MEREDITH — At a workshop yesterday, the Board of Selectmen declined to comment on a proposal by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to lease railroad property owned by the state to the Needle Eye Association in order to construct a pedestrian crossing of the track, maintain a boat dock and provide access to Lake Winnipesaukee.
The state Council on Resources and Development will consider the proposal at a meeting on November 13.
For many years the DOT was permitted to lease waterfront property within the railroad right-of-way to abutting landowners to afford them access to the water. However, in 2007 the Legislature restricted the purpose of selling or leasing railroad properties to "continued operation of a railroad, or other public use."
At the same time, the Legislature addressed the circumstances of owners of developed residential lots adjacent to railroad properties on the shores of public waters. The DOT was authorized to lease the state-owned waterfront for the private use of those adjacent homeowners, who applied for a building permit or constructed a concrete foundation before January 1, 2011, so long as their use of the land did not interfere with railroad operations.
In correspondence, Patrick Herlihy, director of the Division of Aeronautics, Rail and Rransit at the DOT, explained that the Needle Eye Association owns a 17,400-square-foot corridor that serves as a right-of-way to the waterfront for residents of the subdivision. At an unknown time, members of the association built a dock on the railroad property. Herlihy said that the DOT is willing to lease between 50 feet and 300 feet of shorefront at the edge of the railroad right-of-way provided the association constructs and maintains a crossing with appropriate signage to alert pedestrians.
Selectman Peter Brothers told the board that he encountered similar situations while working at Meredith Village Savings Bank. "It's all about finding revenue," he remarked. He explained that after restricting leases of state-owned waterfront, the DOT is taking stock of such land, which has been used by adjacent property owners without leases — in cases for many years — and entering formal arrangements with them.
Brothers said that since no new development is planned for the property, apart from the pedestrian crossing, there was no reason for the Selectboard to comment.
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