ALTON — The Planning Board has placed seven amendments to the zoning ordinance on the 2014 warrant while petitioned articles would eliminate the position of town planner and secede the town from membership in the Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC). A third article would do away with the position of town assessor.
Loring Carr, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, said that he was not aware of who initiated the petitioned articles, but said that there were some 40 signatories to all three.
Both the Selectboard, by votes of three-to-one, and the Budget Committee, by votes of five-to-zero with two abstentions, recommended against the articles to eliminate the positions of planner and assessor. Moreover, at the deliberative session amendments explaining the fiscal impact were attached to both articles.
Carr said that when the position of planner was vacant the town contracted for services in the interim, noting that the amendment drew on this experience to estimate that it would cost $120,120 plus mileage to hire a consultant, compared to the $64,040 plus benefits paid to the planner.
Carr suspected that the article, together with the other not to fund membership in the LLRPC, stemmed from the controversy sparked by the decision of the Planning Board to recommend amending the zoning ordinance to provide for the development of so-called workforce housing. The proposed amendment, which would bring the town into compliance with state law as well as match the housing goals of its Master Plan, is the first of the seven proposed by the Planning Board.
Two forums on the issue, sponsored by the Alton Business Association, were overshadowed by charges that LRPC, in league with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was seeking to impose an agenda of "smart growth" and "sustainable development" under the aegis of the "Granite State Future" project. Representative Jane Cormier (R-Alton), who this year introduced legislation to do away with all nine regional planning associations, was a featured speaker at the second forum and a signatory to the petitioned article.
The article to eliminate the assessor was also amended to explain the fiscal impact of replacing the position with a contractor. Carr said that information from Meredith, Moultonborough, Gilford and Wolfeboro indicated that the cost of contracting for assessing services would be $95,000 per year plus $125,000 every five years for a revaluation compared to the $68,599 plus benefits paid to the assessor.