That statement may be true, but he may have to give up his rights as a Planning Board member and Chair should the matter get to the Planning Board for a site plan approval. The full story is here in the Laconia Daily Sun. At issue is the former Catholic St. Helens mission church building in Weirs. The church was dechristened some time ago and sold. The new owner, Peter Morrissette ( also the owner of Joyce Janitorial Services, Moultonboro's contracted cleaning service) took exception to comments made at the Zoning Board of Adjustment a few weeks ago when he sought a variance to use the property located in a Shorefront Residential Zone as a storage facility. The ZBA has referred the matter to counsel and is scheduled to be revisited in August.
Into the fray are the comments by Laconia Planning Board chair Warren Hutchins who is also the Chair of the Lakes Region Planning Commission which were perceived by Mr. Morrissette as derogatory. Hutchins is a resident in the nearby Pendelton Beach Association and both he and his wife spoke against granting the variance. The former church sits on the corner of the only street that accesses Pendelton Beach Association where some of the most valuable properties in Laconia are located. Hutchins waterfront property is assessed at $1,106,000. Morrissettte is bitter, and if the variance is denied, promised to appeal it to Superior Court and place on the property "the ugliest bright orange snow fence I can find and hang big 'No Trespassing' signs on it."
In a letter to the Laconia Daily Sun on July 23rd, Morrissette claims that Hutchins wants Morrissette to build residential units on the property so that the Planning Board can have control over the property.
Hutchins absolutely has the right to represent himself as a property owner to the ZBA, but he also has forfeited his right ,in my opinion, to fairly hear and adjudicate any matters from Mr. Morrissette that may come before his Planning Board. He would need to step down.
It's a fine line sometimes as a public official, but it is indeed true that you don't give up your personal rights when you are an elected official. On the other side of the line is the perception of using your office for personal reasons. There is a bully pulpit effect when a person in that position comes before another board and while it maybe perfectly legal, it can sway opinions. That may be the case in Laconia.