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Exeter Town Council Special Meeting - 8/11/21

Updated: Dec 15, 2021




AUGUST 11, 2021

As Governor McKee’s Executive Order allowing Open Meetings to be held virtually and in-person (i.e., hybrid) during the Covid-19 Pandemic was not extended at its deadline, July 23, 2021, this meeting will be held IN PERSON ONLY.


The Special Meeting of the Exeter Town Council was called to order at 6:40 p.m., on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, in the Metcalf Elementary School Cafeteria, 30 Nooseneck Hill Road, Exeter, Rhode Island.

Roll Call:

Daniel W. Patterson


Michael A. Lefebvre


Calvin A. Ellis


Olivia DeFrancesco


Francis T. Maher, Jr.


Also Present:

James P. Marusak, Esq., Town Solicitor

Kenneth G. Findlay, Council Assistant

Lynn M. Hawkins, CMC, Town Clerk


A. PROPOSED TEXT AMENDMENT TO EXETER CODE OF ORDINANCES: ZONING, APPENDIX A, “CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENTAL AGRICULTURE OVERLAY DISTRICT”: Timothy Scharter on behalf of RI Grows has submitted the proposed zoning amendment. Steven Surdut, Esq., was present on behalf of Mr. Schartner.

Council President Patterson read the Notice of Public Hearing into the record.

MOTION made by Mr. Lefebvre to open the Public Hearing; seconded by Mr. Maher; and voted unanimously in the affirmative.

Attorney Surdut came forward. A number of his experts who were coming from outside the state and country are unable to attend this evening. He notified the Town Clerk yesterday morning as soon as he became aware. He and his client wish to present a full and complete presentation and address the community concerns that have been raised and correct misinformation. He recognized that the proposed amendment has become a big issue, attracting a full house tonight. He requested on the record that the matter be rescheduled to dates he has provided, apologized for the inconvenience, and invited Council to do a site visit in the interim.

Mr. Patterson queried of Attorney Surdut: Are the experts definitely available for all the dates provided? And you have nothing to present tonight? Mr. Surdut answered in the affirmative regarding the dates. The request for rescheduling is a one-time request. He wished the person who circulated the mailer had talked to them.

Ms. DeFrancesco found it hard to believe that Attorney Surdutfound out yesterday that the experts were not available when the Public Hearing had been scheduled for weeks. Mr. Surdut found out over the weekend that the experts were not available and did not notify the Clerk until Tuesday morning as Monday was a holiday.

For the record, Mr. Ellis queried of the Clerk: When was the notice posted and when was the date set? The Clerk answered that the notice was advertised for three weeks and the date was set approximately two weeks before that. So, total, approximately five weeks.

Peter Lacouture, Town Moderator and retired attorney: Construction of a CEA (“Controlled Environmental Agriculture”) project is moving forward on Mr. Schartner’s property. If Council is going to grant the request for continuance tonight, it should direct them to immediately cease construction until this matter has been decided. Mr. Patterson responded: The State Building Code, exempts greenhouse construction for a building permit. However, in his report of July 5, 2021, to the Town Council, Building Inspector, Ronald DeFrancesco, indicates that the State Building Commissioner believes the proposed structure does require a building permit. Exeter Building Inspector, Ronald DeFrancesco, is conferring with the State Building Commission.

Mr. Ellis to Attorney Surdut: Who are the experts are and to what part of this amendment will they will speak? Attorney Surdut: To the zoning overlay district. Mr. Ellis: The experts are not related to the Schartner facility but to the concept of an overlay district? Mr. Surdut: They will speak to the benefits of a CEA and to the Town and the reasons that it should be applied and put in place by the Town.

In light of this information and the lateness of the notice, in fairness to the Town and Mr. Schartner, and because both sides should be heard and present at Public Hearing,

Mr. Patterson made the following motion:

MOTION made by Mr. Patterson to continue the Public Hearing to a date between September 20 and October 3, and October 20 and October 27; seconded by Mr. Lefebvre.

Discussion: Ms. DeFrancesco felt the motion disrespectful to everyone who showed up tonight and to the Town. Two residents queried: Would the continuance be contingent on halting construction? Is Council going to conclude whether a building permit is required? Another resident wished for permission to speak if others were going to be allowed to. Mr. Patterson answered: Tonight’s hearing is for consideration of an overlay district and has nothing to do with the construction. He has not seen documentation indicating a building permit is required. Council cannot make that conclusion. A letter from the State Building Commissioner indicates that greenhouses do not need building permits. The auxillary buildings and electrical will.

Mr. Ellis noted that the July 5 communication from the Town’s Building Inspector and commented, I “don’t like what I see.” Ms. DeFrancesco queried: If the public hearing is continued, can it be reposted, in every way, physical, websites, newspaper? Mr. Lefebvre felt that everyone took time to attend tonight, that it is not Council’s or the Public’s fault that the experts could not attend, and that the Public’s comments should be taken tonight and the public hearing continued to another date. As the Exeter Fire District has recommended language to be added to the ordinance, Mr. Ellis suggested that the applicant amend the ordinance in accordance with it. He read the recommendation in part. Mr. Surdut agreed his client would pay for readvertising.

Mr. Patterson amended his motion:

MOTION made by Mr. Patterson to continue the Public Hearing to September 22, 2021, the applicant to pay for all legal advertisements; seconded by Mr. Maher.

Discussion: Mr. Ellis will vote no because he would rather the proposed amendment be returned to the applicant with consideration to the Fire District’s recommendations, the Public’s concerns, and other issues, and make amendments to make the proposed ordinance more palatable.

There were 170 members of the public in attendance. Thirty-one signed up to speak. Mr. Ellis, Mr. Maher and Mr. Lefebvre agreed that the Public should be heard tonight and the matter continued. In order to expedite tonight’s proceedings, Mr. Maher suggested a time limit be put on each public comment and that if someone is going to say what was already said they pass on their chance to speak.

Back to the Motion: Voted as follows:

Daniel W. Patterson Yes

Michael A. Lefebvre No

Calvin A. Ellis No

Olivia DeFrancesco No

Francis T. Maher, Jr. No

Motion fails.

The Public Hearing continued.

Attorney Surdut looks forward to working with Council, Fire District, and members of the town to address the concerns. He had been looking for recommendations, but this is the first he has received. Ms. DeFrancesco disagreed. The Planning Board had asked Attorney Surdut to extend the clock so they could study the overlay; but the incomplete application was brought to Council with a request to have it heard forthwith. Attorney Surdut had been before the Planning Board five times. He will listen to the Public’s Comments tonight, take them into account, and address them at the next meeting. Ms. DeFrancesco noted that tonight is the public hearing. There will be no next meeting. Attorney Surdut considered his request to continue reasonable and felt his client should have an opportunity and right to present. Mr. Ellis wished to conduct the hearing tonight, have the client redo the ordinance based on tonight’s comments and what has been received, and start the process over. Mr. Maher queried of Attorney Surdut: How many experts? What are their background? Attorney Surdut will present a full complete presentation with experts on planning, greenhouses, solar, engineering, water systems, farming, uses, soils, groundwater, potential financial impacts and benefits. Mr. Maher queried: But not even one could show up tonight?

Town Planner, Bill DePasquale: The Planning Board had four or five meetings with the applicant regarding the mechanics, intentions, performance, and standards included or not included in the ordinance. The applicant did make modifications with respect to helping and protecting smaller farms and farmers with respect to this type of farming concept. As required in the ordinances, the Planning board has given its recommendation to Council. It has found that the overlay is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan. Council has to now make its determination. The Public process is very important.

Council moved to Public Comment.

Gregg Hartnett, 58 Pine Crest, Exeter: Cedar Grove is a small, intimate community. All decisions made affect everyone. He wants his children to stay in Exeter and enjoy Exeter’s rural character. What value will the overlay give to all citizens of Exeter? How will it impact others going forward? Will the shark nibble and more sharks will come? Will more farms be taken over? Schartner’s project will bring more traffic to Route 2, the gateway to South County.

Keep it rural.

Gina Thurn, 555 Gardner Road, Our Kids Farm, Exeter: Her farm is small, less than five acres. It is a greenhouse facility that is also a CEA. Produce is grown in greenhouses year round. They have an ancillary solar array that is net metered. All of the power usage produced is used on the farm. Produce is grown under the panels, between the panels, and on the fence line. They have twice invited the Council, Planning Board, Zoning Board, and the Public to visit their farm to see a CEA, ancillary solar, dual use solar, and hydroponic growing. To date, three people have gone out to educate themselves. An overlay district has the potential to benefit every farm and farmer. She asked Council to help keep the farms alive.

Denise and Art Salisbury: Passed on their comment. Not sure if they were for or against the overlay.

Mike DeFrancesco, Chair, Exeter Planning Board, Hallville Road, Exeter: The applicant had been before the Planning Board four or five times. The process was like “riding a roller coaster.” There were several applications that were withdrawn, revised, and resubmitted, until the one Council has before it tonight, which is flawed and needs a lot of work. The Planning Board in its recommendation to Council found that the application is not in accordance with the comprehensive plan or the purposes of the zoning ordinance and provided Council with its opinion and nine specific comments.

Scott Millar, Vice Chair, Exeter Planning Board, Stony Lane, Exeter: Mr. Millar requested that the Planning Board’s advisory opinion issued by the Planning Board regarding the CEA overlay zoning amendment, dated June 23, 2021, be entered into the record and posted on the Town’s website. He read same in part into the record.

Biagio Scott D’Uccio, Miskiana Trail, Exeter: Mr. D’Uccio owns Earth Mother Homestead and Farm. From what he has seen, a CEA uses thousands of gallons of water and thousands of pounds of pesticides and chemicals, which will end up in the Town’s ground water. Do not turn Exeter into something unrecognizable.

Linda Cardillo, Widow Sweets Road, Exeter: Ms. Cardillo agreed with many of the comments made tonight and assumed that some Council Members are considering this proposal seriously.

If any member of the Council is in favor of the overlay, Ms. Cardillo requested that he or she explain why the overlay would benefit the Town or any members of the community? She hoped that Council, as representatives of Exeter, were fully aware of how this community feels about this proposal from those who see it as a positive and from those who do not.

Dan Patterson, Council President: Contrary to the flyer that was circulated this weekend in advance of the public hearing, Mr. Patterson, speaking for himself, has not made up his mind.

The applicant is entitled to due process and Mr. Patterson wished to get the Public’s opinion and as much information as he can.

Ms. DeFrancesco: Mr. Patterson was at the ground breaking. Mr. Patterson replied that hewas at the groundbreaking in order to get both sides of the story. He listened and left.

Mr. Lefebvre: His mind was not made up.

Ted Nataly, Nelson Drive, Exeter: Mr. Nelson was not for or against the overlay. He felt the Planning Board a “bunch of obstructionists.” The previous planner was to write the compre-hensive plan. The Planning Board did not push her because it wanted to refer back to an outdated plan written in 2002. The State told Mr. Nataly that there is nothing they can do, that the Planning Board has to abide by the outdated comprehensive plan. The Council supported the previous planner doing nothing for six years, paying her $90.00 per hour. Two years ago, at Financial Town Meeting, the Public, having no faith in that planner, refused to give her a raise. The Council, the next year, gave her s five percent raise. At a recent Planning Board meeting, the Chair, Mr. DeFrancesco wanted the meeting to go quickly. The Vice Chair, Scott Millar, an obstructionist, read for 35 minutes. The Planning Board has made sure that the people do not have what they want but made sure Frank DiGregorio had what he wants. It is not right. Look at the number of lawsuits relevant to Mr. DiGregorio and the Planning Board. The Planning Board is the problem. It is not the overlay or solar. They have destroyed the Town purposely.

Scott Gavitt, Fire Chief, Exeter #1: Mr. Gavitt is not opposed to or in favor of the overlay district. His concern is public safety. The project on Route 2 is too big for the Exeter Fire Department to handle. He has submitted a letter to Council stating his concerns.

Barbara Costello, Mill Pond Road, Exeter: Ms. Costello has lived in Exeter for 20 years but grew up in Newport. She has seen what can happen in a community, good and bad. She queried: Will the proposal change the rural character of Exeter? What is the potential benefit for the Town, for everyone? There is a tremendous private benefit, but what will be the public cost?

Tracy Acquaro-Pees, Mill Pond Road, Exeter: Ms. Acquaro-Pees agreed with what Ms. Costello said. She moved to Exeter for the rural, residential asthetic. She does not: want Exeter to be a Warwick or Providence, want the nature of the community to change, and see how changing the ordinance to benefit one individual or a small group of individuals is going to benefit the community at large. She is opposed to the proposal.

Bill Stamp III, Cranston: Mr. Stamp is a farmer and has a farm in Cranston. He owns land in Exeter to which he wants to move for the community aspect. His concerns are both personal and as a farmer. He has been a member of the Farm Bureau all his life. The Farm Bureau finds that the best land use planning is at the local level. Anything more is dangerous. Farmers have equity in their land and that equity is part of the community. CEAs are a progressive edge and will produce more food for Rhode Island. The question is how and who you want to do that is what has to be decided.

Jeffrey Rainer and Kelly Rainer: Echoed all comments made tonight.

Jason Whitford, Wisconsin: Mr. Whitford’s family has lived in Exeter for 200 years. He owns 100 acres and five houses in Exeter. He loves the town. How will everyone benefit from this proposal? If you have a solar field, chances are you are not going to have to send a rescue or a fire truck and will save educational taxes. Everyone wants to be able to afford to live here. If you want to keep the rural character, you have to work with the farmers. They will not contaminate the ground and will do the right thing. He believes Schartner’s project and the one at Our Kids Farm are wonderful and would benefit everyone in town. Deerbrook Estates is not what Exeter is about. Think about this proposal. Do not come tonight because you received a flyer in the mail. Come because you pay taxes and you love the town. Come to meetings so you understand more of what is going on.

Joe Teasdale: Passed on his comment.

Steve Kelly: Was not present.

Asa Davis, Beechwood Hill Trail, Exeter: A CEA is a method of farming. It is not a use. CEAs grow in greenhouses which are permitted by Zoning as an agricultural use. Typically, diesel or turbine is used. On-site power generation for your own consumption is allowed. The use of solar panels to generate electricity is new and what is creating opposition, claiming Exeter’s farms and forests will be destroyed. They will not. CEAs are already here, as everything is allowed with the exception of the solar component. Growing plants is not an industrial or manufacturing use. It does not matter if it is conventional or hydroponic. If the critics are concerned with preserving farms for future generations, they should be in favor.

CEAs do not use or ruin soil and conserve space and water, fertilizer, and pesticide use. A greenhouse can easily be removed and the space reverted to a farm. What is not to like?

If you care about soil, water, and resources for future generations, you should be an advocate and encourage adoption. The debate points out a hole in the ordinances, the definition of utility scale, which is based on the amount generated not power exported. With the respect to the Schartner project, if the power is consumed on site and used to offset utility consumption, and there is space enough for setbacks, panels, and coverage ratios, and it sits on five or thirteen acres of a 100+-acre site, who cares? The Revity project on Route 102 is 50% coverage, 59 acres of solar area, and quadruple the Schartner generation with 100% of the power exported and has met Planning Board Master Plan Approval. Yet the Planning Board is against Schartner’s CEA approval? The Planning Board uses the comprehensive plan to pick and choose which projects to support and which ones to deny. It should not be arbitrary and capricious. Solar power for electricity generation is here to stay, is the safest, cleanest method of electricity generation, and will be the least expensive. CEA is adoptable to any size farm. Mr. Davis encouraged Council to adopt this ordinance and deny the Revity project.

Brian Schroeder, Sunderland Road, Exeter: Mr. Schroeder was sorry the experts could not make it tonight, but they should have been prepared. He had wanted to hear from them. He was glad so many people attended tonight, because the community needs to get involved. He queried: How big will we allow CEAs to be? What is the benefit to the Town? Where does the Town want to go with these?

Gerald Bove: Passed on his comment.

Joel Littlefield: His points had been made by others tonight.

Suzanna Tingley, Hatchery Road, North Kingstown: Ms. Tingley lives across the street from the Schartner project. She has great respect for the Schartners and wants them succeed. Her concerns include traffic (trucks in and out), a massive facility across from a residential neighborhood, and property value. If she wanted to live in Warwick, she would have bought there. A big concern: Are there going to be stipulations on what is going to be grown in the greenhouses? Can stipulations be put in place that will not allow it to be a marijuana grow and dispensary?

Robert Goodson, Whispering Pine Way: There is a lot of confusion regarding the project.

How is the project progressing while there are many questions that need answers? How did it get started? Why are we where we are with it? What is the environmental, economic, and safety impact? These questions should have been and should be answered. Big and corporate agriculture is being invited to Town. Is Schartner leasing or selling to the Dutch company that is involved? The Zoning and Planning Boards need to be heard. There are traffic and safety concerns. How will the project benefit the Town economically? Why is it being granted?

Who is benefitting from it? Big agriculture? CEAs may be a good concept and benefit to the Town’s small farms, but when a big conglomerate comes in and thinks they can do whatever they want, where does it stop and how many farms get bought and taken over by them? The little farms will struggle and should be protected.

Judith Littlefield: Passed on her comment.

Todd Snow: Passed on his comment.

Nancy and Jeff Wolstencroft, Escoheag Hill Road, Exeter: When Mr. Wolstencroft was in construction, he wanted to deal with the well-prepared clients not the ones that were not.

They would do things they should not be doing and probably that is going on now at the Schartner project.

Evan Ramikur, Mill Pond Road, Exeter: The notice should be “Controlled Environment Agriculture Systems” not “Controlled Environmental Agriculture Systems.” He is not necessarily opposed or in favor but is concerned what happens in the Town.

Ruth Gordon, Ten Rod Road, Exeter: Ms. Gordon trusts Council will make the right decision

in helping Scharter. She loves the Town and she loves farms and going to them and healthy food, which sounds like what Schartner will grow. She thanked everyone for coming and voicing their concerns.

Hillary Fasenfeld, Quail Hollow Drive, Exeter: Ms. Fasenfeldmoved from North Kingstown because there was too much night light. A million square foot building, three stories tall, operating 24 hours per day, is preposterous in a small, rural town, and will be “a giant orb at night.” She is concerned for the wildlife and traffic. What is the environmental impact going to be from the lights and solar field? This is over the top and will ruin the integrity of the Town. She supports farmers but this is not sustainable in Town.

Timothy Schartner, Schartner Farms: Mr. Schartner is fourth generation and buying 256 acres from his father, from the corner of Routes 102 and 2 to approximately Dry Bridge Road. As things are getting expensive, pressures and family grow, and development encroaches, he had been looking for ways not to build houses. He found CEA. Rhode Island consumes 1.6% of what is grown. Twenty-five acres is the smallest viable CEA for the technology Schartner is using. He will keep the vistas and have a nice front. He pushed the building back and sank it down. It will be charming. It has a black out curtain so that light pollution is less than on Route 2. It uses 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. It is a negative carbon footprint and emits oxygen, equal to spare meter to the forests. The architect of the flyer that went out knew that the points therein were incorrect because that person and Mr. Schartner have been working together for three years. He was not going to try to convince the audience. Conviction comes from within. He is approachable, not going anywhere, loves the Town and its vistas, and wants to preserve the corner. There will be another meeting?

Steve Surdut, Attorney for Schartner: The request has been made and it is hoped that Council will give Schartner the opportunity to present testimony and experts, be prepared, and look forward to addressing the concerns raised by both the public and Council tonight.

Peter Lacouture, Summit Road, Exeter, and volunteer for Exeter Fire #2: Mr. Lacouture has heard that approximately 350,000 gallons per minute is needed if there were a fire in the facility, was not sure where the fire departments would get that, there are no plans for sprinklers or fire alarms, and the tomatoes are a lead in to a much more valuable crop in the future. Language in the ordinance refers to “many, premium, edible, ornamental and high value plant species.” If the ordinance is approved, he hopes it is limited to food, fruits, and vegetables. Light pollution, traffic, and public safety (fire) are concerns. Imagine looking for somebody in a burning building 25 acres big.

Mike Cirillo, William Reynolds Road, Exeter, former Council member: A couple of weeks ago, the Quonset Water Facility was surveying the Ladd Center. Because that is the Town’s aquifer, we have the right to ask: What is going to happen with that water? Is that the water that Schartner plans to use to meet the gallon requirement that Mr. Lacouture was referring to? Unless it is limited to food and fruit, the damage this facility is going to do should be considered. If this facility becomes a marijuana grow, it will wipe out all the small farmers who are heavily invested in appropriate size marijuana. At last count, that is six farms.

Jenn Cragen, Stony Lane/Widow Sweets Road, Exeter: The different aspects of this project need to be brought together. Somebody other than Council should ponder this. The Planning Board has said it is not in favor of this project. There are many questions. The order of operation seems backwards. Why build the solar facility before the agriculture operation? Why is there not an environmental assessment plan? Why is there not documentation about alternative energy sources? Are there other options? It is a difficult decision without all the information. What about water usage and quality and herbicide and pesticide use? Wells in West Greenwich have gone dry because large scale solar operations changed ground water flow. Why should Exeter supplying tomatoes for New York and support that business? National Grid is giving incentives to the project. What are the incentives to the Town? Is there any bonding for potential damage and decommissioning? Who is going to pay for that and those costs? What is the impact to air quality? Ms. Cragen did not believe the long-term carbon storage is equivalent to forestry. Short term, maybe. Farming is the heart of Exeter. Find a way to do this without destroying our environment. Do not make a decision without all the information.

James Drew, Briarwood Hill Road, Exeter: Mr. Drew suggested that Council and the Public

visit an indoor CEA in Providence, Gotham Greens. It is 100,000 square feet and the most similar to Schartner’s project within driving distance.

Trish Davis, William Reynolds Road, Exeter: She came tonight for answers but has not gotten many. She has heard many concerns, but not for property rights. The Schartner family ought

to be able to make a living on their property.

End of Public Comment.

Mr. Patterson to Attorney Surdut: Language should be added to prohibit marijuana cultivation.

Mr. Surdut: It was in the original language before the Planning Board. It will be added back.

Mr. Patterson to Attorney Surdut: What exactly is combined heat and power generators?

Mr. Surdut: That will be explained by the experts.

Mr. Patterson to Attorney Surdut: Page ____, Paragraph 3, Number 3, of the ordinance indicates “must be within areas identified in the comprehensive plan as appropriate in the comprehensive plan for agriculture.” Does the plan show that?

Mr. Surdut: The planning expert will show that and will show that agriculture is an allowed

use in all of Exeter.

Mr. Patterson to Mr. Surdut: Is the ordinance allowing solar as an accessory use by right?

Mr. Surdut: It would an accessory use by right to an allowed CEA. The CEA to be allowed would have to come before Council to get approval for that lot and that site.

Mr. Patterson to Mr. Surdut: Last page of the ordinance: “Applicant shall commence construction and shall obtain all applicable permits for primary use no more than 365 days

from the commissioning of the secondary use,” which means the solar facility has to be constructed before the greenhouse?

Mr. Surdut: We can change the language to that they are built concurrently or that the greenhouse would be constructed first.

Mr. Patterson to Mr. Surdut: The ordinance requires three years of Schedule F IRS tax forms, which are filed by active farms.

Mr. Surdut: The reason is to limit the overlay to farmers and to avoid the statue being improperly utilized. Restraints are welcomed so long as they do not obstruct the construction

of the CEA and ensure that the CEA is an agricultural use with solar as a secondary or accessory use.

Mr. Patterson gave Attorney Surdut a copy of the Fire District’s concerns was given to Attorney Surdut. Mr. Surdut will provide detailed technical information in that regard.

Mr. Patterson to Mr. Surdut: The inclusion of smaller operations, four, five, or six acre greenhouses with smaller solar facilities would help the smaller farmers.

Mr. Surdut: The goal is to preserve farming. Mr. Schartner is one generation from losing his farms.

Mr. Lefebvre to Mr. Surdut: Mr. Lefebvre has not decided if he is for or against the ordinance, but does not like that building is already moving forward. Whether the greenhouse is a building or a greenhouse is a gray area. To move forward is pushy and arrogant. There is a lot at risk. That sheds a bad light.

Mr. Surdut: Will provide documentation from the State in that regard.

Mr. Ellis: The zoning amendment before Council would legitimize what is already under construction in a residential area. The process has already begun. It was not the right approach. This ordinance should be put aside. The applicant should go back to the Planning Board with

an amended proposal.

Mr. Patterson to Mr. Surdut: What about a decommissioning plan?

Mr. Surdut: The solar field would go to the Planning Board for Development Plan Review.

Part of that process is submitting a decommissioning plan.

Ms. DeFrancesco to Mr. Surdut: What a about a decommissioning plan for the greenhouse?

Mr. Surdut: If the ordinance is approved, it is Council’s prerogative to include that.

MOTION made by Mr. Patterson to continue this Public Hearing to September 22, 2021, with advertising paid by the applicant; seconded by Mr. Lefebvre.

Discussion: Ms. DeFrancesco thought tonight was the public hearing. If the public hearing is continued, more information will be supplied and the discussion continued. Mr. Ellis repeated: One or two experts could not attend tonight, with a three- to five-week notice, and Council finds out yesterday that they cannot attend tonight. It was wrong and it should be started over. Ms. DeFrancesco agreed.

Back to the Motion: Voted as follows:

Daniel W. Patterson Yes

Michael A. Lefebvre Yes

Calvin A. Ellis No

Olivia DeFrancesco No

Francis T. Maher, Jr. Yes

Motion passes.

Mr. Maher for clarification: Tonight, Mr. Ellis spoke about a letter dated July 5. Mr. Maher spoke about a letter dated July 12. Both are from Building Official, Ron DeFrancesco. They are contradictory. The July 5 letter states that the current State Building Commissioner agrees that the proposed structure does require a building permit. The July 12 letter states that the former State Building Commissioner agrees that building permits are not required. Mr. Maher asked for clarification from the Building Inspector for the next meeting. Mr. Surdut will work with the Building Official and obtain clarification from the State Officials in that regard for the next meeting.


Ms. DeFranceso had a point of order and queried: Can Council stop all operations at the farm until the questions are answered? Based on information from the Building Inspector, a building permit is not required because it is a greenhouse. Building permits will be required on other parts of the project. State law is very vague and overrules local law. Council cannot stop construction until clarification is obtained. Mr. Patterson will contact the Building Inspector.


MOTION made by Mr. Lefebvre to adjourn the meeting; seconded by Mr. Patterson; and voted unanimously in the affirmative.

The Special Meeting was adjourned at 8:42 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Lynn M. Hawkins, CMC

Exeter Town Clerk

Approved: September 7, 2021


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