ZBA Denies Zimmerman Hearing for Second Self-Storage Application

The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 this evening to deny a hearing to Paul Zimmerman and his associates. Last month the ZBA voted to deny Zimmerman a special exception to the medium-density residential zoning so that he could build a self-storage unit on Middle Road (Route 109A) next to the fire station. The board found last month a self-storage facility would alter the essential rural character of the neighborhood irreparably.

Zimmerman could have appealed the decision, but instead submitted a new application for a special exception. However, the ZBA determined in tonight’s meeting that, based on the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. Dover, 120 N.H. 187 (1980), the new application was not “materially different in nature and degree” from the first application.

Is Tuftonboro Miserly?

The Tuftonboro budget committee held its most recent meeting on November 1. The board discussed a 2% “merit” raise and an automatic 1.5% “cost of living adjustment” increase in salaries for town employees. This is in addition to the 15% increase in the employee-compensation budget line, approved earlier this year. Keep in mind that employee benefits are based on their salaries, so employee benefits will increase whenever salaries increase. Have you had that kind of raise in your own job in the last couple of years?

Steve Brinser, the vice chair of the budget committee, is concerned that the town is raising costs: “We have people in town who for the past two years, they’re on social security, they got zero increase, but we continue to increase the costs to taxpayers, even though their income isn’t keeping pace with the increased costs.”

Carla Lootens, the chairman of the budget committee, replied that not many people in town fall into that category, whereas “so much of our money comes from” waterfront and island properties. She said: “Out of 695 waterfront properties, do you know that 459 of them are owned from people out of state? They pay taxes here.”

Bob Theve, a member of the committee, interjected, “I’m one of those people that, you know, is on social security, isn’t taken care of, and I have an option, if I don’t want to live here—I don’t have to live here. If I don’t like the tax structure, I can go to another town.”

Helen Hartshorn, also a member of the budget committee, stated: “I want to make sure our town employees are making a living wage. I don’t want to see them be under what a living wage is.” Steve asked her what a living wage is, what figure she had in mind. She had no answer. Town employees currently make, on average, about twice as much as the average resident in Tuftonboro. The median full-time income for women in Tuftonboro is $30,962; for men, it is $44,493. Average those together and you get $37,727.50. The average full-time town employee in Tuftonboro receives more than $70,000 in compensation. The fire chief, for instance, receives more than $46,000 annually just for his retirement and health benefits.

Rick Sager, the selectmen’s attorney, recently stated in a Facebook posting that he believes our town budget was “too miserly in the past.” This was in response to former budget committee member Bob McWhirter stating that Tuftonboro has increased spending by more than $800,000 in the past five years.

Do you agree with Steve Brinser we should continue to keep our costs in check so that Tuftonboro has among the lowest municipal tax rates in the state? Or do you agree with Carla that it doesn’t matter if we raise costs because “so much of our money” comes from rich out-of-staters who can’t vote in local elections? Do you agree with Bob that if you don’t like the costs the budget committee imposes on you, you should just move to another town? Do you think that a person bringing in $70,000 in total compensation is earning less than “a living wage”? The 2016 budget appropriation was $3,997,649.00. Does that sound miserly to you?

The next budget committee meeting is November 15 at 4PM at the town offices.

Paul Zimmerman Files New Application with Zoning Board of Adjustment

zimmerman-new-application-notice
Notice received by Susan Rogers. Click to see larger image

The Zoning Board of Adjustment, confirms that the ZBA has received a new application from Paul Zimmerman for a special exception to medium density residential zoning to construct a storage facility at 181 Middle Road.

Zimmerman’s application for a special exception two months ago and was denied by the board based on their belief that the storage facility would alter the essential rural character of the neighborhood.

Mark Howard, the chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, explained in an email to me that the board will have a meeting on November 22nd and 7PM at the Town House. The first 20-30 minutes of the meeting will be for the board to determine if the new application is “materially different in nature and degree” from the first application that was denied.

At issue is a state law known as “Fisher v. Dover, 120 N.H. 187 (1980)” which prevents an applicant from subsequent applications to a ZBA unless the new application is materially different. This legal rule is more commonly referred to as “One bite at the apple”. When we run into something like this, the advice we have been given by NH Municipal Association attorneys is to hold a public meeting, determine if the new application meets the threshold, then proceed (or not).

If the board determines the new application is not materially different, then they will deny Zimmerman a public hearing. If the application is materially different, then they will immediately open up a public hearing.

A storage facility in the middle of town would seem to be in stark contrast to the wishes of the vast majority of residents who responded earlier this year to the Planning Board’s Master Plan survey, which had a high return rate with 764 households participating.

The Planning Board has not finalized their report from the Master Plan Survey, but here are some of the raw numbers.

Survey takers were asked, “What do you like most about Tuftonboro?” And instructed to select their top three. “Scenic beauty” received the most nods with 22%, followed by “quiet lifestyle” with 21%, and “favorable taxes” with 16% of respondents agreeing.

Tuftonboro residents’ priorities are even more clear when asked, “What are the three most important issues facing Tuftonboro in the next 10 years?” 23% say “property taxes,” 18% say “development pressure,” and 15% cite “loss of rural character” as their top concern.

Tuftonboroo Has 83% Turnout at Polls

Click for larger image.
Click for larger image.

Yesterday’s election saw a high turnout in Tuftonboro with 84% of registered voters coming to the polls to cast 1,705 ballots. Going into the day there were 1,958 registered Tuftonboro voters, including 60 new voters who had registered since the primary on September 13. By the end of the day yesterday, the supervisors of the checklist had registered an additional 89 voters through same-day registration, for a total of 2,047 registered voters.

Town Moderator Dan Barnard explained in an email this morning:

The votes were counted by nine teams of two and tally sheets were used to reconcile the votes cast. …[T]he final counts were completed around 12:30 a.m. The paperwork required by the State was filled out and sent to Concord; the ballots were sealed per State requirements. The signatures of all three selectmen as well as the Moderator and Town Clerk are required on that paperwork so that took us to 1:15 a.m. Heather and I cleaned up and left the Town House at 1:45 a.m. Heather then went back to her office and notified all the news outlets of the results.

A special thanks to Dan, Town Clerk Heather Cubeddu, the supervisors of the checklist (Anne Hunt*, Marianne Marcussen, and Chris Ruel), and the selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, and Lloyd Wood) for running a smooth and successful election day. There were also a number of volunteers who helped out through the day, and although I don’t know their names they also deserve our thanks.

*Anne unexpectedly was not able to work the polls yesterday, so former supervisor Betsy Thornton filled in for her. Thank you, Betsy. Anne still deserves plaudits for her work on primary day and leading up to the general election.

P0st updated to reflect 89 new same-day registrations, not 83. While this is a phenomenal achievement, it did lower our turnout from the 84% previously reported to 83%.

“….the times that try men’s souls.”

Pre-result,  Election Night, 2016:

These are the times that try men’s souls.

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:

it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Thomas Paine,  The Crisis. December 23, 1776

Carrying Pictures of Chairman Now

Regarding the issue of public comment at selectmen’s meetings in Tuftonboro, which is supported by many, including the “Grunter” as well as Hector M. Ledoux, I have this to say to the current chair of the Tuftonboro board and her authoritarian rule. Let’s call her Chairman Now.

That has a nice despotic sound doesn’t it? For local government, engaging in public intercourse should be a desirable and pleasant experience. Try it, Carolyn. You might like it. Why I would even bet that Marcussen and Woody would come to enjoy engaging in it also.

This post appeared as a letter to the editor in the November 3, 2016, Granite State News.

Extra $1,000 for Overtime for Administrative Staff Approved 4-3 by Budget Committee

At Monday’s budget committee meeting, selectmen’s representative Carolyn Sundquist (term ends 2017) made the case for an additional $1,000 in overtime for the administrative secretary and administrative assistant in next year’s budget. Carolyn suggested that the extra funds for overtime next year would be needed because the selectmen have received a request through the Right to Know law, which she characterized as frivolous and “a fishing expedition,” for all emails to or from the selectmen, the administrative secretary, and the administrative assistant from March 1, 2016, to October 17, 2016.

It’s not clear who made the request for emails. [Update: The request was made by Tuftonboro resident Bob McWhirter.]

Carla Lootens, the chairman of the budget committee, seemed taken aback. She asked, “So we have to pay $1,000 overtime because someone wants…?”

Carolyn quickly said, “No.” That the work for the Right to Know request is part of their “normal work schedule.”

Despite Carolyn’s explanation that there is no connection between the Right to Know request and next year’s overtime request, despite her earlier linkage of the two things, Carla joined Helen Hartshorn, Bob Theve, and Carolyn in voting to approve the budget. Vice chairman Steve Brinser and John Libby voted against the budget, and Tyler Philips abstained.

Carla said that she thought it was a “poor use of taxpayer money” to respond to Right to Know requests.

The Right to Know law does not require any reason be given for a request for public documents, so Carolyn’s belief that the current request is frivolous is irrelevant. It does however show her negative attitude toward the public’s right to know.

In 2015, Carroll County Superior Court ruled that the selectmen — at the time Dan Duffy, Carolyn Sundquist, and Lloyd Wood — had violated the Right to Know law.

The selectmen, and the majority of the budget committee, need to understand that the public’s right to know is neither frivolous nor a poor use of taxpayer money. It is the law.

The video at the top of this post is at 2x speed. To watch at normal speed, see the full meeting video at the 58:52 mark:

Selectmen’s Meeting for October 17, 2016

Present were Guy Pike, Joe Kowalski, Elissa Paquette, Carla Lootens, Betsy Frago, Christie Sarles, Adam Thompson, Andy Shagoury, and Gordon Hunt.

Minutes from previous the meeting were approved with minor corrections.

Chief Thompson presented fire department statistics highlighted by his arriving on crutches with a broken Achilles’ tendon acquired while off duty. He will be on light duty for eight weeks.

Chief Shagoury encountered computer issues and was unable to give a police statistics update. He did, however, announce a drug take-back day at the transfer station on October 22 from 10am-2pm.

Gordon Hunt and Christie Sarles presented the proposed library budget for 2017. Total budget $204,502 from $199,492. Approved by Selectmen 3-0.

Executive salaries were approved at $95,819 with a 2-1 vote. Selectman Lloyd P. Wood moved to add $1000 to the overtime line since our secretaries had so much extra work. Carolyn Sundquist disagreed as the work was in their job descriptions. She lost. 2016 budget was $87,970.

The Town’s insurance budget was approved at $60,916. This is up about $18,000 since the refunding of over charges has expired.

The Lang’s Pond Road project is almost done and looks good.

A letter is being sent to the Steinmans (the people who had the stones placed in the Town’s right of way on Brown Road). Discussion revealed that the Road Agent has concerns with being able to keep the road open!

Public input was interesting. Guy Pike referred to selectman’s chair Carolyn Sundquist’s statement questioning what the public might say that would change the Budget Committee members’s minds on votes? He commented that Max Ledoux’s questioning of the board of selectmen’s authority to sell property had apparently resulted in the board changing their mind. Carolyn Sundquist replied that “that was taken out of context.” (Watch the full video and decide for yourself if there’s sufficient context.) Guy Pike then suggested that before the board consulted with Attorney Sager in the future they should seek legal advice! Blank stares followed.

Elissa Paquette asked about the Selectmen’s being restricted in the selling of town-owned properties. Carolyn Sundquist responded that the 2003 Town Meeting was presented with a warrant article to rescind a former vote to give the selectmen pertpetual authority to sell and it passed. Elissa asked who the selectmen were at that time. Carolyn replied Susan Weeks, Rick Chellman, and Bill Stockman. Carolyn also said she didn’t know why the then-selectmen put the warrant article before the town!

Those are the highlights. Administrative secretary Karen Koch’s excellent minutes will chronicle the mundane details.