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Planning board holds forum on Route 28 zoning

WOLFEBORO PLANNING BOARD CHAIRMAN Kathy Barnard starts off the forum on “The Changing Face of Wolfeboro” on Tuesday evening, June 21, at the Wolfeboro Inn. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
June 30, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Zoning along the stretch of Route 28 heading south into Wolfeboro Falls from Trotting Track Road was the topic at a Wolfeboro Planning Board's forum last Tuesday, June 21. About 50 residents came together in the Wolfeboro Inn to take part in discussion of what is known as C2, a mixed-use commercial zone.

Letters were sent to members of the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Committee and property owners to encourage their participation in this, the last, of a series of zoning areas to be addressed.

The area was referred to more than once as a hodge-podge, for there are several districts within in it: rural residential, general residential, residential, and shore front residential. Planning Board Chairman Kathy Barnard and Town Planner Rob Houseman offered an overview, including maps of the C2 zone, and invited participants (separated into three smaller groups) to take part in brainstorming ideas on natural resource protection, gateway enhancement and land uses.

The results are being tabulated by the planning department for the board to use as it approaches those issues, but it was clear from the distribution of blue, red, yellow and green dots (representing descending values) alongside the lists of concerns and suggestions, that protection of the area's most valuable resource, its water and that water's quality, was the top vote-getter.

The value of the waterfront property is higher than the value of other parts within the zone, remarked Houseman. It's "a balancing act" he says, to maintain all the interests. Some of the current uses are contrary to protecting the watershed, but they have a right to continue to exist. Barnard stresses that those that are grandfathered will not have to change.

So one question is how to improve situations that are a detriment to the water quality. Many streams flow through the area as water makes its way down to Lake Wentworth, which is of importance not only to homeowners but to the recreational users – the boaters and swimmers who frequent the lake's public beaches.

Another is how to establish guidelines to integrate commercial interests with concerns for creating an attractive entry to Wolfeboro, the oldest summer resort, a town known for the quality of its lakes and its rural character.

Barnard, a facilitator for the process, observed that those in attendance, "liked getting their thoughts down. They like knowing that somebody is listening."

As the planning board attempts to develop some clarity for the type of development people want, Barnard notes that the zoning area is more complicated than the others the board has already addressed, for it's all in the watershed.

The Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake Associations applied for and received a grant to hire a consultant to study the watershed, document the water quality and how it flows within the area and develop a watershed management plan. Barnard said that the consultant (yet to be hired by the Lake Wentworth Foundation) will review the existing ordinance and offer an opinion on what uses are wise to keep and what may need modification in terms of protecting the area resource.

The zoning board will begin work on developing a draft for public consideration with comments from the evening's brainstorming exercise in hand. Feedback is welcome says Barnard, and the public will have opportunities to respond to any eventual proposed changes.

Martin Lord Osman
Armen Kevorkian
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Varney Smith
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