Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Should Land Use Boards be Elected?

House Bill 487 is a bill co-sponsored by NH House Rep. Ed Comeau Carroll  district 5 and Rep. Avellani, also Carroll district 5. The bill would require that all planning board and zoning board of adjustment members be elected. I have no idea if the bill will gain any traction in Concord, but I do not personally support it. 
For one thing, the current statute (RSA 673:2) already allows for these board members to be elected if the legislative body decided by majority vote at the town meeting to have elected zoning and planning boards.
Another issue would be the inability to appoint alternates which in most towns are a necessity and vital to cover illness and vacations or resignations. As the bill would take effect 60 days post passage, all alternates on both boards would no longer be eligible to serve and there may be instances where applicants would not have the benefit of a full board.
This came to my attention from a video clip  (starts at the beginning of the discussion of HB 487)of the Lakes Region Planning Commission Executive Committee that met on January 14th. The LRPC reviews pertinent legislation and then lobbies for or against depending on the vote of the commissioner's. The LRPC Executive board is clearly against this legislation.
The LRPC is one of nine regional planning commissions (RPC's) in NH and membership by any community is "voluntary." I put the quotes on voluntary because if you don't belong to an RPC, you are essentially shut off from grant funding, have little chance of getting local projects ( such as state roads) on the NH DOT radar and have limited voice in what happens in your particular region. No one elects the RPC membership. They are appointed by the member towns
 I do strongly feel that RPCs do many things of value for communities. I don't believe however that there is sufficient accountability for how they operate to assure that they truly represent the best interests of all the member communities. I also don't know how successful they have been in fulfilling their primary mission: coordinating planning across their regions and throughout the state. When I hear the LRPC executive director Jeff Hayes tell the commissioner's that the NH Office of  Energy and Planning is so understaffed that they do not have time to do more with the regional plans than place them on a shelf and say " mission accomplished, it's time for our legislators to tell Concord that we have a problem.
I don't believe that this proposed legislation address this and in fact may do more harm than good to smaller communities like Moultonboro.


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