Published DateMEREDITH — An open house at the Lakes Region Planning Commission's office on the regional planning agency's role in the Granite State Future project turned into a media event last night as local Tea Party activist Tim Carter grilled Kim Koulet, the LRPC's executive director, about the project as Ed Comeau of Government Oversite Cam filmed the question-and-answer session.
Koulet at first had said that filming the discussion wouldn't be permitted as it was not a public meeting but after objections were raised that the open house was taking place in a public facility filming was allowed to take place.
Carter, who last month told Meredith selectman that Granite State Future is a federal government power grab that would put local planning and land use regulations under the control of federal bureaucrats, pursued the same line of questioning with Koulet, who said that his characterizations of the plan were not accurate.
Carter charged that the HUD regulations called for mandated results for those communities which sign on to the program and would be legally bound to comply with its regulations.
But Koulet said that the language which Carter cited was actually designed to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that funds were actually used on the projects which were approved for grants.
He said that Carter was ''splitting hairs'' in his parsing of the document's language and ''trying to make a technical relationship which doesn't exist.''
Carter persisted and said ''this is an open house where we're supposed to discuss the truth'' and said again that communities which signed on would ''be legally obligated to the mandates.''
Koulet said that Granite State Future is a statewide project among all of the the state's nine regional planning commissions and is coordinated by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission and funded through a a $3.37 million federal grant, of which $300,000 is going to the Lakes Region Planning Commission.
He said that each of the state's nine regional planning commissions are responsible for developing a regional plan, based on local values and needs, that together present a vision for improving local communities and regions. In future stages there will be $100 million available for planning purposes and eventually HUD grants will be available for implementation of planned projects.
''HUD let us do it the New Hampshire way,'' said Koulet, which brought groans and dismayed expressions from Carter and his dozen or so supporters who were clustered around Koulet for nearly 40 minutes during the exchange.
The New Hampshire Tea Party website touts its opposition to the Granite State Future project and the role that Tea Party members have played in convincing officials in Rochester and Salem to vote against participation in the plan. Several of those with Carter identified themselves as Tea Party members.
Warren Hutchins of Laconia, chairman of the Laconia Planning Board and vice chairman of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, said that he can't understand the vocal opposition to the New Hampshire Future project.
''It's a typical New Hampshire way of planning from the ground up. The regional plan will be based on input from the 30 local communities. In essence it really is a state plan because ever since the office of state planning was downgraded we haven't had leadership in planning at the state level,'' said Hutchins.
Stan Bean Jr. of Gilmanton, chairman of the LRPC, said of the open house ''we just wanted folks to have an opportunity to visit and see what the LRPC is and what it does for the member communities. It's a great group that does a lot of work for the Lakes Region.''
Kim Koulet, executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, fields questions from Tim Carter of the Lakes Region Tea Party about the Granite State Future project at an open house held at the commission's office in Meredith last night. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)