Objections raised to conveying Forest Road land to abutters
Fee increases planned for Pop Whalen Ice Arena
August 27, 2009
WOLFEBORO — The disposition of land on Forest Road opposite Carry Beach to abutting property owners proved to be controversial during the second of two public hearings on the matter at the board of selectmen's Aug. 19 meeting. The proposed change, approved by the planning board and Conservation Commission, would put the strip of town-owned property back on the tax rolls and bring the land owners into closer compliance with Shoreland Protection Act requirements.
Selectmen Chair Dave Senecal read a letter from resident Doug Cady into the record, which suggested that the land should remain as town property, leaving open the possibility that it could one day be used to relocate the beach, and that it might improve access to kayakers, who perhaps could park on the strip.
Ethan Hipple, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said that the disposition would not affect the Carry – the narrow strip between bays that allows canoes and kayaks to be carried from one to the other over Forest Road – in any way.
Selectman Sarah Silk referenced calls she has received suggesting similar concerns and recommending a boundary adjustment, but Rob Houseman said that changing the angle would create an issue from an engineering standpoint.
Selectman Linda Murray pointed out that the right of way of wetlands and drainage fall within the shoreline protection area, and said that she didn't want people crossing the road to get to get the beach. She added, though, that if the public feels strongly about the matter, 50 signatures on a petition can put the matter on the warrant.
Senecal said that he would like to move the matter forward, commenting that both the planning board and conservation commission had no objections.
Those in attendance listened to Fred Cain, one of the three Forest Road property owners who will acquire a strip of land along his property, give an impassioned argument against the town's keeping the land for parking. He said, "To consider parking [on that side of the road] with the amount of traffic is ridiculous…I'll purchase the land and pay extra taxes for the safety factor."
Cain, a resident since 1937, said that traffic has increased over the years and pointed out in regard to parking, that the recent 28th Granite Man Triathalon, sponsored by the parks and recreation department, had 340 entrants. When the parking lot filled, cars were able to be parked along the road on that side.
He also said that the tax map makes it appear that his garage is on town property, but that is incorrect.
A second public hearing concerned the acquisition of a strip of land from the Governor Wentworth Regional School District (GWRSD) adjacent to the water tower on South Main Street. The planning board has approved the change. Town Planner Rob Houseman, who was sitting in for vacationing Town Manager Dave Owen, explained that the town has encroached on the land owned by the school district at the water tower over the years. The GWRSD board sponsored a successful warrant article to transfer the land in March. The acquisition will enable the town to amend its lease agreement with lease holder Green Mountain Communications to allow for the installation of a second antenna, which will increase revenue for the town.
Votes on the two proposed property changes will take place at the selectmen's next regular meeting, scheduled for Sept. 2.
Pop Whalen Ice Arena
Hipple told the board that the rink operating statement for last year showed a loss of $12,000, explaining that the enterprise fund revenue has not kept up with expenses. He pointed out that the last rate increase was in 2007.
He anticipates annual bond payments of $33,000 for the dasher board, floor and glass improvements made last year; $26,500 for the expansion of the parking lot, which should solve some safety issues; and the cost of a bathroom that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In response to these anticipated expenses, Hipple plans to raise ice time rental fees as well as advertising fees. He provided figures for ice time rental fees across the state that show that Pop Whalen's highest rate, $165 an hour, is much lower than others, which vary from $188 an hour to as high as $273 an hour.
He also plans modest increases in program costs across the board. Bobbie Boudrou, the parent of a young child, commented from the audience that price increases might be difficult for some families and suggested that changing the time of some programs, such as Shaky Skates, to better coordinate with families who have to pick up their older children from school might increase the enrollment, which would in turn increase revenues.
Boudrou also suggested the possibility of having skate rentals available at the rink. Hipple said he appreciated her feedback.
Murray said, after looking over the numbers, that it appeared that the funding in Hipple's budget for the parking lot was coming entirely from the general fund, and it is supposed to be supported equally with the Pop Whalen enterprise fund. Hipple said he would look into that.
While Hipple's presentation projected increases spread out from 2009 through 2011, Selectman Marge Webster suggested that she would be more comfortable with determining an increase for the 2009 and 2010 seasons first, so that the effects of the changes could be seen before determining what to plan for the 2011 season. It is possible that if the fees go up, attendance could go down, she said.
Senecal asked if Hipple could wait for an answer at the next meeting, so the matter could be considered further. Hipple said that would not be a problem, for he has already notified his customers that the ice time will need to be raised, but schools are in the process of planning their athletic schedules and waiting for the information.
At the opening public input, Joyce Davis, a member of Friends of the Town Hall, noted that there was no item on the agenda addressing the reinstallation of the bathroom on the first floor of Brewster Hall or receipt of the air quality report for that building. She asked for answers on those matters. Senecal responded that the bathroom toilet and sink have already been installed, and that the report on the air quality was positive.
Houseman later gave more detail. He said that the air quality in the basement is only potentially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems or allergies, with prolonged periods of contact. With the bathroom now reinstalled on the first floor, personnel have less need to enter the basement.
He said that interim remediation includes cleaning of the carpets and installing an air exchange system.
Murray, in an aside, noted that she has been in contact with Northeast Document Conservation Center in reference to books and documents that have become moldy while stored in the basement. She said that the archives, to be protected, will need to be cleaned, regardless of whether the town offices remain in Brewster Memorial Hall or are moved to a new location.
Linda Williams asked permission for the Lakes Region Humane Society to hold a Dog Walk on Oct. 3, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Kingswood's athletic fields to Morrisey's Front Porch and back. She promised that all two legged and four legged creatures would be well-behaved. Approval was granted with a reminder from Silk to be sure to keep access open to any public buildings.
Mary DeVries, director of the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce, invited all selectmen to attend the chamber socials and offered to include Hazardous Waste Days in the events calendar.
Silk reported, as the board's representative to the Historic District Commission, that they have developed two application forms, one for roofing jobs, the other for minor maintenance, that are intended to streamline the process, and possibly eliminate the need for a public hearing in some cases. She said that the town Web site provides information to help applicants determine whether they need a building permit or not.
As the selectman's representative to the newly-established Agricultural Commission, Silk reported that the group is currently in the process of creating a listing of who is actively involved in agricultural activities in town. To get your name on the list, call Agricultural Commission Chair Charlie Horsken at 569-1936.
Silk expressed disappointment that she had lined up free labor to take care of setting up the bathroom on the first floor of Town Hall only to find that someone had already been hired and was working on the job.
Murray reported that the milfoil committee has a treatment scheduled for Back Bay on Sept. 15, which will follow the last water ski tournament. She also listed budget estimates from the Capital Improvement Program committee for numerous items, including improvement of the tennis and basketball courts, Pop Whalen projects, road maintenance, maintaining the stability of the Smith River, an electric company project and possible work on the Town Hall. The budget process is in the early stages.
The board voted to accept the bids offered by abutters for two of the five tax-deeded properties that the town is selling: a 0.33 acre parcel at 9 Park Ave. for $12,000 and a 0.6 acre parcel on Alpine Meadows Road for $20,000. The other three parcels will be put on hold with the thought that in the meantime, the market may improve.
Wild Oats, a company that offers sailing tours by reservation, was granted a landing permit in order to pick up and drop off customers, pending reassurance that the insurance coverage meets town requirements.
The board voted to accept a supplemental loan agreement for the wastewater treatment upgrade, contingent on whether the funds are still available, and approved the application for the 2010 payment of the state grant for surface water treatment.
Evaluation forms on the town manager have been drawn up for board members to fill out. They are expected to be returned by the September meeting so that a discussion with Owen may take place on Sept. 16.
The next board of selectmen's meeting is scheduled for Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.