September 05, 2019WOLFEBORO — At the invitation of the Planning and Development Department, citizens showed up in the Great Hall the evening of Aug. 27 to hear and be heard on the topic of what the community will look like in the coming decade.
Department Director Matt Sullivan led the public hearing on the updated Master Plan in its final draft.
The 220 page document is the product of a process that kicked off in February 2018, with 70 participants, followed by the collection of hundreds of comments, and continued with a midterm forum in August 2018 to the present day's hearing before the Planning Board. Seven subcommittees held 90 meetings in all, racking up 1,000 meeting hours.
Sullivan highlighted each chapter, including: Population/Housing; Natural Resources; Economic Development; Community Facilities; Arts, Culture and Heritage; Transportation/Infrastructure; Energy; and Future Land Use. Planning Board Chairman Kathy Barnard paused between each chapter to provide time for public comments.
The audience was engaged throughout the nearly two hour meeting, and at evening's end, someone suggested that the hearing be continued on another date after people have had a chance to read through the entire document online on the town website. The board agreed to set Sept. 17, 7 p.m., for that purpose in the Great Hall. A video version of the meeting in its entirety is also available on the town website recorded by Wolfeboro Community Television.
The Transportation/Infrastructure and Housing topics drew the most commentary, with a number of residents cautioning against expansion in use of Filter Bed Road through to Pine Hill on Route 109A. There were reminders that a warrant article this past March to allow a zoning amendment that would make expansion possible failed 3-1, and residents on both Friend Street, which connects to Filter Bed Road from Main Street, and down below on the corner of Varney, Friend and Filter Bed expressed concern for the increased traffic sure to follow.
A representative of the Taylor Community commented that increasing commercial uses in the Pine Hill and Bay Street area would need to adequately buffer the neighborhood, and said he was interested in discussing the proposed mixed use further with perhaps "lighter commercial use."
A Taylor Community road exiting to the back of the property is a popular means for residents to walk into town and bypass the less commodious Bay Street.
Sullivan stated that Wolfeboro recognizes the need for more diverse housing and greater availability for housing that aligns with policy goals. Asked if the town has a policy on short term rentals, Sullivan said it does not, adding that at this point, there is not enough data for what is a statewide issue.
A woman from the Port Wedlen neighborhood stated that there are at least seven short term rentals there apparently operating without any licenses from the state. Furthermore, she said, more than 32 people were staying in one home, resulting in calls to the police.
"It goes against our covenant, and it is not being obeyed," she said.
The Association is stewards of a small beach area that has also been used by the short term renters and neighbors have been exposed to loud music and profanity until late in the evening, she added.
Another resident said that she was asked to vacate her long term rental in a three unit building switching over to short term use. In ten weeks, she was only able to find two apartments in her price range.
"I became insignificant," she said.
Housing concerns are tied to work force needs and are shared by the Economic Development Committee.
The Energy Chapter, a new addition to the Master Plan, has "set lofty goals for the future," reported Sullivan. That includes a 40 percent reduction in overall town government energy use, 50 percent use of renewable sources of electricity, and a 10 year plan for the Municipal Energy Department to keep it operating sustainably, with current technology that takes into account changes in energy supply and demand. The committee also recommends reporting on annual tracking of municipal energy use.
A resident said he heard that solar was not going to be encouraged, but Susan Fuller, Chairman of the Town's Energy Committee, said "renewable energy is very much part of the plan."
Throughout the Master Plan, goals intertwine in consideration of a pedestrian and bicycle friendly safe community with attention to the impacts of any one goal on the greater community.
The Planning Board will discuss the comments and questions gathered from residents during the hearing and return for further public comment on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall.