Cormier authors bill to eliminate regional planning commissions

CONCORD — Representative Jane Cormier (R-Alton) has introduced legislation that would do away with the state's nine regional planning commissions by 2015. The intent of the bill, she said, is not only to repeal but also to replace the commissions by authorizing cities and towns to enter cooperative and collaborative arrangements at their discretion.

The regional planning commissions have been a frequent target of Cormier's weekly column in "The Weirs Times" since the advent of the Granite State Future initiative, a three-year project aimed at developing regional master plans that would be melded into a statewide plan. The project is funded by a $3.37-million grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cormier is among those who believe that the regional planning commissions are the stalking horses of a federal effort, pursued under the aegis of Granite State Future, to promote "Smart Growth" and "sustainable living" at the expense of local control of land use decisions and private property rights. "I'm all for good stewardship," she declared, "but this is about private property rights guaranteed by our Constitution."

Cormier points to the budget of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, which includes $123,521 in revenue from the 30 member communities in a $572,500 budget. Noting that salaries represent $369,548, excluding an estimated $100,000 for benefits, she asks "what money is actually left to 'improve' our communities?" More importantly, since the employees of the planning commissions are paid with federal funds, she asks "where does their loyalty lie, with the federal government or the taxpayers of our communities" and concludes "the answer is, of course, "with the federal government. The facts are the facts."

"NH Regional Planning Commissions," Cormier recently wrote, "are a scam, fueled by the feds, to reach the goals of sustainable 'smart growth' in our Live Free or Die state."

Cormier said that her bill would provide that once the regional planning commissions are shuttered, any remaining fund balances would distributed among the member municipalities according to an equitable formula.

Cormier said that she has been traveling around the state to warn against the threat to local control and property rights posed by federal government agencies and regional planning commissions. "I'll drive and I'll talk until I can't drive or talk anymore," she said.