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Zoning Task Force says 'yes' to keeping chickens

LACONIA — The Zoning Task Force yesterday agreed to recommend amending the zoning ordinance to permit 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.

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.

While extending the keeping of chickens to three districts, the committee suggests striking the airport industrial district from the list where it is permitted.

The proposal will be referred to the ZBA. After conducting a public hearing, the ZBA will make its recommendation to the City Council, which is vested with the ultimate authority to adopt and amend municipal ordinances.

The proposal recommended by the committee closely mirrors the ordinance adopted by the Concord City Council in December, 2011, which will be reviewed in September. It would permit 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 would be 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.

Suzanne Perley, who chairs the task force, said that she spoke with officials in all the other cities in the state that have adopted similar ordinances and found that none had experienced significant problems.
Last month, when the task force held a public hearing on the issue, several speakers suggested residents keeping chicken should be required to register them.

Perley explained that requiring a special exception to keep chickens would effectively create a register. Applicants must 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. Perley said that the process will ensure that the city has a record of those with chickens and their whereabouts.

Chickens first drew the attention of the Planning Department in October 2005 when Karianne Shelley, then an aspiring veterinarian at age 15, requested a variance to keep two hens at her home on Old North Main Street in order to complete a 4-H project. The ZBA denied the variance, but when Shelley appealed voted three-to-two to grant the variance until she graduated from high school in two years time. Five years later Charles Drake applied for a variance to keep between four and six laying hens at his home on Bay Street. The ZBA denied his request and refused to reconsider its decision.

Perley said that the task force also recommended adopting an amendment to the section of the ordinance bearing on the floodplain district, which was proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "We really have no leeway," she said. "We have to update the ordinance in order for properties to be eligible for flood insurance." The amendment to the floodplain ordinance, Perley said, will be recommended to the Planning Board, which in turn will present its recommendation to the City Council.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2013 04:29

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Main Stree bridge project will be put out to bid this fall; city's share expected to be about $1M

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers announced yesterday that the governor and Executive Council have approved the agreement between the city and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) for the reconstruction of the Main Street Bridge over the Winnipesaukee River.

The agreement sets the cost of the project at $3,569,1324, of which the state, through the State Aid Bridge Program, will contribute $2,055,307. Another $800,000 will consist of Federal Highway Funds, leaving the city with the balance of $713,827, or a fifth of the total cost.

However, Myers explained that the state and city would share engineering costs of between $275,000 and $300,000, with the state bearing 80-percent and the city 20-percent of the costs. In addition, the city will bear the entire cost of widening the roadway on Beacon Street as it approaches the bridge to address the so-called "pinch point," where large trucks must either ride over the curb or straddle two lanes in crossing the bridge.

Myers anticipated that these expenses would increase the city's share of the total cost to approximately $925,000 while adding some $200,000 to the state's contribution. He said that the additional expenses would raise the total cost of the project to about $4.1-million. The 2013-2014 city budget includes an appropriation of $1-million for the project, which he anticipates will meet the city's costs.

The project will be put out to bid after October 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year when the Federal Highway Funds become available. Construction would be scheduled to begin in the spring of 2014, proceed in four phases over two and be completed in 2015. Although downtown traffic will be re-routed in each of the four phases, the bridge itself will remain open throughout the construction.

Last month the City Council authorized spending up to $300,000 drawn from the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Fund on improvements to the plaza at the foot of Main Street in conjunction with the reconstruction of the bridge. This project, together with other similar improvements downtown, will likely be financed by the sale of general obligation bonds, which would be serviced by the annual revenue of at least $173,000 accruing to the TIF Fund.


Last Updated on Thursday, 08 August 2013 02:45

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County eyes keeping track of employee scheduling & hours worked with biometric system

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have put off a decision on replacing the employee time clock currently used at the Belknap County Nursing Home with new biometric clocks that would allow virtually all county workers to check in and out of work by displaying their thumb.
''Time clock technology is a thing of the past,'' County Finance Director Glenn Waring told commissioners when they met Wednesday morning.
Waring proposed that the county switch to Care Systems for software and services which would see six biometric clocks installed at county facilities and suggested that the county could use a $50,000 capital expenditures line in the 2013 budget to pay for most of the projected $69,400 cost for the new system.
Waring said that the current mechanical time and attendance system is used only within the nursing home, while record keeping in other department's is basically pen and paper. He said that the current Kronos system creates an average of 20-25 percent errors weekly that require manual correction and that the system is difficult to navigate and programming changes are very costly as they are billed at a high hourly rate.
Care Systems has been used by Strafford County (Rochester) for seven years and changed a situation in which it took two days to compile time and attendance records for 400 employees to one in which the work is completed within two hours he said.
Waring said Belknap County's goal is to implement a time and attendance record for all employees which will reduce errors and greatly improve payroll processing efficiency.
He said that the Care Systems software also provides a dynamic scheduling model which takes into account scheduling for positions which require minimum qualifications/licensing in both the Department of Corrections and Nursing Home, which will improve scheduling. It will also allow remote check-ins for workers who may not report directly to county facilities, like Sheriff's Department deputies who may be serving court papers early in the day or who are called out for emergency details.
Commissioner Ed Philpot said that before committing any funds to the purchase he would like to see a list of other capital improvement priorities.
The $50,000 which was budgeted for capital improvements was slated for upgrades to the Sheriff's Department communications system. But a $197,000 Department of Homeland Security grant which the county recently received has eliminated the department's need for those funds.
Philpot also suggested that the county install the system for a trial period but was told that once the change was made there was no going back to the old system.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 August 2013 02:32

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Praise directed at Laconia Police Department at accreditation hearing

LACONIA — About 15 people from local public service agencies, police departments, City Hall and the city School District spoke in support of the city Police Department becoming re-accredited at a public hearing last night.

Speaking first was City Councilor Brenda Baer who had a special thank you to the Police Department for their role in taking Wyatt Park in the South End from a place where many feared to go to a family-friendly park where people are welcomed.

"They returned the park to the citizens of that area," Baer said to the two examiners from CALEA or the Commission on Law Enforcement Accreditation.

According to Chief Joseph Bartlett of CELEA, who is also a retired interim Police Chief in Greenville, North Carolina, there are 480 different standards a department must meet to become CALEA certified.

There are 13 policing agencies in New Hampshire that are CALEA-accredited including Laconia, Manchester, Nashua, Keene, Durham, UNH, and the Strafford County Sheriffs Department. Accreditation lasts three years and Laconia was first certified in 2010, under retired Chief Mike Moyer.

Part of the process is a public hearing.

Mayor Mike Seymour said professionalism is the word that most often come to mind when he thinks about the Laconia Police Department.

He said not only are city police officers professional and confident they are compassionate — something he said he noticed during a ride-along shortly after he was first elected mayor.

The principals of Woodland Heights and Elm Street Elementary Schools complimented them on their professionalism and visibility.

Kevin Michaud, who relocated from Maine last year said they are the best police department he has worked with since he's been an educator. He said the police are friendly, not intimidating, and "the kids want to interact with them."

Dennis Doten of Woodland Heights thanked them for their compassion and professionalism in the wake of a car accident that took the life of a Middle School student while other students looked on and in planning and coordinating emergency response guidelines following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Others speaking included Carol Pierce of the Human Rights Committee, City Manager Scott Myers, Gilford Police Chief Kevin Keenan (a Laconia resident), and UNH Chief of Police Paul Dean.

Capt. Matt Canfield said the CALEA assessing team has signed off on the 480 standards and will take their findings to the Executive Committee for a targeted fall accreditation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 August 2013 02:22

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