Selectmen vote to allow HDC to meet with consultant
Murray raises issue about communication among board members
December 25, 2009
WOLFEBORO — The question about what to do, if anything, about the town's Historic District Commission (HDC) dominated selectmen's discussions at their Dec. 16 regular meeting.
At the same meeting Selectman Linda Murray also raised an issue about some board members being excluded from receiving documents and e-mails.
The subject of the HDC came up right away during the first public comments session at the beginning of the meeting. Charlene Seibel read to the board a letter (printed on page A13 of last week's paper) protesting the rejection of her application to be a full member of the HDC to replace Ellen Klimm, who resigned in July, and criticizing Selectman Kristi Ginter's participation in the decision. Seibel was followed by HDC Alternate Todd Fichter, who questioned the selectmen's 3-2 decision to appoint fellow alternate Jim Ladd to the full member position (Fichter's statement appears as a letter on page A11 this week). Fichter questioned Ladd's commitment to the HDC and pointed out his limited experience on the board, especially when compared to himself or fellow alternate Eric Keim. He asked the board to rescind its appointment, but the board took no action.
Later in the meeting the board reviewed the 11-page report on the HDC submitted on Dec. 7 by consultant H. Bernard Waugh, former legal counsel to the Local Government Center. Selectman Sarah Silk, who is Selectmen's Representative to the HDC, said that the HDC meeting scheduled for Dec. 17 had been cancelled and that the HDC board had not yet met to review the document or to decide if a meeting with Waugh is needed.
Selectman Chair Dave Senecal agreed with Waugh's conclusion that the HDC "is not broken" and gave his view that selectmen should allow the HDC to meet with Waugh and go over the report if they want to do that.
During public comment, Ladd pointed out the parts of the report that highlight questionable action by the current chairman and vice chairman and said that the problem is one of personalities.
Historic district resident Martin Klein criticized the report for not consulting with the residents of North Wolfeboro. He said the report was good on the law but missed "the flavor of the issue, the feeling that North Wolfeboro Area Association members are being screwed." He pointed out that neither the association nor the HDC selected Waugh and gave his opinion as a psychologist that the HDC was indeed broken and "tweaking will not work."
HDC Chair Bruce Fichter agreed that the report would have been better if Waugh had consulted the HDC. He said he also felt it was incomplete. He gave his view that the decision on what to do next was up to the selectmen. He said the rules and procedures formally adopted on Nov. 19 were always there but needed to be put in writing. He pointed out it took many hours of meeting with Town Planner Rob Houseman and Attorney Rick Sager and eight drafts to get it done. The HDC board is now working on the regulations, to clarify them and remove subjectivity in the review process so that every application is treated the same. He complained that the HDC has been "tried in the court of public opinion" but needs the selectmen to come to its own conclusions. "If the BOS recommends that the HDC meet with Waugh, the HDC will go along," he concluded.
Senecal asked if Sager has read the report. Bruce Fichter said Sager has received it but has not discussed it with the HDC. Senecal then proposed that the HDC meet with Sager and decide if that board wants to meet with Waugh and let selectmen know. Selectmen approved paying for Waugh's time to meet with the HDC if desired.
Murray said at the end of the meeting that she has concerns about how the board handles its businesses. She pointed out that at the last meeting, e-mail copies were handed out but not given to Town Manager Dave Owen. She said she was also taken aback hearing at the meeting that the police department could be moved to the proposed new building on Lehner Street. She said she has asked for copies of all e-mails under the RSA 91-A, the Right to Know law, and cited an e-mail from Senecal to Owen concerning an evaluation of the Bell Building on Lehner Street owned by Victor Drouin of Green Mountain Communications, asked Owen to "hold off [sending the appraisal report on the building] with the other selectmen." Murray said she feels all board members should get all e-mails and documents that relate to town business and no one should be excluded.
Senecal said Drouin gave him a tour of the building and submitted the appraisal, which he (Senecal) had not had a chance to read.
Silk asked when the board would hold a public hearing to accept the gift of the conceptual plans for the $4.5 million Lehner Street proposal from architects Tennant/Wallace. She pointed out any gift over $5,000 requires a hearing. Senecal said no money was involved. Murray said the drawings have a value. Senecal then asked Owen to find out from the architects what the value was.
The board held two public hearings: one on a voluntary deed restriction to the pond at the Abenaki Ski Area/Pop Whalen Arena to compensate for wetlands disturbed by the additional parking installed for the facility and a second to accept a Community Development Block Grant for $500,000 on behalf of the Harriman Hill workforce housing project.
David Doane and John Paul Jones, both residents of Birch Hill Estates, both spoke against the block grant. Doane said he didn't think the town's approval of the site plan for the project "will stand in court." Two the required permits have still not been received. He pointed out that the funds could be better used on other needs like paving Crescent Lake Avenue and repairing Town Hall. He expressed concern that refugees would be given housing in the project, since they seem to get assistance easier than Americans.
Jones promised there will be a warrant article banning the project and said that plenty of apartments are available now.
A second hearing on the Abenaki deed restriction will be held on Jan. 6, 2010.
Public Works Director Dave Ford gave his periodic review of the 20 capital projects he is overseeing, including the water, sewer and road projects approved by voters. The most significant issue that has arisen is that the N.H. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to repave Center Street (Route 28) next year from Pickering Corner to the junction where Route 109 turns toward Brookfield. The problem is that the town needs to do drainage work in the area from Pickering Corner to Grove Street, largely between Clarke Plaza and the Wolfeboro Shopping Center, and there is no money to do that work before the repaving. Also the curbs in that section are nearly flush with the road now and adding more pavement will make them useless. As a solution Ford plans to ask DOT to skip that section while trying to shift some funds to do some of the needed drainage work. Part of the drainage cost was supposed to be paid by the new GreatWaters bank, but that project is now on hold indefinitely.
Selectmen met with Governor Wentworth Regional School District Superintendent Jack Robertson, with several school board members in attendance, and voted to reverse an earlier decision and waive the $8,000 administrative fee for building inspection of the Kingswood project. The district will pay for all required inspections during construction and has placed the amount of estimated fees in escrow.
Selectmen also signed an application for a $3,960 grant from the state for milfoil treatment of Back Bay and Wolfeboro Bay in 2010, and approved naming two tax-deeded lots off of North Line and Sargents Pond Roads the Bill Rae Conservation Area for a long-time Conservation Commission member.
The board approved a default budget of $23,917,037 for 2010, in the event that voters reject the warrant article budget next March.
Finance Director Peter Chamberlin reported that, based on year-to-date expenditures and revenues, the town will end the year under budget, without a budget freeze being imposed.
Selectmen signed a proclamation urging citizens to participate in the 250th anniversary of the naming of Wolfeboro in 1759.
The board voted to dedicate the 2009 Town Report to Howard Bean Sr., who was known as the "Mayor of Wolfeboro." The report will also recognize former Parks and Recreation Director Donald Brookes, ZBA member John Schafer and Florence Long, who worked for 30 years in the Municipal Electric Department.