Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Clarification on Selectmen's Ability to Sell Town Owned Property

There is some apparent confusion out there on the ability and process for the sale of town owned property. 

In 2003 Town Meeting, voters authorized the Selectmen per RSA 41:14 a " the authority to acquire or sell land, buildings, or both. provided, however, they shall first submit any such proposed acquisition or sale to the planning board and to the conservation commission for review and recommendation by those bodies, where a board or commission or both, exist. After the selectmen receive the recommendation of the planning board and the conservation commission, where a board or commission or both exist, they shall hold 2 public hearings at least 10 but not more than 14 days apart on the proposed acquisition or sale."  Even  with this authority, there exists a simple remedy if voters want to move the vote on a particular sale or purchase to a Town Meeting vote. Before the BoS votes on the matter and after the second public hearing, 50 registered voters can submit a petition to the BoS requiring that the matter be inserted in the warrant and voted on by the Legislative body at Town Meeting. That is not the same as a petitioned warrant article ,which only requires 25 registered voters, or a petition for a " special town meeting" which requires 50 registered voters.
Also, any 25 voters can petition a warrant article to rescind the 2003 authorization vote.

According to the NH Municipal Association:

"RSA 41:4-a and 41:4-c permit the town meeting to delegate to the selectmen the authority to acquire and/or sell town land and buildings, with some important exceptions for town conservation land, town forest land and land given to the town for charitable or community purposes. The law requires the selectmen to submit the proposed acquisition or sale to the planning board and conservation commission for review and recommendation and then hold two public hearings at least 10 but not more than 14 days apart. However, if at least 50 voters submit a petition to the selectmen before the selectmen’s final vote on the matter, the proposed acquisition or sale must be inserted as an article in the town meeting warrant."


This occurred in the town of Belmont (Laconia Daily Sun) a few years back wherein a citizens petition  by 80 voters halted the BoS from purchasing a bank building town. 


1 comment:

Joseph Cormier said...

I believe you are correct.

It will be easier to rescind Article 33, documented in the 2003 annual report by a petition of 25 registered voters. It avoids the ambiguous language in RSA 41:14-a.