Members of the Master Plan Implementation Committee passionately petitioned the Planning Board not to dissolve their group of volunteers, arguing they still have much work to do to ensure the Town follows through with the goals of the Master Plan.
Chairman Art Rugg said the Committee has not provided specific deliverables and details regarding what they would like to see completed in the next year.
“It sounds like your work is done,” he said at the board’s Wednesday, Dec. 9 meeting.
Committee Chairman Deb Paul, who is publisher of the Londonderry Times, said scheduling conflicts, poor attendance among members and difficulty identifying the group’s mission caused a setback; but noted they have re-energized a core group of members and she thinks they will serve a critical function moving forward.
“I think it’s great we have this Committee in lieu of all the work that you have to do. To have a group to do all the legwork and research for you, I think, is pretty good,” she said.
The exchange got heated when Committee member Mary Tetreau accused Rugg of having “a hostile attitude toward our committee.”
Rugg said he was surprised to hear the Committee felt that way, and reiterated he was hoping for greater detail regarding specific actions the Committee would like to see the Board implement.
“It’s interesting to me you’re surprised because it’s been fairly obvious to our Committee,” Tetreau said. “We have other plans and I see you basically handing things off.”
Paul filed a complaint with Town Manager Kevin Smith the day after the meeting, saying she thinks Rugg treated her differently when she was presenting at the meeting than he would have treated any other volunteer heading up a subcommittee.
Smith said this is the first time in his tenure as town manager that he has received a complaint about an appointed member of a committee or board, and noted the complaint would be presented to the Town Council at its next meeting.
“We have people who say we want to stay together to do something, and you ask why there are so many openings on the boards and committees. People come to do things and feel good about it and they get shot down,” Paul said at the meeting.
“It’s up to this Board to determine what we want the Committee to do, and it’s up to us to determine what we want accomplished,” Rugg countered.
Moving forward, the Committee plans to focus on developing the concept for improvements to the Town Center, as well as collaborating with local farmers to promote agriculture and agritourism.
Paul said the group would like to host public forums where members of the community can provide input and share their vision for the Town Common, particularly those who will be most impacted by any changes.
Additionally, the Committee recommended the Town conduct environmental baselines for water and air quality.
“With all the building going on, we really should be checking them more and this should be on a more accelerated path,” member Mike Speltz said. “One of the recommendations in the Master Plan was to conduct some studies to look at some of our infrastructure, oriented toward natural resources, water quality and quantity, and sewer.”
The Board voted to recommend the Town Council reinstate the Town’s Environmental Baseline Study Committee, which would determine any costs associated with completing the work.
Speltz said the State owns an air quality station at Moose Hill School that collects data continuously, and having an engineer evaluate the data and compare it to air quality standards would be a minimal expense.
The Board also agreed to give the Master Plan Implementation Committee more time to grow its membership, with the expectation the Committee will come back with a more detailed proposal for future action.
“It’s probably not correctly called an implementation committee because we don’t have the power to implement anything. We rely on the organizations to implement these actions,” Speltz said, noting the group also does not have a budget.
“I’d like to see if they can recruit new members,” member Al Sypek said. “These people seem very passionate about it. I think, give them the chance.”
Geographic Information Services Manager John Vogl, who has provided support to the Committee at its meetings, said he thinks 13 members is a bit high for the group.
Additionally, Vogl said he thinks public hearings hosted by the Committee where members of the public could provide testimony about actions in the Master Plan, such as the Zoning Ordinance rewrite to commence in the near future, could be of significant value to the Planning Board.
“At the meetings we spend quite a bit of time trying to determine where the Committee belongs in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “There’s a lot of passion on the Committee, and there’s no lack of enthusiasm. But I think firm, decisive deliverables are difficult to come by, given the nature of that group.”
“I see us reaching out to ‘outside the box’ thinking, to get people with a vested interest to give us a fresh perspective, and we provide this input to you – a slice of the pie of people immediately affected, for example, by improvements to the Town Common,” Paul said.
Looking at a spreadsheet of Master Plan items the group plans to consider further, member Leitha Reilly said, “a lot of this isn’t done.”
“When everything starts to move in full motion, I don’t want to be saying, now we need a committee to start doing stuff, to do the legwork and present back to this Board ideas of where a number of these line items are taking us and the temperature of the community,” she said. “I don’t want to be in a position to be behind the eight ball when a lot of this gets going. The Master Plan is a living document, and we understood it to be a living document. I think this Board would be in a position that would put us under a lot of stress and strain if we don’t have resources to look into things.”