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Concord candidates debate economic development, city projects

  • Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce hosted a city candidate forum on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Grappone Conference Center.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce hosted a city candidate forum on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Grappone Conference Center.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Flanked by candidates for city council, mayoral candidate, Chris Booth, and current mayor, Jim Bouley, take turns answering questions at the Concord Chamber of Commerce city candidate forum on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Grappone Conference Center.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Flanked by candidates for city council, mayoral candidate, Chris Booth, and current mayor, Jim Bouley, take turns answering questions at the Concord Chamber of Commerce city candidate forum on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Grappone Conference Center.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce hosted a city candidate forum on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Grappone Conference Center.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Flanked by candidates for city council, mayoral candidate, Chris Booth, and current mayor, Jim Bouley, take turns answering questions at the Concord Chamber of Commerce city candidate forum on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at the Grappone Conference Center.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Concord’s mayoral and city council candidates agreed at a forum last night that the city needs to expand its tax base and encourage economic development. But they disagreed about how to accomplish that and how to prioritize the city’s capital improvement projects.

Mayor Jim Bouley and opponent Chris Booth presented differing views of the more than $10 million Main Street project, which will reduce traffic from four to two lanes, widen sidewalks, increase accessibility and add landscaping and public art. Mayoral candidate John Cook did not attend last night’s event at the Grappone Conference Center, hosted by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.

Booth said downtown parking should be free. He said the city must “categorically reject the current proposal” because the city only received one bid from a contractor and it exceeded the city’s budget. (That proposal has already been rejected, and the city officials plan to seek more bids.)

Bouley, a three-term incumbent, said the Main Street project is “one of the most important issues that will be facing the next council,” with construction scheduled to begin next spring and to conclude in 2015. He said the $4.71 million federal grant for the project will help the city improve safety and accessibility.

The most important thing the city can do to expand its tax base is to “continue on the same path we’re on,” Bouley said, and pursue public-private partnerships. Booth said the city must attract manufacturing companies.

At-large candidates

Five of the six at-large city council candidates attended last night’s forum. They disagreed on the city’s Main Street project but said they would all prioritize transportation capital improvements.

Asked which capital improvement project is most important, Ward 10 Councilor Fred Keach said the city needs to focus on repaving roads. He supports the city’s Main Street project.

“This is a comprehensive program that’s not just about pretty benches and light poles,” Keach said. “This is a project that will change the downtown . . . and create a downtown that really is an economic hub to our city.”

Scott Welch said he would also focus on roads and the replacement of the Sewalls Falls Bridge. Welch said he would prefer a one-way Main Street over the two-lane plan.

“I don’t believe that widened sidewalks, two lanes with a center barrier strip is really going to help traffic flow on Main Street,” Welch said.

Samantha Clattenburg proposed a new project: building a road from Exit 16 of Interstate 93 to Langley Parkway instead of the proposed extension of Langley Parkway from Pleasant Street to the intersection of Penacook and North State streets. She opposes the Main Street project because she and many other residents cannot afford to shop in the stores downtown.

“Therefore I have a hard time saying, ‘Sweet, I can’t wait to pay millions of dollars in taxes to support a downtown that everyone else is going to utilize, not me,’ ” Clattenburg said.

Ward 4 Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said transportation projects are her first priority. She would also consider returning Engine 1 to the road. She supports the Main Street project.

“There is a lot at stake and so we need to ensure . . . now that we’re in the construction phase of this process, we get this right,” she said.

Timothy Willis, who was late and missed two of the three questions, said the city should first attract business to Main Street before redesigning it.

“I would say build the house before you paint it,” he said.

At-large candidate Josh VanBuskirk did not attend the event.

Ward races

Ward 1 candidates Brent Todd and Adam Czarkowski agreed that the city should bring more business to Penacook. Todd said the city’s work on zoning districts in Penacook will be key in developing the former tannery and Rivco sites. Czarkowski said his first priority is bringing a grocery story to the tannery site. Cassandra Rasmussen, the third Ward 1 candidate, did not attend the event.

Ward 2 candidates Allan Herschlag and Tim Bauman both said they have some concerns about the city’s approach to development. Bauman called the city’s role “a slippery slope” and said government should get out of the way of developers. Herschlag said if the city uses tax incentives for development, the special tax districts should return at least half of their increased value “to pay for city services from day one.” On project priorities, Bauman said the city should be cautious of projects that include federal grants. Herschlag said his top priority is reducing odor at the Hall Street wastewater treatment center.

In Ward 3, candidates presented different capital improvement priorities. Ward 3 Councilor Jan McClure said future project priorities beyond those already in progress are extending Storrs Street and considering city involvement in the redevelopment of the state Employment Security headquarters on South Main Street. Rick Cibotti said his priorities are replacing the Sewalls Falls Bridge, repairing streets, getting a state-of-the-art library and returning Engine 1 to the road. Jennifer Kretovic, who represents Ward 2 but lives in Ward 3 due to redistricting, stressed that the capital improvement program is fluid, but she said the future could include the extension of Langley Parkway, a community center on the Heights or a new library.

Ward 4 candidates had different views of economic development. Kevin Bloom said the city’s role “is to step out of the way” of businesses. At-Large Councilor Michael DelloIacono said the city should work with property owners to bring housing to the upper stories of downtown buildings. Byron Champlin said the city should encourage retail business on downtown side streets and work to find space for a business incubator.

Two of the Ward 8 candidates agreed that Concord should work to attract more business. Gail Matson said development should be kept to areas of the city that are already zoned for business. Dennis Soucy said he would like to bring a venue like Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena to Concord. Ward 8 Councilor Dick Patten is running for re-election but did not attend the forum.

The elections will be held Nov. 5.

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

Jim, again when are you going to address the revenue brought in from CU? 1.6 billion alone in timber tax revenues. Also, how many folks are employed . We have over 800 loggers in NH alone. Not sure how many private foresters, but they are needed to make sure forest landowners abide by the rules of good forestry and wetland laws. When town has open space the taxes are lower. Open space requires less services. The income from timber being cut to that town from the yield tax keeps the tax rate down. If you have land under CU and you own a farm you still pay business taxes on that farm. Maple Sugar business pays, as does Christmas Tree Farms. You saw the post recently that an Apple Orchard would have to pay hundreds of dollars to have coffee pots at the orchard for a permit to do that. Folks who own large lots of land pay taxes, just at a lower rate under CU. They also keep that land well preserved in regards to wetlands etc. They do not buy big tracks to let it sit there. It is an investment. Most folks are encouraged to keep their land opened to the public and they do. These are the things you ignore in your debate about CU. Open Space pays.

RabbitNH – I do not dispute that the timber tax brings in revenue and creates jobs – a good thing. We differ in that I want a low property tax for “everyone” not just those that are reaping the rewards from timber sales. Why should I be paying higher taxes on my property so the larger landowner can pay low taxes and then reap an even higher profit. You clearly say buying that land is/was an investment so it is just a business. If we both had lower property tax, he keeps his land (now due to lower taxes he doesn’t have to sell to the developer – which he has the right to do even under current use today) and he still makes the profit from the timber and creates job. The forests around the state are left for tourist (and us) to enjoy because no one has to sell. I’m not a tree farmer but I don’t think they cut the trees every 5 years, I think they use the current use for 20/25 years and then cut once. There are ~~27,000 parcels of land in current use in NH, some 10 acres and some 1,000’s of acres. Are the timber plots the 10/20 acre plots behind a private home or mainly the larger plots? There are ~~3.4 million acres classified as “timberland” that is privately owned in NH. Divide that by 27K and it averages 1,250 acres per owner. Since almost 50% of the land in current use is listed as 10/20/30 acre plots, it tells me those big timber plots are not behind houses. I see signs every day for free tree cutting for 25 or more trees – doesn’t sound like those people on the small plots behind the house are making much money and remember there are rules on how much timber gets to be cut without paying the timber tax (can be done every year)……….. Property tax comes from the old England days when people didn’t have a lot of cash so they taxed the property – NH just reversed it so the small property owner pays more so that the big property owner pays less…... People keep saying that states that have property and income tax spend even more – that is your proverbial spending problem not how you generate it….. I’ve used the real life example before: two people work in a family and make $100K paying $8K in property tax which means they pay 8% of their income in taxes, one loses their job so the family now makes $50K but still pays the $8K in taxes which means they now pay 16% of their income in taxes. Let’s say those two retire to $40K per year (more than a lot make in retirement) then their tax rate goes to 20% of their income. In NH, the less you make the higher the tax rate you pay. The wealthy like to retire here because they maintain the high income keeping their rate at 8%.............. I've stated all along I like a 80/20% tax rate. NO rise in dollar amount generated. Lower the property tax to 20% of today's taxes due ("""everyone""" in the state gets to keep their property, timber, tourist, etc...everybody wins) and then generate the rest through other tax forms (sales, income or however). I'm not poor nor am I rich, but a system that takes a higher percentage of a persons income from the lowest earners for taxes is simply not right or fair. The average person works all their life to pay off their home for retirement and then their tax rate doubles in NH??

vote for the one that promises to do absolutely nothing - no new expenses - no new taxes - leave us alone for 2 simple years

We hear the lefties who want more revenue all the time talk about how important it is to attract business to our state. Then you read how many permits it takes to have the type of business you want. I am not surprised that adding coffee pots would involve more fees for this business. NH has always been a state that has had a long reputation of being business unfriendly. I am sure this Orchard is also on Current Use. Some on this forum want Current Use demolished. Then when there are no local farms, orchards, hunting venues, etc they will be crying. what happened! We have too many strip malls! Hoplinton is a perfect example

Only 4% of the land in current use is listed as farm land. I'll agree to leaving those 4% in current use if you agree to remove all the private lots behind private homes that are in current use. Ever seen a sign saying "land in current use" open to the public??? Land in current use can be posted as "No Trespassing". Current use is not about farms. Tell the truth.

Yes but CU also involves wood products, logging etc. We also get quite a bit of revenue from Timber Tax for logs cut, and those areas provide jobs. Those logs go to Paper Mills which are disappearing quickly in the US. Many folks on CU allow their lands to be open for hunting, hiking etc. But doing that is a liability. Most allow repeat hunters to use their land that they know will not be a problem. We have had this conversation many times Jim. You never address what else besides Farms that CU benefits. You also do not address the revenues that come into this state from forestry and wood products. Or what the tax rates are in the towns that have a lot of land under CU. Till you do that, you will not get the big picture on CU.

Where we disagree is that exempting over 50% of the property, in a property tax state is crazy. If a person owns land that is a business, food farm or tree farm, then it is a business. The very same as any business that sits on "property". My biggest complaint are the people that have 10/20/30 acres behind their private home. Change the law to say every piece of property in current use must be clearly marked (same def. as posting for no-trespassing) as open to the public and you might change my mind. Liability, the state supplies insurance against liability for free so that is not the reason either. To say the larger land owner needs an exemption from paying the tax due because they would owe too much is exactly like saying we have an income tax but will exempt all income over $60K because they will pay too much. Lower the property taxes on everyone and the large property owner has no reason to sell (as is claimed). Your tree farms will still exist with all it jobs and revenue. Tax rate in towns with a lot of land in current use is higher "per thousand" because there is less land (fully counted) in the tax base, include all the property and the tax rate "per thousand" would be much lower for "every" citizen. ~66% of Canterbury is in current use, for every acre being counted – 2 are not. Almost 50% of the land in current use is owned by people in the largest income bracket. Current Use is nothing but a tax break for large land owners in a property tax state. You are a pretty smart person so I think we all know why you would want "Current Use" to stay.

Jim, if current use was discontinued, people would be forced to sell those 10/20/30 acres to developers who regularly approach them with offers to buy that land. The issue of other taxes to replace property taxes is really kind of moot. In every other state where they have substituted a broad based tax, government continues to spend every dime and want more AND property taxes goes down for a period of time but then climbs again making that state very expensive to live in. See New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts. The smarter way to do this is..........pass a 5% sales tax and exempt clothing, drugs, food, energy products. That protects those who can't afford such a tax from being impacted as they can buy the necessities. Earmark that tax for education ONLY. It could never be raided and rolled into the general fund. Then pass a bill where towns could not raise property taxes more than 1% each year and only with the vote of 2/3 of balloted voters at an election time. Also, forbid towns from funding their schools with any of that 1%. Then pass a law that the 1% would need 2/3 majority in both houses to ever be changed. That is the most common sense solution.

What does it mean when someone says the city should step out of the way of business? One answer to this is well illustrated in the following example. One well known apple orchard in Concord has an operating bakery, among the apples and apple products. Best donuts around. When Just a week ago I remarked to one of the owners of this orchard that all they needed was a coffee station as well, I was informed that the reason they didn't have one was because of the high cost of a city license/permit to add coffee to their orchard store. The city already charges a lot of money for the bakery, the coffee addition would at least double the fee to operate for this business. It is absurd that the city would charge something like an apple orchard many hundreds of dollars in fees to put a few coffee pots in to operation.

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