By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Dean Trefethen already had careers as a broadcaster and an engineer when he went before the zoning board in Dover for a variance that would allow him to build an addition to his home. That experience got him going on his third career, municipal government.
Trefethen was named Laconia planning director last month.
“I was last on the agenda and there were four or fives cases ahead of me and they had all gone through their process and it was like, 'This is kind of interesting. I could do that. I could do that.'”
He also learned something about the best position on a governing board's agenda.
“One thing I learned that night, and it was reinforced over the years – being last on the agenda is sometimes a big advantage because everybody is tired, they want to get it done, you come in with a typically simple, straightforward request and they are like OK, OK, OK.”
Trefethen (pronounced Treh-feh'-then) ended up applying for and winning an appointment to an opening on the Dover board.
He was later elected to the position and served on the panel for 17 years before gaining a seat on the Dover City Council, where he served for nearly a decade. He also earned a term as Dover mayor.
He retired to Florida, but he was attracted back to New Hampshire.
“Florida was wonderful, but we missed family and decided to move back,” said Trefethen, who turns 63 on Friday.
He is excited with the challenges presented by his new job, which pays $75,000 a year.
His first priority is a rewrite of an outdated master plan, the overarching document that sets parameters for future growth and improvements in Laconia.
“The demographics that are in the 2007 master plan are primarily from the 2000 Census,” he said. “The socio-economic demographics may be substantially different.”
The portion of population in Laconia living below the federal poverty level climbed from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2014.
“The master plan drives economic activity because there is a workforce you need to have,” Trefethen. “Are those people here and if they are here, are they working in Laconia or are they driving south and going to Manchester or wherever to get the jobs or the money they want to get.”
He said the Planning Department has a role to play in economic development, depending on what the community desires.
“The question before the community is: What direction do you truly wish to go?” he said. “Increasing the commercial base requires that land be zoned to do that. Because if it's zoned residential, you can't put commercial there. By the same token, if it's zoned commercial, depending on what you want to do, you can put some residential there.
“Everybody is big, and Laconia is no exception, on mixed-use projects. You have a little bit of office and commercial space and above it or behind it you build residential. That works well from a community standpoint, gaining commercial but also gaining residents.”
He also said the Planning Department, can, through increased flexibility, find ways to foster development by fine-tuning some regulations.
In some cases, certain setback, parking and green space requirements could make it difficult for a proposed business to be profitable.
“Sometimes you have to make tradeoffs that are different from what people are used to,” he said.
“There are repercussions either way.
“I used to tell my kids when they were teenagers, 'Everything you do has a consequence. Sometimes it's a good one, sometimes it's not, so choose wisely.'”
Trefethen said another big priority will be code enforcement and making sure the city's housing stock is in lawful shape.
“It's a very difficult subject,” he said.
“We do have a part-time code enforcement officer and part of his responsibility is to go and drive around the city and look and see what properties may have issues and see what we can do about it. The first response is, 'We want to work with you. We want to make you aware of an issue, please to try to come into conformance.”
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