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Selectmen to hire consultant to address HDC issues

Outside expert will mediate and report findings

October 29, 2009
WOLFEBORO — At the end of the selectmen's regular meeting on Oct. 21, Town Manager Dave Owen told the board that town department heads had discussed the ongoing situation with the town's Historic District Commission (HDC) and the need to respond to a petition requesting action.

Owen said the staff recommended bringing in a third party to evaluate the operation of the HDC and report back to the board.

Selectman Sarah Silk said that there will be an attorney (Rick Sager of Sager Law) present at the HDC public meeting the following night, and she felt that his presence would help resolve matters.

Selectman Kristi Ginter stepped down from the board and said that she felt Silk should step down also. Silk, who is selectman's representative to the HDC, said she saw no reason to step down. Ginter then asked for a non-binding vote on whether Silk should step down. Selectman Chair Dave Senecal and Selectman Marge Webster voted in favor and Selectman Linda Murray voted against.

Murray said she has viewed DVDs of the meetings provided by Wolfeboro Community Television and has had conversation with Owen and with Town Planner Rob Houseman. She said a few weeks ago she had suggested bringing in a consultant to work with the two groups who are in conflict.

Owen said the staff was talking about someone who would evaluate rather than mediate. He asked Town Planner Houseman, who was present, to elaborate on the idea.

Houseman said the talk was about two things. The first was the fact that the Local Government Center has offered to host a land use training session in Wolfeboro, provided that there are at least 25 participants. The training would help all of the five land use boards in Wolfeboro, including the HDC. To get to 25 participants, land use board members from Brookfield, Tuftonboro and Ossipee could be invited. Part of the training involves the public meeting process and protocols, and that would be helpful to HDC members.

The second thing staff talked about was a third party to observe at least four months of DVDs and to read the ordinances and then make recommendations. The third party would meet not only with the HDC but also the North Wolfeborough Area Association, which had submitted the petition complaining about the HDC in September.

Senecal agreed that someone needs to come in and evaluate the situation. He said he doesn't go to HDC meetings himself and feels he is not the person to step in. "It's better to have a third party," he said. The two group involved are "just pounding each other."

Murray specifically recommended Carolyn Baldwin, a land use attorney in Concord who has served on the Lakes Region Planning Commission, to come in. She agreed with Senecal that selectmen should not be involved.

Silk said she knows Baldwin and repeated her view that all will be resolved with the HDC the following night. She also thanked Ginter for bringing up to the HDC the fact that things were not done right in the past, a reference to Ginter's conflicts with the HDC over her house on Stoneham Road.

Senecal said he does not feel all will be resolved and that the board needs to give Owen direction on addressing the issue.

Webster said, "It is sad to see it come to this," and pointed out that negativity affects the entire town. She said she would go along with Murray and Senecal to bring in a third party to get it resolved. She mentioned Bernie Waugh, who has given legal seminars for the Local Government Center, as another potential consultant.

Murray agreed, saying, "We all want to see this stopped."

Senecal moved to go forward with a third party who would bring a report back to the board. Murray modified the motion to include mediation as well as reporting.

Owen clarified that money will have to be spent to bring in a consultant.

The motion passed.

Martin Lord Osman
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