To The Daily Sun,
A petitioned Warrant Article has been submitted for ballot vote to eliminate the Alton Town Planner position. The Alton Planning Board strongly urges citizens to not support petitioned Warrant Article 43 and to vote "no" to eliminate the Alton Town Planner position. The Alton Planning Board strongly supports retaining the Town Planner position for the following reasons:
• The Town Planner does considerable work on applications submitted for Planning Board review in advance of and after the Planning Board meetings. This provides for an improved process for all parties involved. This effort and organization in advance of the meetings by the Town Planner saves a huge amount of time at the meetings for the Planning Board members, the abutters, and the applicants.
a. With no Town Planner to provide staff guidance, Planning Board meetings would be disorganized and applications would take much longer for applicants, abutters, and board members. Additional meetings for applications would be likely in numerous cases. Planning Board members would not be able to focus on their role as decision makers.
• Land use law in New Hampshire is complicated. It is very difficult for citizen volunteer Planning Board members to become and remain educated on New Hampshire's ever-changing land use laws. The Town Planner keeps abreast of the land use laws and annual changes by attending planning conferences and law lectures and thereby is able to provide the Planning Board with advice and guidance.
a. Without a Town Planner a staff person knowledgeable of the state and local planning laws would not be available to advise the Planning Board. The Planning Board would more likely be subject to defending expensive lawsuits.
• The Town Planner assists the Planning Board with long-range planning activities such as rewriting Site Plan Review Regulations and Subdivision Regulations, and updating the Town Master Plan. The Town Planner does the initial work to provide a starting point for the Planning Board to review and revise. The Town Planner is responsible for changes throughout the review process.
a. Without a Town Planner there would be no one to work on long-range planning projects for the Planning Board, resulting in little or no progress being made on those projects.
• The Town Planner is the staff person responsible for drafting amendments annually to the Zoning Ordinance and shepherding them through the review process with the Zoning Amendment Committee and then the Planning Board.
a. With no Town Planner the Town would lack a staff person to work on annual amendments to the Zoning Ordinance resulting in a stagnant and outdated Zoning Ordinance.
• The Town Planner is the key Town staff person guiding the Senior Citizens Building Committee in their effort to expand and do fund-raising for the Senior & Community Center.
a. There would be no staff person to provide guidance for the Senior Citizens Building Committee in their effort to expand and do fundraising for the Senior & Community Center without the Town Planner.
• Replacing the Town Planner with an outside planning consultant would cost the Town about two times as much money for the same number of hours of service. The 2014 hourly rate including fringe benefits for the Town Planner is $42.71. Typical hourly rates for a private planning consultant would be on the order of $85-$90 per hour for a planner with comparable years of experience.
The Town Planner position is critical to the Alton Planning Board's efforts to conduct our business and carry out our responsibilities as outlined in the state statutes. The Alton Planning Board urges the citizens of Alton to vote "no" on petitioned Warrant Article 43 to eliminate the Town Planner position.
Alton Planning Board