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Wolfeboro planning board approves 10-year Capital Improvements Program

October 24, 2013
WOLFEBORO — Members of the Planning Board who are also a part of the Capital Improvements Committee presented plans for the upcoming year to the public on Oct. 15 at the Wolfeboro Public Library to provide an opportunity to hear from residents.

Kathy Barnard and Stacie Jo Pope reviewed the work of the committee, represented also by Board of Selectman representative Linda Murray, Joyce Davis, James Shildneck and Robert Tougher, resulting from an in-depth review of proposals submitted by each town department head.

A total of $48,307,022 of capital improvement projects have been identified by town departments over the next 10 years. In 2013, municipal capital appropriations, exclusive of debt service, were $3,768,575. The Capital Improvements Program projects expenditures of $6,860,000 for 2014.

The board approved the plan and it was presented the next evening to the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen.

The other members of the planning board supported the plan, which according to Barnard, was influenced by a ranking process that takes into account the town's financial constraints. It also supports the creation and funding of realistic capital reserve accounts as a means to "move away from crisis management."

Discussion about the development of a Municipal Asset Inventory and Management Plan revealed a strong sentiment toward encouraging the Board of Selectmen to organize interdepartment communication on the management of facilities. That, stressed Pope, is the first step in the development of a coordinated overall plan to improve or expand facilities.

Planning board member and architect Vaune Dugan called for a comprehensive review of all municipal buildings by a certified professional. As it is, each department head identifies and prioritizes the building in which their department is housed, yet their professional expertise is not in building maintenance.

Barnard said she shared that frustration but pointed out that the board does not recommend staff hirings; that is the purview of the Board of Selectmen.

THe plan for 2014 includes a "placeholder" for the renovation of Town Hall. No specific proposal for the renovation has been submitted yet.

The work session following the CIP presentation centered on reviewing the Population chapter of the Master Plan and discussion of the sign illumination and drive thru establishment ordinances.

Further definition of the Center Street Overlay District will not be taken up until January; there is not enough time to thoroughly address the issues raised at the July 16 forum and also accommodate the two hearings required for approval of proposed changes.

Census undercounting

In discussion of modifications of the Population Chapter, board member Paul O'Brien raised questions about the undercounting of the population and its effect on federal and state funding opportunities. Planning and Development Director Rob Houseman has estimated that the town's population has been undercounted by as much as 15 percent.

He said census workers were told to count those people who had their head on their pillow in Wolfeboro on April 1, 2010. That meant that many so-called snowbirds, who list Wolfeboro as their primary residence, had not yet returned.

O'Brien wanted a dollar figure on the reduction of revenue due to the undercounting. Houseman pointed out that the Population Chapter serves as a long-range planning tool not as a means to obtain federal dollars. Board member Chris Franson noted that it is a 10-year plan, population fluctuates, and it would be expensive to fight the census bureau.

The board agreed to send a memo to the BOS noting the impact of the undercount and recommending a localized population count and also to note the undercounting in the population chapter.

Illuminated signs

Local businessman Paul Zimmerman had requested that the board consider modifications to the Sign Ordinance following enforcement of violations pertaining to illuminated signs. The ordinance, approved in 1997, was amended in 2011.

Dugan and O'Brien expressed concerns that the enforcement process is seen as punitive rather than instructive.

"The goal is compliance," answered Houseman. He laid out the process, explaining that if an individual chooses to ignore a code, the department pursues immediate enforcement, first with a phone call, followed by a soft letter, and said that most people comply immediately.

He said that he received no comments from Chamber of Commerce members and raised the possibility of another forum if concerns linger. The LED signs mentioned in the recent controversy over neon signs and determining which were grandfathered, are not even a part of the ordinance at this point.

The board agreed not to tamper with the present ordinance.

As to Zimmerman's request that the board consider changing zoning to allow for drive-thru restaurants, Barnard noted, following members' discussion, that there are other permitted uses for his Clarke Plaza property, and that he has the option of going to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for consideration of any special exception.

A public hearing on Storm Water Management regulations is scheduled for Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library.

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