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Rejection of Laconia chicken ordinance came as a shock

LACONIA — The Planning Board's rejection of an ordinance which would have permitted the keeping of chickens in residential zones in the city came as a surprise to supporters of the change, many of whom assumed that it since it had been endorsed by the Zoning Board last month that passage was assured.
But the board turned it down by a 6-2 vote Tuesday night following a public hearing at which no one testified on behalf of the proposed ordinance, which has been under discussion for months.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that Planning Board members cited concerns over smell, noise and the disposal of chicken manure in a lengthy discussion before voting down the proposal.
''I'm disappointed that it didn't pass. I wasn't able to go the meeting, so I don't understand why they decided to vote it down. But it's too bad that they did,'' said Karen Barker of Lane Road, one of the founders of the Lakes Region Food Network who has been in the forefront of efforts to ease restrictions on raising chickens.
Barker said that she hopes to renew the push for changing the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance change which would have permitted the keeping of chickens in the residential single-family (RS), residential general (RG) and shorefront residential (SFR) districts. A special exception to the ordinance, granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), would be required.
Last month the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 to support the proposal, which was prepared by the Zoning Task Force headed by Suzanne Perley, which had studied the proposal since last spring.
Perley said that she was surprised by the Planning Board's vote.
''I expected it would at least get to the City Council (the next step). Now it's dead in the water,'' said Perley, who during the course of studying the proposal spoke with officials in all the other cities in the state that have adopted similar ordinances and found that none had experienced significant problems.
''We got a lot of input on the proposed change,'' said Perley, who said that there appeared to be ''a little confusion over the process,'' and wishes that she had conveyed more of the information the task force had gathered directly to the Planning Board,
She said that as of now the task force has no intention of revisiting the proposed ordinance unless asked to do so by the City Council.
The proposed ordinance, modeled on one adopted by Concord two years ago, would have permitted keeping not more than five hens — but no roosters, capons or guinea hens — for the sole use of the household in the specified districts by special exception. The breeding of chickens and sale of eggs were prohibited. Nor could chickens be slaughtered on the premisses. Chickens would be kept in coops placed in rear or side yards at least 10 feet from the primary residence and 20 feet from any lot line. Chickens would not be allowed to roam free. Not more than three cubic feet of droppings, stored in a closed container, could be kept at one time. Chicken coops could not be located and chicken manure could not be stored within the 50 feet of the Shoreland Protection Overlay District, which includes all land within 250 feet of the high water mark of public waters, or within any wetland or wetland buffer.
The current ordinance restricts the keeping of livestock, including poultry, to four districts — the commercial resort (CR), airport industrial (AI) and rural residential I and II (RRI, RRII) districts — effectively excluding chickens from the most densely populated parts of the city.
The zoning task force explained at public hearings held by the ZBA that requiring a special exception to keep chickens would effectively create a register. Applicants would have to pay a $125 fee and demonstrate that that the use meets eight criteria, including that keeping chickens will not impair the interests or character of the neighborhood.
Barker says that she believes that the requirement for a special exception is onerous, requiring too much time and paperwork on behalf of the applicants, and says that she has yet to find a town or city with a similar requirement.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 November 2013 12:31

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Barnstead tax commitment rises just 0.1%

BARNSTEAD — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2013 property tax rate at $23.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, six cents, or 0.3 percent, less that the 2012 rate.

The amount to be raised by property taxes increased by $14,885, or 0.1 percent, from $10,795,020 to $10, 809,905, while the total assessed valuation rose by $1,821,284, or 0.4-percent, from $466,188,570 to $468,009,854.

The town tax decreased from $5.50 to $5.24 and the county tax from $1.49 to $1.32 while the local school tax increased from $14.10 to $14.31 and the state education tax from $2.47 to $2.63.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 November 2013 01:39

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New Hampton tax burden up 6% for 2013

NEW HAMPTON — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2013 property tax rate at $19.17 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of $3.30, or 20.8 percent, over the 2012 rate.

The amount to be raised by taxes increased by $318,773, or 6 percent, from $5,255,038 to $5.573,811, while the total assessed valuation fell by $41,143,469, or 12.1-percent, from $338,825,840 to $297,682,371.

The town tax rose from $5.31 to$6.29, the local school tax from $6.86 to $8.70, the state education tax from $2.39 to $2.82 and the county tax from $1.31 to $1.36.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 November 2013 01:37

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Year-Round Library will ask Gilmanton voters for $52,500

GILMANTON — The Board of Directors for the Year-Round Public Library has decided to ask the town for $52,500 for operating costs for 2014.

Association President Anne Kirby said yesterday the board met earlier this week and decided to commit to privately raising $18,000 of the annual operating budget of $70,500.

"We want to show good faith," she said. "We thought we could raise the $18,000."

The $52,500 will be petitioned on to the annual town warrant for 2014. The March vote on the matter will be the second election for Gilmanton since the taxpayers voted in 2012 to adopt the provisions of RSA 40:13 or the Official Ballot — commonly referred to as SB-2.

In 2013, voters narrowly rejected a petitioned warrant article for $45,000 for operation expenses at the privately constructed Year-Round Library — the second time in its four-year history that the request failed. The first time was in 2009, which was the year the facility across Rte. 140 from the town school opened.

The Year-Round Library is a 501(c)(3) incorporated non-for-profit business. It is governed by an 11-person board of directors and is audited annually.

After voters rejected the warrant article in 2013, library directors and supporters mounted a fund-raising campaign and have been able to keep the library open. Kirby said they have raised enough money to stay open until March of 2014.

In an recent letter to the editor, Kirby wrote that the library won't be able to stay open without some town support.

"But the reality is, to stay open past March 2014 we need your help. It is imperative that the library be recognized as a town-supported community resource," she wrote.

There is a $125,000 endowment and a portion of that is used to offset utilities. All totaled Kirby estimated the Year-Round Library costs about $120,000 annually to operate with all by $70,500 offset by numerous volunteer labor.

Kirby said yesterday that the board of directors knows there are grants available, however the library won't qualify without some town financial support.

When asked, she said the board has had no recent official communications with the Selectboard.

She said there has been some efforts to coordinate some of their activities with the Gilmanton Library Trustees who manage the seasonal library in the Iron Works portion of town and the Gilmanton Library that is at the "four corners".

"There was an earlier attempt to come up with a joint E-books project but it was just too expensive," she said.

"My hope is that some day we can figure out a way to provide the best library services to the residents of Gilmanton," Kirby continued.

She said the Year-Round Library has become a part of the community. According to Kirby there are 1,500 card holders and 22 after-school programs for children.

So far this year, there have been 10,023 transactions and 6,448 total visitors including children, teens, and adults. One-thousand nine-hundred and ninety-seven people have participated in the programs at the Year-Round Library that include Story Time, Teen Night, a Loon Program, Bear Program and Bobcat Program, and a Food Festival. The Year Round Library offered a day care program for children whose parents attended the 2013 Town Meeting Deliberative Session.

On Thursday, because it is American Education Week, Kirby said there is a teacher appreciation reception during the late afternoon to honor staff at the Gilmanton Elementary School.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 November 2013 01:10

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