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Wolfeboro voters will face 34 warrant articles on ballot

Total includes 10 zoning amendments and seven petition articles

February 03, 2011
WOLFEBORO — At their regular meeting on Jan. 19 Wolfeboro selectmen finalized the 2011 ballot, establishing the order of warrant articles and settling final details.

The next step in the voting process is the Deliberative Session on Feb. 8 where each of the articles will be reviewed and potentially modified. The Deliberative Session this year will be held at the new Kingswood Arts Center auditorium beginning at 7 p.m. The snow date will be Thursday, Feb. 10 at the same place and time.

The Wolfeboro warrant this year consists of 34 warrant articles, of which one concerns election of officers on March 8, 10 are proposed zoning changes, and 23 address town issues and spending. Two of 10 zoning articles and five of the 23 town articles were submitted by a petition of 25 or more voters – as opposed to the planning board or Board of Selectmen, who sponsored the others.

Zoning articles

The planning board has submitted eight proposed revisions to the town's zoning ordinance, based on months of discussions and public hearings.

Four articles clarify wording in the zoning ordinance to deal with issues that have arisen or to bring the language in line with changes made earlier or with state law. This includes Article 2, which adds an overall statement of purpose to the zoning ordinance; Article 4, which modifies parking and snow storage and disposal requirements in the central business district; Article 8, which modifies the section on multifamily dwellings to reflect changes made in 2010 and bring it into compliance with state law; and Article 9, which clarifies the definition of lot frontage.

Two articles, Articles 6 and 7, adjust zoning district boundaries to reflect current use by making portions of Center Street residential and redefining the boundaries of commercial zones on Mill Street, Varney Road, Bay Street and Pine Hill Road.

The remaining two planning board-sponsored articles drew the most discussion during public hearings.

Article 3 makes changes to the Wetlands Conservation Overlay District to clarify what can and cannot be done in wetland areas and establish requirements for special use permits for lots created prior to 2003. The State Shoreland Protection Act has affected how shorefront and lots with wetlands can be developed, and the changes are aimed bring Wolfeboro zoning into alignment with that,

Article 5 proposes changes to the sign ordinance made in response to business concerns expressed last summer and fall and a Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce-sponsored workshop on the sign ordinance.

The last two zoning articles were inserted by petition and are not recommended by the planning board.

Article 10 is a petition article that proposes a further change to the sign ordinance beyond those made by the planning board in Article 5: mainly, allowing color to be used in business directional signs as well as allowing allowing variation in lettering.

Article 10 is another petition article that makes a Group Home a permitted use and defines it as being owner-occupied with only three or fewer unrelated occupants allowed. This article grew out of the controversy where Lakeview Neuro Rehab bought a residence at 15 Eagle Trace for use as a group home as a non-resident owner.

Bonded articles

Of the remaining 23 articles on the warrant, four involve issuing bonds to pay for improvements and thus require approval of at least three-fifths of voters (60 percent) to pass.

The main article in this group is Article 12, which proposes to raise $4 million "for the purpose of renovating the Brewster Memorial Hall building and grounds…to make it completely handicapped accessible and building and fire code compliant." This is the latest plan for complete rehabilitation of the building to allow it to continue to be used as town offices. It also leaves the rehabilitation of a reduced auditorium to private fundraising efforts.

Two of the other bonded articles, Article 13 for $226,248 to install a sprinkler system in the Pop Whalen Ice Arena and Article 14 for $675,000 for electrical voltage conversion on Pleasant Valley Road, will involve issuing bonds to be paid through user fees and billing and thus will not affect the property tax rate.

The final bonded article is Article 15, which is a petition article for $1.6 million to build new offices for some town staff on the lot next to the Wolfeboro Public Library on South Main Street that had been acquired by the library trustees for library expansion, to move the designated employees out of Brewster Hall and remove asbestos and install a geothermal heating/cooling system in that building. Neither the Budget Committee nor the Board of Selectmen recommended this last article, though both boards did recommend the other three bonded articles.

Other articles

Of the remaining 19 articles on the warrant, three also relate to Brewster Hall. Article 16 asks for $50,000 to pay for moving to interim town offices while the renovation in Article 12 is being done. Article 31 asks voters to approve using part of Brewster Hall for "retail rental purposes" and Article 34 proposes to spend $250,000 to replace electrical wiring and install an "insultation cap" in the building. Selectmen voted noted to recommend either of these last two articles and the Budget Committee voted 8-1 not to recommend Article 34.

Article 17 asks for $150,000 to upgrade town parking lots to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and is part of a settlement agreement between the town and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Article 18 asks for $150,000 to make the more urgent improvements to town buildings recommended by an outside inspector last summer. That inspection had been funded by voters last March. The intention is to make the remaining recommended improvements in future years.

Article 19 asks for $55,000 to construct a 100-foot radio transmission tower to improve public safety communications. This is part of a three-phase plan to eliminate "dead zones" in town. Last year a Wolfeboro police officer was placed at risk when he was attacked in a dead zone and could not call for backup.

Article 20 calls for $750,000 to upgrade town roads. This is an increase from the $550,000 requested in the past two years based on an analysis that showed more work was needed to keep up with deterioration.

Article 21 is the town operating budget of $25,498,128. If this article fails to gain a majority vote, the default budget will be $24,967,575.

Article 22 asks for $100,000 to upgrade concrete sidewalks in the downtown core, part of an ongoing process.

Article 23 asks for $210,000 to reconstruct and resurface the basketball and tennis courts at Foss Field and replace the fencing around them. This is a project which has been put off for a number of years.

Article 24 asks for $95,000 to pay for surveying and engineering design of needed improvements to Pine Street and Crescent Lake Avenue. Once this work is completed the actual reconstruction will be done in future years.

Articles 25 and 26 add funds to existing reserve accounts to purchase fire trucks and apparatus (Article 25, $175,600) and public works vehicles and equipment (Article 26, $155,000).

Articles 27 and 28 ask voters to approve two union contracts. Article 27 covers the police union one-year contract for 2011 with a cost increase of $9,878 and Article 28 covers Association of State, County and Municipal Employees union two-year contract with increases of $9,559 in 2011 and $24,408 in 2012.

Article 29 asks voters to approve a five-year lease with a five year extension for the town-owned Dockside Restaurant building and Article 30 asks voters to allow the Board of Selectmen to rent or lease other town property up to five years without explicit vote. Now selectmen can only make one-year agreements.

Article 32 is a petition article submitted by the Wolfeboro 250th Committee asking voters to approve $10,000 to go toward a permanent memorial to General James Wolfe, for who the town was named in 1759. The committee returned $4,224 from the $10,000 appropriated last year to celebrate the 250th anniversary, so only $5,776 needs to be raised to fund this request.

Article 33 is another petition article that directs the Board of Selectmen "to adopt and implement a formal written Public Advertized (sic) Sealed Bid Policy" for the purchase of goods and services, leases and sale of real estate and assets. The town has in place a bid policy that exempts low-value transactions but does require multiple bids on high value transactions. Presumably this could require sealed bids on all transactions, regardless of value.

All of these articles will be reviewed, discussed and voted on at the Wolfeboro Deliberative Session, which will take place next Tuesday, Feb. 8, beginning at 7 p.m. at the new Kingswood Arts Center auditorium.

A summary of that session will appear next week.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Littleon Food Coop
Littleon Food Coop
Town of Barnsted
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