Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenMEREDITH — Selectmen were told at Monday night's meeting that they were remiss in allowing Community Development Director John Edgar to sign a letter expressing the town's interest in participating in a Granite State Future long-range planning initiative.
Local Tea Party activist Tim Carter charged that the program is a ''federal government power grab taking away planning at the state and local level'' and said selectmen should never have allowed Edgar to proceed without having first read the entire document.
When chairman of the Board of Selectmen Miller Lovett described the program as a long range planning initiative involving federal and state officials in a sustainable communities initiative which could benefit communities which take part , Carter said ''that's not accurate. It's incorrect and I can prove it,'' and charged that it was a massive top down federal program to control of planning and land use decisions out of the hands of elected officials and place them in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.
''You give up all your decision making capabilities. You will do what they say'' said Carter, who cited language from the Granite State Future website that said that New Hampshire's tradition on property rights could prove a barrier to implementing the sustainable communities initiative's goals.
Carter said that he had read the whole document and would gladly share his expertise in a workshop with selectmen if they wanted to become more well-informed.
He said that Rochester, and most recently, Salem have turned down participation in the program.
Carter's views were supported by several other people who chose to speak in the comments section of the selectmen's meeting, including former selectman David Sticht, who said that if only one percent of what Carter was saying was true then he opposed participation in the project.
Rosemary Landry of Meredith Neck charged that Granite State Future is ''taking away rights from citizens'' and cited the installation of wireless smart meters for measuring water use in Salem as one of the examples.
''They want to take away our property rights'' said Landry, who charged that N.H. Listens, the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire and Plan N.H. were also involved in efforts which threatened property rights and local control.
Don Ewing also voiced support for Sticht's point of view saying ''we do not want you to give any of that authority away.''
Lovett, who emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not other members of the board, said that his impression was there was ''a concerted movement'' underway against Granite State Future because ''there is a political constituency which doesn't like this program.''
He said ''I've read Tim's material'' but added that he did not accept at face value the arguments which were made against the program.
The program is funded by a $3.37 million federal grant, of which $300,000 is going to the Lakes Region Planning Commission, which is headquartered in Meredith.
''There's no commitment from selectmen, just shows a little statement of support for the planning effort,'' said Lovett.
He described the Granite State Future effort as ''a long-range planning process with a great effort to get diversity'' and said that in future stages there will be $100 million available for planning purposes and eventually HUD grants will be available for implementation of planned projects.
He said that the contracts will contain penalties if grant money isn't used as intended but the idea that the goal of the program is to take away local control isn't accurate and reflects an agenda which is not based on the reality of what the program is about and seeks to achieve.