To The Daily Sun,
At our Sanbornton Planning Board's recent presentation of six "Proposed Zoning Amendments for Town Meeting 2014," I learned much. Of the six amendments, only two are about workforce housing. Those two, if passed, give us protections against would-be builders launching court challenges. If we lay out our rules clearly, and they are not obstructive, then court challenges by builders are least likely.
A 2008-2010 law instituted by our state Legislature requires X-amount of workforce housing per town. These two amendments anticipate and take care of problems we'd easily have if we don't pass them.
However, an anonymous orange-colored political flyer, sent by mass-mailing to the townspeople, fear-mongers and directs people to vote "no" to all the six amendments, even though some are merely housekeeping, as in updating a map date. A second public hearing on these amendments is set for the morning of Saturday, May 10, at 10 a.m., Old Town Hall.
This may not seem a money issue, but it is, if one considers the costs of lawsuits by builders. We need to be proactive and have our zoning rules compatible with the 2010 law.
Thank you for the good work of our Planning Board — Evelyn Auger, Don Bormes, Carmine Cioffi, alternate Will Ellis, and Dick Gardner.
On our Town Warrant is Article 14, giving Sanbornton voters at Town Meeting a chance to speak against large sums of outside money affecting our elections. Forty-seven New Hampshire towns voted for this in their March meetings. If we pass it, we'd ask our selectmen to notify our state and federal legislators and our president that we want a constitutional amendment that recognizes corporations are not people and their extreme, available wealth poured into our elections to influence them is unacceptable. Koch brothers beware, in other words.
This may not seem a money issue, but it is, if one considers that spending priorities in D.C. can be snatched by corporations for their benefit, while the people's needs go unmet. Spending priorities in D.C. can be a matter of special consideration given to the high-rolling funders of our election ads and costs.
Lynn Rudmin Chong
Last Updated on Monday, 05 May 2014 09:02
To The Daily Sun,
Gov. Maggie Hassan has chosen the most extreme person she could to nominate for the state Board of Education. Bill Duncan, a self-proclaimed expert whose only credentials in education are that he created a blog where he regularly misinforms his readers by providing heavily redacted snippets of sentences of his opponents and then comments on them. He is far from an expert on education or children. In point of fact he can be accurately labeled as the biggest current enemy to a particular class of New Hampshire children. That class of children are the most vulnerable — the children who come from families whose income falls below three times the federal poverty line.
Bill Duncan is the plaintiff (meaning he personally engaged attorneys and filed suit against the state) in an on-going lawsuit against these very children, claiming that they should not be allowed to attend any other school but the one assigned to them by ZIP code. His attorneys have fought hard to stop these children from accepting donated money that would allow them to attend a school better suited to them (even if that school is a different public school, believe it or not).
This is the kind of man Maggie Hassan says New Hampshire children need as their advocate on the Board of Education? Are you kidding me? Gov. Hassan couldn't possibly have made a worse choice than nominating a man currently suing the state to prevent parents of modest means from helping their children escape a school setting that is not meeting their needs. An awful choice, Ms. Hassan. Just awful.
Let your executive councilor know. Stop this nomination.
Last Updated on Monday, 05 May 2014 08:57
To The Daily Sun,
I would like to respond to a letter in The Daily Sun on May 3. I am a member of the Sanbornton Planning Board. But this letter is not sent representing the board. I am speaking only for myself.
I am the board member who read about the two recent court cases regarding workforce housing, including the quoted comments of an attorney in one of the cases, which recommended what developers should do when they come before a Planning Board. This was not pre-planned by the board, nor had I told them I was going to read it, and I do not know if they felt I should or should not have read it. I did not mean it to be a "scare tactic," nor do I think it was.
The importance of the court cases is that if the developer wins — and in these two current cases they both did — the "builders remedy" may be granted, as it was in one of the two. In the other they were given 60 days to change some ordinances, or the court would make the entire Zoning Ordinances void.
The meeting was to share the Planning Board's information regarding workforce housing and the facts I read were to make folks aware that being taken to court as these two towns were, was what our board was trying to avoid. These are facts, and for any Planning Board not to make voters aware of this risk would, I believe, be keeping important information from them.
The letter speaks of the irony of the Planning Board not knowing if the town of Sanbornton already complies (fair share) and "they won't know until the time comes to prove it." The greater irony is that because of the way the state's workforce housing law is written that is true. We could put the time into a study, trying to determine what we think is the town's "fair share" of such housing. However, the state which requires "fair share" has no number available stating what our "fair share" is. There is no board, office, commission or entity to take our "fair share" figures to until we are sued. We can then take our numbers to the judge and he/she will determine if the number is acceptable.
Although the members of our board at times do not all agree on an issue, there is one thing I believe every member does agree on. We all want our town to retain its rural character, and we all — audience and board — want what is best for Sanbornton.
Years ago when we lost a large number of our population to the industrial cities, we based our town planning on what was left to us, a rural community. Now we are faced with a set of state laws that don't fit well into our established ordinances. We, the voters of Sanbornton, have to decide what changes we find acceptable and how much risk we are willing to take as we make these decisions.
I hope everyone will go and vote on the Planning Boards amendments, whether you are for or against workforce housing. And let's not let this issue that was forced upon us, divide the town. No matter what wins or fails today, we all need to keep our community strong and friendly for tomorrow.
Last Updated on Monday, 05 May 2014 08:54
To The Daily Sun,
Sanbornton residents will have the opportunity to discuss and vote on an important warrant article at Town Meeting on May 14. The Conservation Commission has proposed to modify the amount of the Land Use Change Tax revenue that is currently deposited in the Conservation/Land Use Change Tax Fund.
A Conservation/Land Use Change Tax Fund was authorized by a vote of the 1999 Town Meeting in accordance with RSA 79-A:25 II and modified by a vote of the 2002 Town Meeting. In 2002, the legislative body authorized 50 percent or $5,000, whichever is greater, of the Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) revenue collected to be deposited in the Conservation/ Land Use Change Tax Fund (Article 8, 2002 Town Meeting)
The following article is on the warrant this year and is recommended by both the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee:
Article: To see if the town will vote to deposit 100 percent of the revenues collected pursuant to RSA 79-A (the land use change tax) in the conservation fund in accordance with RSA 36-A:5 III as authorized by RSA 79-A:25 II.
The Land Use Change Tax is a penalty tax charged to a landowner when land is removed from Current Use, usually for residential development or the parcel has been subdivided below the 10 acres minimum size. The penalty is 10 percent of the fair market value (not the sale price) of the land area being removed when it no longer qualifies for the current use program. Since 2002, the land use change tax collected by the town of Sanbornton has varied each year, from a high of $84,494.09 in 2008 to a low of 0 in 2011.
A Conservation Fund is a specific fund authorized under RSA 36-A:5, I and the Conservation Commission has sole authority for expending the funds for a broad range of conservation related activities, as authorized under RSA 36:A-2. Funds for the conservation fund can originate from town appropriations, gifts from private individuals, from the land use change tax collected by the town when property is withdrawn from the Current Use Assessment Program, or by allowing conservation commissions to retain unexpended funds from its budget appropriation. The conservation fund is non-lapsing, therefore accumulates from year to year. Prior to acquiring land or easements with money from the conservation fund, the conservation commission must hold a pubic hearing and the Board of Selectmen must approve the purchase. The town treasurer administers the conservation fund.
Current Use assessment was enacted in 1973 as a way to help owners of forest and farmland keep their land undeveloped. The case for using the land use change tax for conservation is straightforward; since the purpose of Current Use is to conserve undeveloped land, when property comes out of current use for development, the tax paid should be re-invested in the conservation of other undeveloped land in town. Since the land use change tax represents 10 percent of the value of the land removed from current use (typically for development), even if you put all of it into a conservation fund, it may only allow you to protect about one acre for every 10 that are being developed.
Conserving land benefits everyone by reducing the town's expenditures for services, including, schools, police, fire and road maintenance. Most development raises the property taxes that we all pay. With more residential development and less open space, homeowners and businesses will see their taxes continue to rise to support the growth of schools and town services. Conserving land reduces our taxes.
While the land use change tax is paid only by landowners removing land from current use, allocating the revenues to the town's conservation fund means they do not go to the town's general fund. This is a good source of conservation funding that does not depend on local property taxes and has no direct impact on tax bills.
By far, the most popular source of money for municipal conservation commissions is the LUCT. The reasoning behind such an investment in the Conservation Fund is that money acquired when land is removed from open space is logically used to protect more open space. Currently, 163 out of 234 towns in New Hampshire allocate some portion of LUCT revenues to fund local conservation. Neighboring towns that currently allocate LUCT revenues to land conservation include Andover (50 percent), Belmont (100 percent), Boscawen (100 percent), Canterbury (100 percent), Gilford (100 percent), Laconia (100 percent - $100,000 cap), Meredith (100 percent - $50,000 cap), New Hampton (50 percent), Northfield (50 percent), Salisbury (25 percent), Tilton (100 percent). (Source: NH Association of Conservation Commissions)
In the summer of 2008, a town wide master planning survey was mailed to town residents and property owners and the results were a major factor in identifying land use policies and priorities and the vision statement for the 2012 Sanbornton Master Plan. Over 2,000 master plan surveys were distributed asking for resident's attitudes and choices about their community for 15 years in the future. The 436 surveys that were returned represent a response rate of approximately 21 percent. The survey directly asked questions relating to land use growth and development and a summary of the master plan survey findings is available in the 2012 Master Plan. Sanbornton residents that responded to the survey would like to see the town retain its rural character as a small community that preserves its natural environment as well as its agricultural and traditional setting (Source: 2012 Master Plan, Land Use III.10). The survey summary results listed the most important attributes as; un-crowded living conditions, rural character, natural environment, scenic beauty and outdoor recreation. Looking forward 15 years, Sanbornton residents are most concerned with the following issues: protection of lakes and streams, protecting drinking water quality and supply, property taxes, preserving rural character and road construction and resurfacing. (2012 Master Plan)
Survey respondents favored a range of conservation actions to protect Sanbornton's natural resources, including protecting highest elevations and steep slopes as well as preserving agricultural lands from development. The goals of the Conservation Commission are to provide open space in a mix of working landscapes, fields and forests, waterways that protect our drinking water, land that provides recreational opportunities, habitat for native plants and animals and to support sustainable forestry.
In 2013, the Conservation Commission completed a conservation easement on a parcel of land within the Swain Dairy Farm holdings. The conservation project has protected 41 acres of land from future development. The total cost of the project was $175,268. The Conservation Commission partnered with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and contributed $96,768 (appraisal $6,200, survey $5,660, legal $6,408, 1/2 easement cost $78,500) from the Conservation Fund. The property is still on the tax roll but will continue to be farmed and maintain the rural character of Sanbornton. It became clearly evident to the Conservation Commission members that we need to increase the revenue that goes into the conservation fund if we are going to be able to complete future conservation projects in Sanbornton. The Conservation Commission seeks your support to approve the warrant article at town meeting.
Sanbornton Conservation Commission
Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 10:52
To The Daily Sun,
Yesterday, I was at my friends house on Rollercoaster Road spending some quality time. We had taken a break from his chores and I was showing him one of my YouTube videos (I'm a musician from St. Augustine). As we walked out in the front yard he noticed smoke coming from across the street and leaped into action. He first tried to step out the flames, but when that didn't work he ran for his tractor and started extinguishing the flames with his bucket loader. By this time a line of motorists had stopped and a couple of gentlemen had 5-gallon buckets in their truck and started a bucket brigade. Meanwhile, I am trying to corral his dogs to keep them out of traffic, while running buckets as well.
He dialed 911 to dispatch the fire station, which responded quickly. However, by the time the fire department had arrived our group of community-minded civilians had contained and nearly completely extinguished the fast-spreading fire. All the fire department had to do was rake and finish soaking it down. I'm definitely impressed with everyone who jumped in to help, this could have turned bad very quickly.
Thanks to all of you. It just goes to prove we must be careful with fire, this was most likely started by a discarded cigarette butt. Be smart and aware, and use your ashtray.
D.P. "Mugsy" McGuinness
Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 10:45