Its the middle of the Holiday " lull" and not much happening in local government. An exception this coming week is the Village Vision Committee, which is scheduled to meet Monday December 29th at 6pm in Town Hall.
They are working hard and there is a plethora of information on the Town website including the survey results ( 1,500+) and comments.
Below is a highly conceptual "picture" that captures many of the ideas that the committee has discussed. Please don't look at this as the final plan. It is just a visual of the ideas presented. Painting a picture so to speak,
As I read through the many pages of comments (which are much appreciated ) it is clear that there are a wide variety of opinions on the "village." A fair amount questioned if we really even have a village and others suggested that the true "village" is really closer to Center Harbor or elsewhere. Many are in favor of some standards for the look of the village, but many also seem to not want to impose required standards. I agree with the " not requiring" viewpoint as I would not support infringing on the rights of private property owners. While the comments seem to contradict the actual survey numbers which were very much in favor of standards, I look at them as peeling back the onion so to speak by a few more layers and finding what appears to be "yes we want standards, but do not mandate them."
I don't see a lot of support for roundabouts and the addition of traffic signs appears to be a clear winner in the traffic calming area.
One less tangible trend in the comments was what exactly the village was or is, and what it should become. Some have very clear memories of many years past and seem to favor a very simple town center without all the modern glitz. Others never really saw the area as ever really being a thriving village. I don't recall any comments that pushed for an ultramodern makeover. Still others feel that the village will never be a tourist destination like Meredith or Wolfeboro, and some were good with that. ( If not a destination, how about a stopping point along the way for some food, quick shopping and bathroom break? Plenty of traffic in our corridor almost all year round).
The Village Vision Committee has the difficult task of collating all the information they have gathered from many meetings, discussions, surveys and presentations and draw some conclusions from it. They then will finalize a report.
I anticipate some serious public debate and discussion over some of the finer points of the final product as well as the philosophical need for even undertaking it. Good. I never for a moment thought that the outcome of this committee would be a unanimous assent of all citizens. We do however need to get to a general consensus of where to go or we will not resolve some long standing concerns and issues, such as zoning, what types of businesses we want to see in the village and those we prefer not to see. Many criticize the Land Use Boards and the BoS for not doing more to encourage more business and to not allow certain types of businesses in town. We cannot do either without clearer definitions and changes to the zoning ordinances. The Planning Board and Zoning Boards are required to follow the law and the ordinances we have enacted.
The village does not have to change dramatically ( at least in my opinion) , but we cannot just leave it be. I believe that a well crafted vision will go a long way to attracting what we want to attract and highlight the features we want to see in the village 50 + years down the road.
Most of the respondents to the survey seem to have an open mind about this process, but there are a significant number that have made up there mind that all this is just an exercise in futility and a way to just spend more money. It is not. Everything needs a starting point. Its easy to point fingers at your elected officials when some objectionable business comes to town, but the reality is that our hands are tied by the very rules that you as citizens have the power to alter.
Keep in mind also, that as a selectman, I have to take the position of what is best for the entire town and keep my own biases and personal opinions to the side. It ain't easy. This blog at least gives me an outlet to vent to some extent.
At the end of the day, hopefully on March 14th at Town meeting after some spirited debate, voters will decide on whether the work of this committee meets their approval. I suspect it will.
One final thought. This committee is very diverse and can hardly be accused by any reasonable person to be one sided or biased. They have been given the freedom to explore this task in the manner they saw fit and with a clean piece of paper. I think they have done excellent work and should be commended for their effort and commitment.