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Concord councilors remind residents they don’t control assessments

The Concord City Council reminded residents last night that councilors do not have the authority to approve or change property assessments.

“I just want to make it clear to the public that councilors have a very limited role in the whole assessing process,” Councilor Fred Keach said.

Last night, the council held the second of two public hearings required before they vote to authorize property appraisals for 2013. They will not vote until next month; City Solicitor Jim Kennedy said state law requires that a vote be held 15 days after the second public hearing.

A vote next month to authorize the property appraisals would allow the assessing office to appraise properties this year.

Next month’s vote will not affect the 2012 assessments, though several councilors questioned the city’s assessing methods at the first public hearing last month.

The total value of commercial and industrial properties in Concord increased 13.77 percent in 2012, while residential properties decreased 2.64 percent in value. Commercial property owners have expressed frustration over their assessments, and the city received 350 tax abatement applications to appeal 2012 assessments.

Allan Herschlag, the only resident to speak during last night’s public hearing, said the 2012 assessments were unfair to commercial property owners. He questioned whether assessments and taxes should increase, especially as the city prepares for construction on Main Street and in downtown Penacook.

“The question now is what do you folks do?” he said. “How do we fix this? How do we make this fair to our commercial businesses who, particularly in our downtowns, who have not had an easy go of it the last few years?”

Northern Pass

The council did not take a position on Northern Pass last night, but did speak of the project’s potential impact on Concord.

“My perception in talking with many people is that a lot of Concord residents perceive this as a northern New Hampshire situation, in terms of impact,” said Councilor Rob Werner. “And in fact, it is not.”

The councilors voted to accept reports from the planning board and conservation commission about Northern Pass.

The planning board’s report suggests that Northern Pass power lines should be buried near homes in Concord, while the conservation commission told councilors it opposes the project.

Both reports came in response to concerns from residents of McKenna’s Purchase, a condominium development off Loudon Road that abuts the proposed Northern Pass route.

By accepting the reports, Mayor Jim Bouley said the city council was simply acknowledging that it had received them.

“It would probably be premature for us to actually comment at this time,” Bouley said.

Parking, lease, loitering

The council approved a no-parking zone along Whitney Road, where a gas station, convenience store and Dunkin’ Donuts are planned.

The development, off Exit 17 of Interstate 93, was approved by the planning board last year with the requirement of a no-parking zone along Whitney Road. City Manager Tom Aspell said the measure would prevent truck drivers from parking on the road to access the convenience store.

But Councilor Jan McClure questioned whether the ordinance should take effect before construction begins. Councilor Keith Nyhan added that parents often park along Whitney Road while their children are playing sports at the Concord Sports Center.

“When the sports center is fully occupied, there is a shortage of parking,” Nyhan said.

After discussion, the ordinance passed and will take effect as soon as the city posts no-parking signs along the road.

Also last night, councilors approved a new lease with the Concord Boys & Girls Club for its clubhouse in Kimball Park.

The Boys & Girls Club owns its Bradley Street building, but leases its land from the city. A new, 40-year lease was negotiated as the Boys & Girls Club prepares to update its building. The new lease gives the club greater security for its mortgage with the bank and protects the city if the club defaults on the mortgage, according to a report from Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos Baia.

The council also referred a complaint last night from downtown business owners to the city’s legal department and public safety board. Downtown business owners concerned about panhandling, loitering and drug activity outside their stores have recently contacted and met with city officials. Bouley thanked police Chief John Duval for increasing patrols downtown.

“We’ve already seen tremendous results,” Bouley said. “Thank you very much, chief.”

In other action last night, the council approved new fees and fines and adopted the capital improvement plan that it revised in February.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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