bogli, 198R Salmon Brook Street, expressed appreciation for the board conducting its meetings via Zoom at this time. She would like to know what the board is doing to inspire the public during this pandemic. What kind of communication is the town having with other towns? She is pleased the town has opened school property for people to use for recreation while also being mindful of social distancing. She has heard Simsbury has opened its dog park and Granby’s is closed. She feels everyone should to be on the same page. Also, it would be inspiring for the town to communicate through social media.
First Selectman Kuhnly responded that the board follows the CDC’s and Governor’s suggested guidelines. The board puts all its information on the town website to keep everyone updated. It does not have the staff to address other social media platforms. People should be going to the town website for information about the town and not social media, as suggested by our town attorney. The town does communicate with other towns and also through the Farmington Valley Collaborative to find out what other towns are doing.
Kuhnly reminded residents that everyone needs to practice social distancing. On A Motion by Selectman Neumann, seconded by Selectman King, the board voted (5-0-0) to strike agenda item Executive Session from the agenda.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to amend the minutes of February 18 that stated the board voted unanimously (5-0-0) in favor of the town committing to MIRA for solid waste and recycling. The minutes should reflect the vote was 4-1-0. Selectman Ballard voted no.
Unfinished or Tabled Business
Consideration of authorizing a Tax Deferment Program and/or a Low Interest Program
As discussed at the April 6 BOS meeting, Executive Order 7-S signed by Governor Lamont on April 1, 2020 requires Granby enter into a 90-Day Tax Deferral Program and/or a Low Interest Program for delinquent accounts. The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) has since issued guidelines. To be eligible for the Tax Deferral Program, a resident must attest that they have lost twenty percent (20 percent) of their income due to COVID-19. In addition, landlords must prove that they are providing commensurate forbearance to their tenants.
Town Manager Ward reported he was incorrect at the last meeting when he indicated the interest-free payment period would extend from July 31 to October 31, 2020. Rather, the grace period will only extend until October 1. In effect, the deferral of the tax payment is only providing an additional 60 days.
There was discussion amongst the board members regarding both programs and how residents and the town would be affected in the long run. It was mentioned that 45 percent of residents have their tax payments in escrow with banks so they don’t qualify. The banks have to pay the escrow. Deferral of payments would have a greater financial impact on the town, especially in July, when the town counts on that money to make payments. This could create a real cash flow problem. The board wants to do what’s best for taxpayers and also consider town expenses.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to authorize the adoption of the Low Interest Program.
Resignations and Appointments to be considered
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to appoint Christopher Strapp (R), 10 Indian Hill Drive, to the Agritourism Committee.
Consideration of Granby Water Pollution Control Authority (GWPCA) setting sewer use rates for 2020-21
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to recess as the Board of Selectmen and open as the Granby Water Pollution Control Authority (GWPCA).
Kuhnly stated in accordance with the public hearing, he recommends and requests the GWPCA to approve the proposed sewer rates for Fiscal Year 2020-21 as stated in the public hearing.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to set sewer rates for residential users at a minimum of $200.12 for average gallons (55,000 gpy) used per year and $280.04 per year for commercial/industrial users (100,000 gpy). All gallon usage (residential and commercial/industrial) above the minimum will be charged $65 per gallon.
Consideration of GWPCA Approval of Sewer Allocation for Development at 276 and 280 Salmon Brook Street.
Planning and Zoning approved a 235-unit multi-family development at 276 and 280 Salmon Brook Street at its Feb. 11 meeting. The requested sewer allocation from the developer was reviewed by the Town Engineer and formal approval from the GWPCA is needed now that Planning and Zoning has approved the development. The developer has requested an allocation of 44,800 gallons per day. The town currently has 380,000 gallons per day available for the Simsbury plant and 212,345 gallons per day have been allocated so far. If allocation for 276 and 280 Salmon Brook Street is approved, 122,855 gallons per day would remain. This would allow for future connections within the sewer service area.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the GWPCA voted (5-0-0) to approve the sewer allocation of 44,800 gallons per day for the development at 276 and 280 Salmon Brook Street.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the GWPCA voted (5-0-0) to adjourn as the GWPCA and reconvene as the Board of Selectmen.
Consideration of modification of existing lease for 83 Salmon Brook Street
Town-owned property at 83 Salmon Brook Street was leased to Jennifer Girard to operate the establishment known as Peppermill. In September 2018 the lease was modified to allow Girard to sublet the building to Fabiola Bowles, who renovated the space and operated it as the restaurant Freshies Café.
As a result of the Governor’s order to close restaurants, Freshies Café has lost significant income. Take-out is not workable or economically profitable for Freshies. Bowles is asking if the town would consider a waiver of the rent while the involuntary closure of restaurants is still going on. Said rent is $1,600 per month. The question was asked if there were any loan programs available to assist with rent. Ward indicated there was, but filled up in the first 24 hours it was available. Selectman Ballard responded there could be loan programs available from the state level. After some discussion it was determined it would be in the town’s best interest to defer the rent and is a good gesture toward the local business as well.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to authorize the Town Manager to modify the existing lease and sub-lease to waive the rent for the months of April, May and June 2020 or until the ban on restaurants is lifted by the Governor, whichever occurs first.
Acceptance of land with parking lot improvements adjacent to Freshies Café
A conditional approval from Planning and Zoning of a Special Permit for a multi-family development at 83, 85R, 87R, and 91 Salmon Brook Street allows the Granby Board of Selectmen to determine the specific wording and details of the access and utility easements over the town’s property at 83 Salmon Brook Street.
One of the conditions states, “Upstream shall, prior to final Certificate of Occupancy related to the construction of one hundred and thirty (130) apartments that are to be built on the premises known as 3 Murtha’s Way, Granby, Connecticut, donate to the Town a parcel of land… Upstream agrees to fully construct the parking lot in accordance with this Agreement. Final transfer of the property shall be by warranty deed…”
According to the easement agreement, the parking lot will be turned over to the town when the last apartment building receives a Certificate of Occupancy, which the developer will be seeking.
The parking lot is located on .514 acres currently part of 91 Salmon Brook Street. The parking lot has been fully constructed with the final course of pavement, striping, lighting, and associated drainage infrastructure installed. The as-built has been reviewed by the Town Engineer. The Town Attorney has reviewed all required documents for the land transfer.
Ward doesn’t see a downside to this. It was noted it is still town property and the town would be responsible for repaving and maintenance in the future. King inquired if we can sell this property. The response was, when the lease is up the town could sell. Selectman Ohannessian would like to keep it separate. Then we could have two properties that could be sold if wanted. Community Development Director Abby Kenyon responded it makes sense to combine the two properties.
On A Motion by Ohannessian, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to accept a portion of 91 Salmon Brook Street, .514 acres, and its associated improvements.
Consideration of Resolution and Compliance Statement Supporting Fair Housing
To reaffirm the town’s commitment to fair housing and equal opportunity, Ward is recommending the Board of Selectmen re-adopt the following Fair Housing Resolution (shown below) and the Fair Housing Policy Statement, and Compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
WHEREAS, all persons are afforded a right to full and equal housing opportunities in the neighborhood of their choice; and
WHEREAS, Federal fair housing laws require that all individuals, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin, be given equal access to all housing-related opportunities, including rental and homeownership opportunities, and be allowed to make free choices regarding housing location; and
WHEREAS, Connecticut fair housing laws require that all individuals, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, age, lawful course of income, familial status, learning disability, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression be given equal access to all housing relate opportunities, including rental and homeownership opportunities, and be allowed to make free choices regarding housing location; and
WHEREAS the Town of Granby is committed to upholding these laws, and realizes that these laws must be supplemented by an Affirmative Statement publicly endorsing the right of all people to full and equal housing opportunities in the neighborhood of their choice,
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town of Granby hereby endorses a Fair Housing Policy to ensure equal opportunity for all persons to rent, purchase, and obtain financing and enjoy all other housing-related services of their choice on a non-discriminatory basis as provided by state and federal law; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Town Manager of the Town of Granby or his/her designated representative is responsible for responding to and assisting any person who alleges to be the victim of illegal discriminatory housing practices in the Town of Granby and for advising such person of the right to file a complaint with the State of Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or to seek assistance from the CT Fair Housing Center, legal services, or other fair housing organization to protect his or her right to equal housing opportunities.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to re-adopt the Fair Housing Resolution, Fair Housing Policy Statement, and Compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Municipal Grievance Procedure, Affirmative Action Policy Statement, and ADA Notice (memo attachments).
Consideration of interest in town owned land at 107 East Street
Ward reported the town was approached by the realtor of Agbotic, expressing interest in establishing a state-of-the-art farming system that grows organic plants in robotic greenhouses. There is currently a license for use of the land that is held by Northern Valley Farms, Inc. for a fee of $13,130 per year through the year 2023. It does contain an option for the town to terminate the license at the end of the calendar year. John Prete, who sits on its Board of Directors, was not available to present tonight.
Town Manager’s Report
Ward reported RFPs were put out for the bridge repair work and three firms were chosen to be interviewed. Wengell, McDonnell and Costello (WMC) is the firm that was chosen. The contract is to be finalized on Thursday. The bids for the school projects came in last Thursday. They will be reviewed and an architect will be chosen to do the work.
All COVID-19 updates are posted on the town website. Granby is following CDC guidelines. There is no foot traffic in the Town Hall and staff is encouraged to work from home. Communications are ongoing with other towns and the routine question is “How are you doing this in your town?” The library staff is helping the Senior Center staff with making phone calls to seniors to see how they are doing.
Budget Operations–March 2020
The town is at 102 percent of taxes collected. Revenue received for State Education is at 50 percent. The local building permits revenue is higher than anticipated. Expenses are on track. There will be an interim Community Development stand-in for 13 weeks while Ms. Kenyon is out on leave.
Ohannessian asked if there are additional expenses from COVID-19. Ward responded the town has purchased seven or eight laptops to work at home. Plexiglas is installed in all offices. A thank you goes out to the Police Officers and first responders. It was noted the town would put them up in housing if they were to come down with COVID-19 to keep their families safe. Thankfully, we haven’t had to use this yet.
First Selectman Reports
Kuhnly thanked all the town employees for their hard work. Also, the Recreation Department for its emails and notes on wellness stations at the park. Thank you to Kristine and Terry for their online workouts.
Selectman Reports (Sally King, Vice Chairman; Glenn Ballard, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian and Student Liaison Jillian Thrall)
Ohannessian thanked the boards for their working together to come up with a mill rate. Kudos to the Lost Acres Fire Department for driving the Easter Bunny all around town.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to adjourn the meeting.
May 4, 2020
Present via Zoom: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, Town Manager John D. Ward
On A Motion by Selectman Neumann, seconded by Selectman Ballard, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the Budget Workshop meeting of March 12.
On A Motion by Selectman King, seconded by Ballard, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of April 6.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the Granby Water Pollution Control Authority (GWPCA) public hearing of April 20.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of April 20.
Unfinished Or Tabled Business
Consideration of interest in town-owned land at 107 East Street
Town Manager John Ward explained the firm Agbotic approached the town, unsolicited, with interest in acquiring a site for a farming venture. It is a New York firm that specializes in high-end vegetables. It had looked at another site in town and it turned out it was not suitable. Agbotic approached the town about acquiring some land on the site at 107 East Street. That piece of land is owned by the town and is currently being leased to a local farmer. In addition to constructing greenhouses on the property for its farming operation, the plan would include installing solar panels or a fuel cell to offset energy consumption.
John Prete, who sits on its board of directors, provided a presentation on the firm. Agbotic grows organic plants in robotic greenhouses. Each greenhouse is fully automated, with all seed planting, watering, harvesting, etc. controlled by computers and robots. It markets the products under the GoodHealthy Brand and sells to high end retailers such as Whole Foods and restaurants.
The greenhouses are 50ft W x 360ft L x 24ft H. There is year-round production with 12 to 14 growing cycles per year, with approximately 22 days from seed to pick. Roofing material is very strong, similar to bubble wrap or Tyvek. It is very hardy and proven to be hurricane proof. Prete gave an overview of his company’s financial status. He indicated that they did not need 125 acres for their operation.
The question was asked how the company keeps up the nutritional value of the soil. It uses native soil and seaweed as a main ingredient, with no chemicals. Asked whether the operation would hurt or help other farms in Granby, it was indicated because Agbotic grows mostly alternative crops it would not hurt other farms. It does not grow crops such as corn, blueberries, strawberries, etc. Increased traffic was also a concern. Refrigerated box trucks are used for transport and for an operation of the size they are proposing, three to four trucks would leave the facility on a daily basis. When asked if there was any consideration of working with the town by adding a trash to energy source to their facility, Prete indicated they would be interested. Kuhnly stated this issue has not been discussed by the board and he did not want anyone to think the board is proposing a trash to energy facility. It is merely a question from one selectman.
Hope Stafford, 15 Maple Hill Drive, asked for a time frame for the operation from purchase to making a profit. Assuming all the permits are in place, the greenhouses could be up and running with seeds in the ground in three months.
Bill Glueck, 18 Barkhamsted Road, inquired about equipment investments and fuel. Each greenhouse costs $125,000. Solar is $1ml. and fuel cell is $1.4ml. Water is from ground source and mostly reclaimed water. Glueck asked if the proposed power source is more than they need, would Agbotic be open to work some kind of deal with the town. The answer was yes.
Kate Bogli, Salmon Brook Street, inquired about the proposal regarding the land and purchase price. Kuhnly responded this is just a presentation. The appraisal price is $1.5M in its entirety and $675,000 without development rights. The land is currently under lease. It was reiterated Agbotic does not need all 125 acres.
Vacancies: Conservation Commission (1)
Town Manager Reports
Ward reported the construction of the roundabout on Route 10 and East Street has begun. No detours are currently planned.
As of April 29, there are 13 reported cases of COVID-19 in Granby, with one fatality. Town services continue to be provided, although online transactions are preferred if possible. The Senior Center continues to provide a meal service every Tuesday that is now done as a curbside grab-and-go service. Youth Services provides counseling and programming through the use of Zoom and Telehealth. The Town Manager thanked the CERT Team for helping Director Sandy Yost to shop for home-bound seniors. The library stays active online. Card holders are able to download e-books and e-audio titles at no cost. Unfortunately, last Friday 10 part-time workers were laid off due to the decreased workload with the libraries being closed to the public. The parks are open with social distancing in practice. The dog park and playgrounds remain closed. Parks and Recreation has online fitness classes available.
The State Department of Labor showed the number of unemployment compensation applications sorted by town. Granby, like other towns, shows an increase.
First Selectman Reports
Kuhnly reported the VFW has notified the town that the Memorial Day Parade has been canceled this year. Please remember to thank veterans for what they have done for us and never forget the sacrifice they have made for our freedom.
Neumann, the Republican Town Committee Chairman, reported the Presidential Preference Primary has been changed again, now to be held on Aug. 11.
John D. Ward, Town Manager