October 07, 2021BERLIN — On Sept. 29 a Public Hearing was held to discuss the proposed extension of Urban Compact on Route 110.
City Manager James Wheeler began by reviewing the proposed extension, explaining "The city would take responsibility for an additional two miles of Route 110 that is currently under NHDOT's jurisdiction. The current urban compact is at the old White Mountain Distributor warehouse, and would be extended to just past Jericho Lake Road."
Wheeler added, "Under the agreement, NHDOT would enter into a maintenance agreement for the next five years, and during that time DOT will overlay the road."
Lastly, Wheeler explained, "NHDOT will also support the pursuit of upgrades through discretionary grants and the ten-year plan. The importance of the extension is so that the City can set speed limits, permit driveway access, and allow for OHRV operation. This area has land that is available for possible redevelopment."
There is no deadline for the agreement.
Resident Michael Tardif relayed to the Council that he does not want to see a lot of people build on lot sizes of 50 feet.
Grenier responded, "Changes to lot sizes is part of the Master Plan discussion and is handled by the Planning Board."
Tardif, in his opinion stated that Berlin doesn't do a great job on the streets, yet says he's not against development.
Fellow resident James Long stated that the change in the speed limit would only affect up to six residents, and he asked how it would affect everyone else, or any other business. He noted that in five years Berlin would have to take over road maintenance and include sand, salt and other repairs.
Richard King inquired about expenses to the city, noting aging equipment and bad road conditions.
He said, "The City should think twice before taking on another road. ATV's already have access to the trails and Route 110 has become a speedway for ATV's and vehicles. I'm concerned that someone would be hurt and the city would be sued."
King added, "The two bridges in that area would need repair. The city has enough to care for now, and if the state is supporting the area, it should stay that way."
Wheeler responded, "The DOT report listed the bridges in good condition, with one of them being recently replaced."
Lise Barrette then read a prepared statement: "As a taxpayer in the City of Berlin, I feel I need to express my thoughts about this. If the city takes over two miles of road from the State there will be an increase of needs for plowing, sand, salt and equipment use. Please make note that this is a main road therefore, it would need more attention during the winter. Also this increases our need for road maintenance i.e.: potholes, patching, and line painting. Again, it's a main road where there is more wear and tear than most."
Barette continued, reading, "In looking at our track record of road maintenance, one just has to look around at our streets of disrepair. Many crosswalks and no parking yellow lines aren't even visible anymore. Our Public Works has been short staffed for a while now and there hasn't been a PW Director for over a year. Why should we be adding on more road upkeep with less resources?"
Deborah Fysh, asked the Council to clarify what the term urban compact means.
Wheeler said, "It is a property line between the City and State for care of the roadway and the proposed agreement would move this line further up. Any current regulations for City streets would then apply to that road also."
Grenier said, "The amount of money received from the State for the care of the streets would increase and Block Grant Funding is about $40,000 per year, and is based on the number of miles of streets. Since they would be responsible for an additional two miles, it would be in incremental increase."
Lise Leveille, who lives next to the bridge by Rocket Snowmobile, has filled in the wetlands. She expressed concerns for the brook possibly flooding.
Resident Theodore Bosen said, "If investment in the area is a result of the extension of the road, then we will have the revenue to maintain the road. I ask that investors who are asking for this extension make their case openly, so that taxpayers would have confidence that the costs would be covered. I live on a road that used to be maintained by the State and is now handled by the city, and I have witnessed a decline in maintenance."
Wanetta Collins said she's opposed to the extension and noted holes in sidewalks and lack of snow removal.
In Contrast Ronald Therrien stated that he's in favor of the extension as he enjoys snow machines and ATV's.
Alex Ritchie of Hampton, who does work for Robert Chapman, read a prepared statement: "The City of Berlin should be very proud of what they have accomplished over the past decade or so in making a name for itself as a true recreation destination. The work that has gone into establishing itself as a leader in the ATV industry and providing first rate recreational experiences to outdoor enthusiasts is tremendous, and the outcome has truly become a model for other former Mill Towns that need to reinvent themselves."
Ritchie went on to say, "The challenge we see is that the infrastructure to support this now established and ever growing recreational industry is lacking in Berlin and the result is, at the end of a day spent recreating on the trails or Jericho Mountain, these individuals go elsewhere to stay and these dollars are spent in the surrounding communities and not in Berlin. It is these dollars we are trying to retain in the city, for small businesses here in the community. You have accomplished the hard part getting people to come to the area, now we have the opportunity to grow the associated infrastructure to keep people here and patronizing our businesses and lodging establishments."
David Redston of Timberland Adventures stated that he is planning to build cabins on his property on Route 110.
He said, "Berlin has a great start with the Ride the Wilds trails, but has no lodging available. If Berlin is able to get the lots developed, they will raise more in taxes. Redston stated that development on Route 110 will make a difference and it will be a plus to take over the road."
Robert Chapman of Chapman Development and Scrap Metal stated that if the city takes over the roadway, they have control.
Chapman said, "I have plans for 18 house lots on 255 acres, and if water and sewer service is available the bank will provide financing. If water and sewer is available, they won't need five-to-seven-acre lot sizes, and the number of lots could double, providing more tax revenue to the City."
The Hearing closed with Mayor Grenier stating that the Council has not made a decision and thanked the public for their input.
Grenier said, "The first few proposals received from the State were not well received at all, as they were heavily in DOT's favor. However if the City were to agree to this proposal, it would be a pretty good deal. We are doing everything we can to support developers as Route 110 is a unique experience, but we need to be fiscally responsible. This will be debated in public and there is no timeframe set."