Moultonborough voters deadlocked on $590,000 village sidewalk proposal

MOULTONBOROUGH — The future of fireworks and the village highlighted the Town Meeting that ran for six hours last Saturday.

A warrant article to forbid the use of "consumer" fireworks within the town, where "display" fireworks requiring a license would be be permitted, failed on a vote of 123 to 86. However, a second article restricting the use of "consumer" fireworks to the hours between noon and 10 p.m., excepting from the Fourth of July and New Years Eve when fuses could be lit until midnight and 15 minutes past midnight respectively, carried by a clear majority.

The village was the theme of three major articles. First, voters followed the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Budget Committee by agreeing to appropriate $275,000 for the purchase of the so-called Adele Taylor property by a vote of 176 to 62.

The 5.09-acre lot at 970 Whittier Highway (Route 25), which abuts properties belonging to the school district, Bank of New Hampshire and Huggins Hospital in the village commercial zone, was a centerpiece of the Village Charette Report accepted by the Planning Board in January 2013. In June the trustees approached the Board of Selectmen and the School Board with an offer to sell the property to the town and donate the proceeds from the sale to the School District, and a price of $240,900, matching the assessed value in 2012, was negotiated.

The selectmen convened a committee to consider possible uses for the property. Although 56 specific uses were suggested in the course of committee meetings and public hearings, the panel offered four perspectives and found that "the property is well suited for combining any number of uses and it is not the intention of this study to suggest that there is only a single potential use for the property."

In keeping with the Village Charette Report, Safe Routes to School Travel Plan and 2008 Master Plan, the property could provide access and egress to the school district property from Route 25. Alternatively, the committee found that the property could house a multipurpose community center. The committee also heard that the property presented an opportunity to develop a park in the center of the village. Finally, the report notes that residents expressed "considerable concern" that if the town does not acquire the property "anything can happen there" in compliance with the zoning ordinance.

By a similar margin of 171 to 68, voters approved an article to appropriate $17,500 for a site study pursuant to the report of The Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Community Services and Facilities. Dovetailing with one of the suggested uses for the Adele Taylor property, the report recommended that "the town pursue development of a facility that includes an indoor gymnasium, recreation department office, program and storage space that would be on existing school land or property adjacent to school facilities."

However, an article to spend $590,000 to complete the first phase of the village sidewalk project failed as voters deadlocked 101 to 101. The project included the design, engineering and construction some 2,560 linear feet of sidewalks and cross walks along Route 25, as well as costs of acquiring property and easements. The warrant article excluded a spur of 1,130 feet from Route 25 to Moultonborough Academy originally included in Phase 1.

Neither the selectmen nor the advisory budget committee recommended the project. Supporters stressed that sidewalks were a component of the Master Plan adopted in 2006 and would enhance the safety of pedestrians, especially senior citizens and school children.

Speaking against the project, Josh Bartlett of the Planning Board said that there was nothing to demonstrate the need for sidewalks, a view that was echoed by others who claimed that foot traffic in the village was sparse.