After many months of drafting, discussion and at times acrimonious debate, the Cornwall Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) passed into law new regulations governing the use of homes for business activity.

There were minor modifications made to the draft regulations after Chair Anna Timmel heard from each of her fellow commissioners and Zoning Enforcement Officer Karen Nelson during a June 3 Zoom call. Hearing concerns regarding noise, new construction and even formatting, in the end the commissioners changed only the definition of employee to include contractors and volunteers by a unanimous vote and then quickly adjourned the meeting.

Chair Timmel began the meeting by apologizing to consultant Janell Mullen for not sufficiently defending Mullen from what Timmel described as the “slander” she endured during the public hearing process. After detailing her experience and defending her work on behalf of P&Z, Timmel led a unanimous vote to renew Mullen’s consulting contract for another 2 years.

Before discussion on the proposed changes to the regulations got underway, Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO) Karen Nelson was asked to describe what discretion she had during the application process. Nelson stated that she has wide discretion which she said she often uses to ensure that applications are elevated to the proper level.

There was much discussion regarding the definition of employee in the new regulations, and commissioner Phill West commented that “90%” of the comments he read or heard were about the distinction between employee, owner or contractor. This was resolved when the commission voted to modify the language in the regulations to include contractors and volunteers in the definition of employee.

When concerns were raised by several commissioners regarding noise levels, Timmel addressed those comments by pointing out the difficulty in measurement and enforcement of decibel levels. Timmel then added that any business that would generate “excessive noise” would be required to submit a special permit or be subject to review by the ZEO.

Finally, with all concerns voiced by her colleagues addressed to her satisfaction, Timmel paid tribute to her fellow commissioners and stated how she believed the public hearing process was “an ideal way to listen to the public concerns.” With that Timmel announced, “this meeting has come to an end,” and a motion to adjourn unanimously passed.

Bob Meyers

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