Planning Board Prepares Zoning Amendment Warrant Article To Permit High Density Housing in All Zones…

HENNIKER BILL PAYING At the November 8, 2017 Planning Board (PB) meeting, the PB okayed the writing of several amendments to Chapter 133 Henniker Zoning Regulations.

Two of these amendments will have significant impact;

I.) The Planning Board has authorized the part time planning consultant to construct a warrant article that will amend the Older Person Housing Ordinance so higher density development will be allowed, ‘basically everywhere.’ (see video below)

In 2016, Henniker approved higher density development in the Commercial Village and Residential Village Proper Districts only:

HIGH DENSITY HOUSING ZONING MAP

 

The amendment  as adopted in 2016 ((133-20 B) includes several standards that ‘shall be allowed in the RV or CV Zoning Districts’. Most importantly are the following:
  1. Dwelling unit density shall not exceed 8  units per acre.
  2. Adequate on-site off-street parking shall be provided of at least 1.5 spaces per unit. In addition, municipal water, and sewage shall be provided.
  3. The minimum lot area shall be1 and the lot shall have at least 75
    feet of Frontage on a public road.
  4. No more than seventy (70%) percent of the tract may be covered by impermeable
    surfaces; 30% of the lot shall be open space not including wetlands or slopes over 25%.

Increased density housing does make sense in the downtown zoning districts. Close proximity to emergency services (short emergency response times),  paved road access with good street lighting and sewer and water line hook-ups are all primary selling points for such projects.

However, what is very concerning to OnlyHennikerBruce (OHB) is the lack of questioning by the Planning Board members of statements being made by the town’s planning consultant?

Planning consultant, Mr. Fougere actually mentions (see video above @1:20) that the greatest impact is increased ambulance calls. The Rural Residential and Residential Neighborhood Zoning districts are not in close proximity to emergency services. In fact the increased emergency response times in these two zones have been a consideration in other proposed projects.

Many of the access roads in these two districts are not paved. Will the roads in these two districts need to be up-graded to withstand the increased ambulance calls and the increased traffic created by high density housing?

Will we need improve our ambulance service and hire more full time paramedics if such a project comes to town?

The town’s planning consultant, Mr. Fougere, states (@ 0.58 to 1:17) that he works on these types of projects all over the state (he mentions one in Greenland, NH on the coast), they are ‘money makers’, they ‘sell like hot cakes’ and they are ‘all gravy’ to the towns… yet no one on the PB question a thing!

OHB researched Adult Living in New Hampshire and found the best new adult living projects are;

Best new New Hampshire Retirement Communities  

  • Amherst – Connor Court
  • Atkinson – Sawmill Ridge
  • Derry:  Bunker Estates
  • Durham:  Riverside Landing
  • Exeter: The Village at Sterling Hill
  • Kingston:  Kings Landings
  • Londonderry:  Hickory Woods
  • New in Brentwood:  River’s Edge

Most of these high density ‘adult living’ housing projects are South of Rte. 101 and East of Interstate 93. Most are not in a rural residential settings. Most are close to the Mass. border or near the sea coast.

None are in the rolling foothills sections of the state.

All have a higher Median Household Income than Henniker.

Furthermore, an additional amendment being prepared calls for downsizing the lot size requirement for sewer and water hook-up downtown.  Current zoning;

LOT SIZE REQUIREMENT 2017-11-13_8-08-32

Does this pave the way for future high density development in the downtown to be constructed on well and septic? Does the amendment have language that drops the required (see 133-B-2 above) that high density housing to be built on water and sewer as originally adopted??

The town’s planning consultant did not provide information to the Planning Board about the impact of decreasing the number of new sewer and water users. And, the Planning Board members never asked.

None of the Planning Board members in the room at the time of this discussion are on town sewer and water. Only the Select Board Representative, Tia Hooper, is on the system!

Water rates/bills went up substantially this past summer. A new sewer rate/bill was just approved by the Board of Selectman!

For all of us who are on the water and sewer system, it is extremely important that the requirement for connection to these two systems remains in place for all new downtown construction. Additional customers on these two systems will help mitigate the current and future increase in water and sewer rates!

OHB is encouraging everyone to please pay close attention to the final draft of the warrant and attend the Public Hearings regarding these matters.

Keep informed by visiting Henniker’s web page as often as possible.

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com

 

 

 

 

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Western Ave Reconstruction Costs Continue to Escalate! Board of Selectmen Violate Right to Know Statute…Again!

Your_Right_to_KnowThe HBOS (Henniker Board of Selectmen) held a properly called and noticed meeting on Friday October 27, 2017. (Notice)

In compliance with RSA 91:A, ” “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussion and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.” RSA 91-A:1,”  the Town of Henniker routinely posts all Public Meeting Notices on the town’s web page.

The only item of business on the posted Public Notice for the Public Meeting (Notice) was to authorize the purchase of a sidewalk tractor and attachments.

However, the HBOS took action on TWO items that were not on the Public Notice:

  1. In just over 5 weeks (Item 5a page 4) a SECOND Change Order was issued for the Western Ave. Reconstruction project; “Chairman Blomback moved, Selectman Flynn seconded to authorize the Town Administrator to sign a change order with Pike Industries for a cost increase for a winter binder. Motion passed 4-0.” The minutes reflect that a decision was made and action taken despite the fact that no such item was Noticed to the Public for action in the public meeting. Most importantly, the minutes reflect that no explanation, discussion or deliberations of the cost increases mentioned in bullet point #1 occurred. (minutes page 2) How much was this increase for?
  2. “Selectman Flynn moved, Selectman French seconded to appoint Stefanie Costello as Emergency Management Director for a three year term to expire on September 1, 2020. Motion passed 2-1-0,Chairman Blomback was opposed.”

    A properly called non-public session was  held on October 27th for the expressed purpose of  interviewing candidates for the Emergency Management Director’s position.  Item #8 Minutes from the October 17th HBOS meeting, “The closing date for the Emergency Management Director was October 6th, 2017. Interviews will be held on Friday, October 27th beginning at 9AM.” The minutes reflect that a decision was made and action taken despite the fact that no such item was Noticed to the Public for action in the public meeting. Most importantly, the minutes reflect that no explanation, discussion or deliberations as to the reasons why a NEW director was being hired. (minutes page 2) OHB will have a separate blog specifically detailing this decision.

Taking action on items that are NOT on the posted Public Meeting Notice, violates the Right to Know Law! This type of deception should not be tolerated.

Items of Public Interest, such as project cost overruns,  should always be discussed and deliberated in open public meetings. Failure to do so is poor Corporate Governance.

Why do we continue to tolerate being kept in the dark?

We place our Trust on our elected officials who SWEAR an OATH-a covenant-to make sure that we are fully informed…These kind of actions damage that covenant and weakens my trust.

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com

 

 

 

 

 

Your Vested Property Rights…Investment Backed Expectations…OHRV’s & ZONING!

PROPERTY RIGHTS AND THE COURT“Property” isn’t the land itself. It’s the bundle of rights that people forming social groups divvy among themselves when they agree not to fight over the use of that land (and form a government to enforce that agreement). It’s not what you keep behind your castle wall – it’s what keeps you from having to build a castle wall. (Waugh, B)

And that agreement in Henniker is known as The Town of Henniker Zoning Regulations Chapter 133. I would suggest everyone become intimately familiar with this document.

The Zoning Regulations define in words those bundle of property rights that our social group that we call the Town of Henniker have assigned to our property.

The basis for this agreement is the Investment Backed Expectation that each and everyone of us has assigned to the properties of Henniker and the Government that was established to enforce that agreement has pledged to uphold!

These rights have been challenged in the court system many times.  Each time the NH Supreme Court has rendered a decision that has clarified the definitions of those agreed upon rights as written in our Zoning Regulations Chapter 133.

The court has made it quite clear that the heart of the doctrine that defines our property rights is, “Justified investment-backed expectations.”

In 1986, Henniker’s legislative body voted in town wide zoning (page 9 & 21); 1986 ANNUAL REPORT ZONING AND CIVIC ASSOCIATION

Right now for the record, OHB is not a fan of Zoning! Why, because most people fail to review and amend Zoning Ordinances on a regular basis. In other words what was once good in the past can become very bad in the future!

And when review and amending does occur, it usually comes from a hand picked, self serving and controlling Planning Board who inadequately informs the pbulic of the liberties we are giving up.

That vote recorded by Town Clerk Janet Murdough, page 21 1986 ANNUAL REPORT codified our EXPECTATIONS of what kinds of activity can take place on our property.

We voted in a permissive zoning ordinance. Which means all activities are prohibited unless listed as permitted. Hence the document’s list of permitted uses in all zones.

Since the use permitted would be too long, the legislative body chose to adopt the plain wording of Primary Use and Use accessory to permitted use. Accessory uses are further defined in the ordinance as, “A building or use subordinate and customarily incidental to the main building or use on the same lot.”

Needless to say, many folks have varying definitions as to what is customarily incidental. So the NH Supreme Court was called in and has defined Henniker’s customarily and incidental clause for us;

         “Consistent with the common law, the Town’s ordinance defines an accessory use as   a “use subordinate and customarily incidental to the main . . .use on the same lot.”  The definition of accessory use in the ordinance involves several distinct elements.  See Becker v. Town of Hampton Falls, 117 N.H. 437,

440 (1977) (discussing ordinance that defined accessory uses as those that are “customarily incidental and subordina[te]” (quotation omitted)). “[I]ncidental” and “subordinate” incorporate the requirement that the accessory use be minor in relation to the primary use and that it bear a reasonable relationship to that use.  Id.; see Marchand v. Town of Hudson, 147 N.H. 380, 383 (2001).

“[C]ustomarily” imposes an additional requirement that the accessory use “has commonly, habitually and by long practice been established as reasonably associated with the primary . . . use” in the local area. Becker, 117 N.H. at 441 (referring to “local custom”); see Town of Windham v. Alfond, 129 N.H. 24, 29 (1986).  “While the strength or degree of the customary or habitual association does not lend itself to definition by formula, and while the combination need not occur in a majority of instances of the principal use, the uses must be associated with a frequency that is substantial enough to rise above rarity.” Alfond, 129 N.H. at 29 (citation omitted).” [emphasis added]

Which now brings us to our current problem of our High Impact Public Trails System that has been developed in our Rural Residential Zone for Off Highway Recreational Vehicles (OHRV) and the disturbances that it creates.

Considering that the Zoning Ordinance has been in effect for more than 30 years, the owners of property in the Rural Residential Zone have established reasonable investment-backed expectations!

It is clear that those expectations was not to have hundreds of OHRV’s/day passing-by their properties on roads (which are clearly designed and maintained in a condition for the primary permitted users only) turned into a High Impact Public Trail System.

It would appear that the doctrine of “customarily incidental” is being violated here. It would appear that the BOS are in direct contempt of the NH Supreme Court ruling regarding Henniker’s Zoning Ordinance’s Customarily Incidental clause.

OHB encourages the BOS to take time, before their next meeting, to understand their duty to enforce our Zoning Ordinance in light of the NH Supreme Court’s rulings on this very issue.

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Messenger Newspaper claims Town Administrator Trovato pressured paving contractor to falsify Western Avenue report! Improper conduct must not be tolerated!

see+no+evil (Copy) The October 6, 2017 edition of The Messenger (Page 5) states unknown sources as saying Mr. Caleb Connor (Pike Industries the road paving contractor), “felt pressured by Administrator Trovato to certify that the reclamation went down 18, but he refused to falsify his report.”

This contradicts testimony given by project engineer Mike Vignale at the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting minutes on September 19th 2017; Item 2 Old Business, “With regard to the stones and reclaim, he [Vignale] said he did not see the reclaim go in and when talking to people they only came across a few stones. Looking at the exposed edge of reclaim, he measured it to be 18 inches thick. He looked in about 30-40 locations, and took measurements. Chair Blomback asked if in his opinion it was ready to be paved. He said yes. He said there were gaps in the guardrails but they will be replaced in a few weeks.” [emphasis added]

In an email sent to the BOS (page 11 of 82), Mr. Connor explicitly states that the machine used by Pike could go to a maximum depth of 22 inches, Pike only went to a NHDOT industry standard depth of approximately 10-12 inches.

This entire project has been filled with controversy. An unauthorized change in approved construction sequencing of drain placement and paving has not only delayed this project way beyond the scheduled  August completion date but has cost us an additional $19,000 as well.

Now more controversy has arisen over the lack of boulder removal. A quick review of the approved engineering plans, Division 2100 Earthwork Part 1 General Section 1.3 D (page 7 of 31) clearly states how the boulder issue is to be handled, “Removal of boulders within the existing pavement area within 24” of the current finish grade and over 2 cubic feet.”

Clearly the approved plans call for the inspection for boulders to be conducted to a depth of 24 inches!

Yet Pike has confirmed that their reclamation was only to 10-12 inches and the Town’s engineer claims he has measured 18 inches! ???????????

Everyone should be concerned that this entire project is being mismanaged.

The necessary information is not being gathered and put into a concise report…and that is the job of the Town Administrator. This dysfunction will drive contractors make contractors to think twice about bidding on our proposals. And when they do bid, they most certainly will build in an increase “aggravation fee”.

The BOS must take swift action to investigate this allegation of improper conduct by the Town Administrator!

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com

 

It’s October 1st…Budget Time…What’s in your wallet? What YOU can do to change your Property Tax Rate…

property-tax-cartoon (Copy) Don’t wait until it is too late! Start planning now on how you want to do to help control your property tax rate.

The most important that you must know is that YOU do have a say in how much property tax you pay.

Become a local government expert. The best place to go for a basic understanding of how local government works is the NH Municipal Association’s web site. Use their search bar in the upper right corner of the home page. Type in Annual meeting and find a whole slew full of writings.

You can search and find information about anything town government does. Take advantage of their publications. You can find a list of their published resources here.

Budget Advisory Committee/Board of Selectmen budget development meetings are scheduled for Saturday November 4, 2017 and Saturday November 18, 2017 @ 8:30 am. Hopefully the town’s new live streaming network will be up and running so you can watch the meetings from home.

Those joint meetings consist of each Town Department coming before a group of 10 people and explaining their budget requests. Hopefully copies of the proposed budget requests will be published on line at the Town’s web site. I would strongly urge each and everyone of you demand Town Hall to place the proposed budget on the web page.

The proposed budget, in its entirety is created and stored in an electronic form by employees who are paid from our property tax dollars and on computers paid for by our property tax dollars.

Therefore, there should be no reason why it cannot be placed on a tax payer funded web page.

As soon as the Budget Advisory Committee (which OHB is on)  sets their date to review the proposed budget and deliberates recommended changes to the Select Board, I will let you know.

We are the legislative body…We control what is spent at town hall…Study the budget from the beginning and don’t wait to the last minute…ask questions and demand answers!

Median Household Income in Henniker is below the state average. We have the 10th highest tax rate…this is not sustainable!

 

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com

 

 

 

 

Out of the woods…OHRV trail expansion targets Rush Road and Hillside Drive for Country Spirit Connection!

HONING IN II (Copy)  OHRV trail expansion once again took center stage at the BOS meeting Tuesday, September 19, 2017. This time BOS Chairman Kris Blomback alerted the audience that the OHRV committee is trying to expand the trail system to connect to Country Spirit Restaurant.

The committee originally floated the idea of using the sidewalks over the Rte. 114 bridge to cross over Rte. 202/9 from the north. However, the State of New Hampshire put the brakes on that idea.

Mr Blomback noted that the OHRV committee (Blomback is Select Board Representative) will once again be exploring the use of Rush Road to go under 202/9 to make the connection to Country Spirit. Looking at a map any sane individual can clearly see that the path from Edmunds’ parking lot to Hillside Drive would be the most logical connection to Rush Road. Wake up Hillside Drive homeowners!

Despite the fact that back on March 4, 2014, this very same request to use Rush Road was denied by the State of New Hampshire. What has changed? If the State of New Hampshire allows this now….one must recognize the contradiction and demand answers from the Attorney General’s office. (read here)

        “Mr. McGirr noted that one point made by Ross Bennett was that the Contoocook Valley ATV Riders are trying to turn Henniker into a tourist meca. They are in fact, just trying to get from one point to another. The club went to the Selectmen to ask for permission to utilize Rush Road, but the State said no to Rush Road. The club went back to the drawing board to come up with another route to connect the trails. (page 2 paragraph 3)

This expansion has always been billed as necessary for our local business. But of course when Mr. Bennett suggested that this might bring too many people who don’t respect the trail system and the peace and tranquility it provides residents in the Rural Residential Zone, (BOS meeting February 18, 2014)

“He [Mr. Bennett] is worried that the ordinance as written is not good for public welfare and is expressly written to develop OHRV tourism in town.” [snip] “Mr. Bennett noted that a recent article about the law enforcements issues in Coos County refers to a “wild west” mentality surround the trails and Fish and Game and law enforcement offices receive complaints about ATVs everyday”

.

Then two weeks after mr. Bennett’s comments March 4, 2014 , Scott Dias was quick to respond.

“Scott Dias, Craney Hill, sympathizes with the concerns brought forth. He said that there is a group of about 35 people and they most likely will not all be riding at the same time. He does not agree with the comparisons to the North Country because they are in economic doom and are trying to do what they can to create tourism. Mr. Dias supports the ordinance.”

What is most disconcerting is this, back on January 21, 2014 Chairman Blomback expressed his “concerns for liability” and the safety of ATV which are not recommended on paved roads. (page 2 paragraph 5)

Now anything goes. What has changed since 2014??? Why have your concerns gone away Mr. Blomback?

We were told that up North economic doom caused them to throw all caution to the wind and open up the north country…and HAVOC ensued.

Henniker is not as rural as the North Country…opening up property improved is cause for concern…and the peace and tranquility of your home is at stake here!

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com

 

 

 

 

Henniker’s Unpaid, Un-Redeemed Tax Problem…. Answer: RSA 80:76 Tax Deed…

delinquent-taxes1 (Copy) Trying to understand the overall tax requirements to run a town can be quite confusing. One has to work through a blizzard of RSA’s that regulate how all taxes (including your property tax) are created, levied and collected.

Then there is the creation of the town budget that outlines how much property tax actually needs to be collected. By the way…Department Heads will be presenting their budgets to the Board of Selectmen on Saturday, November 4th and Saturday, November 18th. Both of these meetings will start at 8:30am and be held at the Town Hall.

(I urge the public to attend these two meetings so you can observe how the budget is constructed. The Budget Advisory Committee (volunteers appointed by the BOS) will meet after that to deliberate suggested alterations of the draft budget. Since OHB is on that committee, I will alert you to the time and date of that meeting.)

Once one gets through the above mentioned required rules and regulations, you will discover that Town Government must operate under more rules and regulations  when trying to collect the UNPAID property taxes.

So what did OHB do over the summer? I opened an account online at the Merrimack County Registry of Deeds (click here). Inside this web site one can do title searches of all properties in Merrimack County, including good ole Henniker.

The drop down search menu for documents on this site is extensive, easily over 300 different types of personal documents are indexed and searchable. Including, mortgages, mortgage discharges, foreclosures, property tax lien notices, property tax liens and property tax lien redemption.

RSA 80:76 Tax Deed requires the Town’s Tax Collector to deliver a Collection Tax Deed to the Town on properties that have failed to redeem  properly recorded Tax Lien. (RSA 80:76) 

As er the RSA, the Town of Henniker has the right to refuse the Tax Deed as outlined below:

  • II. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I, the collector shall not execute a deed of the real estate to a municipality when the governing body of the municipality has notified the collector that it shall not accept the deed because acceptance would subject the municipality to potential liability as an owner of property under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. section 9601 et seq., the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. section 6901 et seq., RSA 147-A and 147-B, and any other federal or state environmental statute which imposes strict liability on owners for environmental impairment of the real estate involved.
    II-a. In addition to the circumstances described in paragraph II, the governing body of the municipality may refuse to accept a tax deed on behalf of the municipality, and may so notify the collector, whenever in its judgment acceptance and ownership of the real estate would subject the municipality to undesirable obligations or liability risks, including obligations under real estate covenants or obligations to tenants, or for any other reason would be contrary to the public interest. Such a decision shall not be made solely for the private benefit of a taxpayer.
    III. When a governing body has, under paragraph II or II-a, served notice upon the collector it shall not accept the deed, the tax lien shall remain in effect indefinitely, retaining its priority over other liens. The taxpayer’s right of redemption as provided by RSA 80:69 shall likewise be extended indefinitely, with interest continuing to accrue as provided in that section. The tax lien may be enforced by the municipality by suit as provided under RSA 80:50, and through any remedy provided by law for the enforcement of other types of liens and attachments. If at any time, in the judgment of the municipal governing body, the reasons for refusing the tax deed no longer apply, and the tax lien has not been satisfied, the governing body may instruct the collector to issue the tax deed, and the collector shall do so after giving the notices required by RSA 80:77 and 80:77-a.

Upon reviewing Henniker and Merrimack County Registry of Deeds records, one will find properties on the Town of Henniker’s Tax Lien list that are more than 2 years un-redeemed and NO Tax Deeds have been executed.

The last tax deed issued and recorded at the Merrimack  County Registry of Deeds is dated August 13, 2014. The 5.6 acre property is located at the corner of Longview Drive and River Road (lot 612-B2)

A review of Board of Selectmen minutes shows no agenda item refusing the acceptance of any Tax Deeds for the reasons indicated in the RSA, despite numerous properties being tax delinquent for more than two years.

WHY?

Part II: how some homeowners, since the 1980’s, have been gaming the system by paying their two year lien in May and in June are right back on the unpaid tax list with a fresh new lien which will be paid in two years.

OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..

“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”

http://www.onlyhennikerbruce.com