PLYMOUTH — The public hearing held here Tuesday night was yet another reminder that Northern Pass power line project is very unpopular in the northern half of the state.
The forum, hosted by the federal Department of Energy to gather public comment to the recently modified plans for the $1.6 billion project, was dominated by speakers who told federal officials that Northern Pass, rather than being an economic boon to the state as supporters claim, would hurt the tourism industry, lower property values and produce little if any discernible benefit to state residents and businesses.
The most frequently voiced objection was that the 186 mile 1,200 megawatt line would permanent mar the scenic beauty in many parts of the state, including the North Country, an area heavily dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation for its livelihood.
More than 600 people showed up for the three-hour hearing held at Hanaway Theater at Plymouth State University. But the audience dwindled to less than half that number after about an hour and a half.
"Northern Pass is proposing for 180 miles to string lines on steel towers that exceed the height of existing trees," said Eli Gray of New Hampton. He said the line would "mar the scenic beauty up and down the state. This fact is indisputable."
Others voiced similar concerns, calling Northern Pass a monstrosity or a symbol of corporate insensitivity and greed.
State Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) faulted Public Service of New Hampshire and Hydro Quebec — Northern Pass's two major corporate partners — for being unsympathetic with critics' anxieties.
"They are failing to listen to valid concerns of property owners, whose property values and lives will be adversely affected," Bradley said. Calling for burial of Northern Pass along its entire length, Bradley said, "Towers above treetops don't make good neighbors," an allusion to Robert Frost's poem about good fences making good neighbors.
State Sen. Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith), an early Northern Pass critic whose district includes much of Grafton County, said Northern Pass represents "a clear and present danger to New Hampshire's economic health." She urged Department of Energy officials to include two or more alternatives for construction of Northern Pass, including one that would call for burying the lines underground.
Brian Mills, senior planning advisor for the Energy Department's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said his agency's only role in the Northern Pass decision is whether to grant a permit to allow the line to cross the border from Canada into the U.S. near Pittsburg. He said that Northern Pass will also need to receive separate permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service, as well as various state and local authorities. Mills said all the necessary permits would need to be approved before any phase of the project could begin.
Of the Northern Pass supporters who spoke, many were from Franklin where a large converter station would be built to change the 1,200 megawatts of power from DC to AC current. The city stands to gain about $4.2 million annually in property taxes, if the Northern Pass project goes through.
Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield noted that although the power Northern Pass would bring in from Quebec is not needed to meet electrical demand in New Hampshire, any shortage of electrical power in Southern New England hits New Hampshire ratepayers in the pocketbook because New Hampshire utilities end up having to more for electricity during times of peak demand.
Franklin City Councilor Douglas Boyd likened Northern Pass opponents to the Clamshell Alliance which in the 1970s tried unsuccessfully to block construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. "Thank God they weren't successful," Boyd said, adding: "There will come a day when the opponents (of Northern Pass) will say, 'Boy, did we make a big mistake.'"
But Northern Pass critics, many wearing bright orange "Stop Northern Pass" T-shirts, said the project's supporters overstate its purported benefits are that they also fail to take into consideration the long-term economic impact, especially in the area of diminished property values. Several opponents who spoke mentioned an guest column by Gov. Maggie Hassan published last week in the Boston Globe which said Northern Pass carries "all costs and few, if any, savings" for the people of New Hampshire."
Thomas Mullen, developer of Owl's Nest Resort and Golf Club said Northern Pass has had a chilling effect on real estate sales in and around the resort through which 14,000 feet of the Northern Pass line would run. He said that a lot that sold for $145,000 in 2010 recently sold for $20,000 and a house and lot which had been appraised for $495,000 sold for $225,000.
"Owl's Nest is for all practical purposes out of business until something (about Northern Pass) changes," Mullen said.
John Bruce of Holderness whose property abuts the Northern Pass route said that when prospective buyers hear about the power line they immediately lose interest.
"Would you want to purchase a house with a 135-foot tower in the front or back yard?" he asked.
Critics played down the impact of the jobs Northern Pass would have on local communities, saying that most of the jobs would be only temporary or that because they required certain highly specialized skills the jobs would go mostly to out-of-staters.
But Fran Wendelboe of New Hampton, a former state representative, said, "In this economy 1,200 jobs is nothing to sneeze at."
"I've never seen a project so controversial," said Bradley.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 03:48
GILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously last night not to support the draft pleading that would ask the Belknap County Superior Court to change the terms of the trust that would, among other things, allow the owner to tear it down. There was no public discussion between board members and no reason for their action was given.
The cy pres motion, as recommended to selectmen by owner David Jodoin, would allow him to tear down the old castle, which has been condemned by the town building inspector, allow Jodoin or its future owners to restrict access to the remaining nature preserve to one road but leave the town and easement for emergency access only, and to allow not more than one residential home to be built on the 25-acre portion of the property sold by the town to Jodoin in 1999.
Selectmen also voted to extend the demolition or fencing order from the building inspector until April of 2014 because voters will decide at the March annual Town Meeting whether or not to support the Jodoin's request.
The board also agreed to temporarily discontinue the public easement on the Class 6 road portion of the property and to discontinue parking until a fence is installed or the castle is demolished. This is for public safety reasons. They also voted to allow Jodoin to install a gate preventing access to the Class 6 portion of the road but to give a key to the DPW and public safety in case of emergency.
Selectmen voted unanimously against Jodoin's request for the town to pay for a portion of the road repairs caused, according to Jodoin, by allowing public access to the property from that road.
Jodoin has contended the conditions of the deed restrictions of the charitable trust cannot be met because Kimball Castle Properties, LLC was never able to raise the capital needed to restore the historic structure to a restaurant and lounge.
The structure, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, has deteriorated significantly because of weather and vandalism, and the town ordered Jodoin to tear it down or install a fence surrounding it to reasonably prevent access.
The first cy pres change to the original deed restrictions was made in 1999 when the court allowed the property to be sold to a private party, Historic Inns of New England, LP. The owner of Kimball Castle Properties, LLC is one of the original owners of the limited partnership.
The first change provided the money from the sale be used to maintain most of the property for wildlife observation and recreation trails. As it stands now, the town of Gilford still holds $90,000 of the original $116,000 mortgage. The payments, which are current, provide funding for the Kimball Wildlife Committee to preserve the balance of the property for wildlife observation and recreation trails.
Last Updated on Saturday, 01 February 2014 12:22
LACONIA — A thin man wearing a black scarf over his face threatened the clerk at the Cumberland Farms convenience store on Court Street with a knife and a hammer and then made off with an undisclosed amount of cash shortly after midnight Tuesday.
Responding police were assisted by the Gilford K-9 unit but, after last being seen on Clay Street, the suspect was not immediately apprehended.
The robber was described as a white male close to 6-feet tall. He was wearing a dark "hoodie" and black jeans.
Police ask that anyone with information about the robbery call 524-5252 or leave an anonymous tip on the Crime Line at 524-1717.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 03:36
GILFORD — Selectmen last night voted to grant the Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern — the former King's Grant Inn — a live entertainment permit but not a so-called adult entertainment permit. Owner Will Drew, his business partner Tom Lyons, and his lawyer David Bownes had asked for both.
In a new twist to an old story, the latest town objection to nearly-naked dancers comes from the planning director, who noted in a memorandum addressed to Drew on September 23 that exotic entertainment was included in his last permit however it was a "non-conforming use pursuant to the provisions ... of the Gilford Zoning Ordinance."
Town Planner John Ayer wrote that a non-conforming use allowed to lapse for one year or more or that is superseded by a conforming use, may not be resumed. Translated, it means that if Drew and Lyons wants to have any adult entertainment on the premises, which included wet T-shirt contests, hot legs contests, and the like, he must go to the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustments and appeal Ayer's decision. Selectmen had already "carved out" the exotic dancing portion of the approval.
According to materials distributed at last night's meeting, Fire Chief Steve Carrier has approved all of Drew's and Lyon's required place-of-assembly permits. There was no written or verbal communication offered last night from Acting Police Chief James Leach.
Drew was represented by Bownes at last night's meeting, who agreed to the conditions offered by selectmen, telling them he expected the liquor commission to issue the permit within a few weeks at the longest. He also assured the selectmen he would be taking the zoning restriction to the ZBA.
Selectmen also met Lyons, Drew's new partner, for the first time last night. He told them he lives in Hampton, is a commercial fisherman, and owns and operates a vending machine and video game company. Among his local clients, he said, is the Winnipesaukee Pier.
Lyons told selectmen he would be at the cafe six days a week and that he didn't expect to have live entertainment on Sundays but would likely have a sports night. Drew, who lives on the property in a separate home, said he too would be an active manager in the business. In its Mardi Gras North days, Drew leased the business to a company and played little to no day-to-day role in its management.
He also said the business would be run differently than the Mardi Gras North night club — a business that ended up the target of a N.H. Drug Task Force raid in October of 2011 that resulted in seven arrests, five of whom were strippers who worked or had worked at the club.
Four of the strippers were convicted or pleaded guilty to a variety of drug charges in Belknap County Superior Court and served or are serving sentences. At press time the outcome of one of the dancers and the two male patrons who were also arrested is unknown.
"It will be clean," Lyons said. "No Hell's Angels."
Lyons was likely referring to a rumor that spread through Gilford after the drug raid that identified the establishment as a popular spot for members of the motorcycle club. The truth or falsity of that rumor has never before been discussed in public and there is nothing unlawful about members of any motorcycle club patronizing any business.
He also assured selectmen that he runs a "tight ship" or people will be fired.
He also said he wasn't a fan of "the juke box crowd" but preferred live bands that draw a different kind of crowd.
Lyons told selectmen he and Drew deliberately chose to open the business in the fall so they could iron out the kinks before the busy summer season arrives that is traditionally kicked off by the annual Motorcycle Week in June.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 02:38
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