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Hot Topic: Sanbornton voters prepare for annual meeting, elections

If recent letters to the editor are any indication, voters will have some difficult decisions to make during Tuesday’s town elections and Wednesday’s annual Town Meeting. Here’s a sampling:

Workforce housing

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 a certain 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, fear-mongering political flier sent to the townspeople 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 Saturday morning at 10 at the 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.



Scare tactics

Why did the Sanbornton Planning Board use scare tactics supplied by the Regional Planning Commission at a recent informational meeting?

The theme of the meeting was about being sued. The town counsel quoted almost verbatim from the handout, which listed a decades-old history of three other bizarre New Hampshire cases. Scare tactics are working, and the people are worried about being sued no matter what we do.

The residents of Sanbornton, according to that meeting, want controlled development but they don’t want to be sued. They want the town to stay the way it is – a rural community. But unlimited cluster developments would create a burden on the town.

A Plymouth State University analysis shows Belknap County has a shrinking workforce and an aging population, most likely due to the depressed economic conditions. Therefore the future does not show an increased need for workforce housing in Belknap County.

The irony of the whole evening was when the question of whether we already comply was asked, the Planning Board didn’t know – and they won’t know until the time comes to prove it.



Vote for Van Tassel

Johnny Van Tassel was with the Sanbornton Department of Public Works for seven years and director for two years when he went to work for Northfield in the same capacity last year.

During the entire seven years, he operated the transfer station with a Level 4 certification. Bill Whalen praised him in the newspaper for taking care of the very muddy roads during the warm winter of 2012-2013.

Please vote on Tuesday to elect Van Tassel as selectman. He knows everyone. He gets along with people, which is so important in our small town. He will work hard for you.



Attendance needed

An informative candidates’ night was held in Sanbornton recently in preparation for our town elections on May 13.

We heard from candidates for selectman Johnny Van Tassel and Jeff Jenkins and candidates for other offices as well. I asked Jenkins to dispel a rumor about his intention to be an absentee selectman during the winter months each year. He did not dispel the rumor. He confirmed it.

He stated that he will continue to take a winter vacation in Florida. Jenkins did not tell us the length of his vacation, but he told us he believes he can meet legal obligations by participating in the selectmen’s weekly meetings via phone or Skype.

Will he be away from his duties in Sanbornton for two weeks or three or four months?

Rare is the selectman who limits involvement to the weekly meeting. There is much more to the job than attendance at a meeting. Also, the town warrant has a proposal to restore our town meeting to the traditional date. Whether we continue our May town meeting or return it to the March date used by towns throughout the state, selectmen’s activities are at their height during the winter months.

Sanbornton deserves more than an absentee selectman.



Support Grey for budget committee

Over the last 10 years, Sanbornton’s average residence tax bill (including town, county, and school taxes) has increased 46 percent, but the town’s portion of the bill has increased 100 percent. In other words, Sanbornton is taking an ever-larger portion of a residence’s total tax bill.

This situation exists because town expenses have increased at a much faster rate than town growth, which has been less than 1 percent per year over this same 10-year period. This situation, if allowed to continue, is unsustainable.

I am running for re-election to the budget committee in an effort to help stem the tide of ever-increasing costs and rising taxes.

My tenure on the budget committee, coupled with the knowledge gained over 30 years as president of my own industrial distribution company, has given me the necessary know-how to deal with the challenge of maintaining essential municipal services, while at the same time looking for inventive ways to reduce costs.

Dedication to solving Sanbornton’s problem of rising costs is not enough. It is also essential to be able to work constructively with town administrators and department heads who may have very different ideas as to what is necessary.

If you believe, as I do, that rising taxes in Sanbornton are a serious problem, then I ask for your support and vote on May 13.



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