Freedom – March 8, 2009 — Whether to buy land now to build a municipal complex or wait for a more complete accounting of building options and costs is one of a number of important decisions Freedom residents will make at Town Meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. this Tuesday, March 10.
Article 4, proposed by the selectmen, asks the Town to appropriate $70,000 from the Municipal Land and Building Capital Reserve Fund to purchase up to 12 acres near the junction of Route 153 and the Ossipee Lake Road for the eventual consolidation of the town’s offices and police and fire departments.
Article 26, meanwhile, asks that the Town delay purchasing the land until the full cost of the proposed consolidation is known and there has been a professional assessment of the potential to expand and upgrade the town’s existing buildings and land.
The recommendation to delay comes from Freedom Cares, a grassroots organization that formed last year to consider how Freedom can retain its unique community character while accommodating growth. At the top of the group’s list of concerns is the impact on the town’s character of moving town offices and meeting space outside the village district.
Since the group’s formation, several public meetings and letters to local newspapers have helped frame the issue. While both sides agree that Town properties need improvements, Freedom Cares members argue that purchasing land without a building plan and without knowing the full cost of the project isn’t prudent; and that the impact of empty, unused town buildings in the village has not been adequately considered.
For their part, the selectmen say they believe the town has already approved the idea of consolidating town services because residents approved funding the Municipal Land and Building Capital Reserve Fund at three previous Town Meetings.
While they concede that the only known cost of the proposed consolidation is the price of the land and that they have not conducted a professional feasibility study of upgrading existing properties, they argue that suitable land is in short supply and simply buying land does not commit the town to building anything on it.
At a recent public meeting, a number of citizens asked that the competing articles be discussed together at Town Meeting rather than separately, as the schedule now dictates. Citing the tradition of considering articles in the order in which they were approved, the selectmen declined.
In related Warrant Articles 23 and 24, voters will be asked whether to approve a Heritage Commission, which will be a volunteer group of 3-7 citizens appointed by the selectmen and charged with preserving the community character through conservation of historic buildings and sites and other means. The articles were petitioned by Freedom Cares and are supported by the selectmen 2-1.
In another significant vote, Freedom residents will decide whether to approve amendments to the zoning ordinance in accordance with state law RSA 674:58-61. The amendment can be read here.
As proposed by the Planning Board, Warrant Article 2 would permit single-family workforce housing in parts of the General Residential, Residential/Light Commercial and Rural Residential Districts; and to permit multi-family workforce housing in the Residential/Light Commercial District and part of the Rural Residential District along Route 153.
In Ossipee, voters will be asked whether to approve $19,500 to study consolidating the town’s fire precincts. At present, the town has three independent fire precincts, each with its own chief and separate fire commissions. The selectmen have recommended the study.
Ossipee voters will also consider additional sidewalks in Center Ossipee village via two warrant articles. Sidewalks and crosswalks became a notable issue in town after a pedestrian was struck and killed in the village several years ago.
Voters will decide whether to allocate $75,000 for planning, laying out and installing sidewalks and extending sidewalks up Moultonville Road, down Dore Street to Annie Nichols Road; to Dorr’s Corner Road, down Folsom Road to Route 16B and up Grant Hill Road to connect with the sidewalks by the school. The selectmen have recommended against both articles.
Voting for elected town officials and balloting on zoning amendments will be held the Town Hall in Center Ossipee, on Tuesday, March from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Town Meeting, where voting takes place on the warrant articles, will take place the next night, on Wednesday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m.