Rindge

A small town’s growing vision

Residents grapple with  economic identity

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Roger Hawk, planning consultant with Hawk Planning Resources in Concord, spoke with residents at a meeting at the West Rindge Methodist Church on June 27 about the importance of developing an economic vision for Rindge.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Roger Hawk, planning consultant with Hawk Planning Resources in Concord, spoke with residents at a meeting at the West Rindge Methodist Church on June 27 about the importance of developing an economic vision for Rindge.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Zoning Board member Marcia Breckenridge said having lived in Rindge for 30 years she favors open space and not high density development.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Zoning Board member Marcia Breckenridge said having lived in Rindge for 30 years she favors open space and not high density development.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Select Board member Roberta Oeser listens in as residents express their thoughts about future economic development at the intersection of routes 119 and 202 and West Rindge Village at a community input meeting on June 27.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Select Board member Roberta Oeser listens in as residents express their thoughts about future economic development at the intersection of routes 119 and 202 and West Rindge Village at a community input meeting on June 27.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Planning Board Vice Chair Kim McCummings tells residents that it's important for the town of Rindge to anticipate change and encourage the type of development that the people want to see.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Planning Board Vice Chair Kim McCummings tells residents that it's important for the town of Rindge to anticipate change and encourage the type of development that the people want to see.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.
    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Kaitlyn Smith of Greenfield, an occupational therapist, talks about her support for PTSD patients' access to medical marijuana at a cafe in Depot Square in downtown Peterborough.<br/>(Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)

    Kaitlyn Smith of Greenfield, an occupational therapist, talks about her support for PTSD patients' access to medical marijuana at a cafe in Depot Square in downtown Peterborough.
    (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Kenny Finn of Greenfield says in a recent interview in downtown Peterborough that he fears the recent medical marijuana legislation will be abused.<br/>(Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)

    Kenny Finn of Greenfield says in a recent interview in downtown Peterborough that he fears the recent medical marijuana legislation will be abused.
    (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Roger Hawk, planning consultant with Hawk Planning Resources in Concord, spoke with residents at a meeting at the West Rindge Methodist Church on June 27 about the importance of developing an economic vision for Rindge.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Zoning Board member Marcia Breckenridge said having lived in Rindge for 30 years she favors open space and not high density development.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Select Board member Roberta Oeser listens in as residents express their thoughts about future economic development at the intersection of routes 119 and 202 and West Rindge Village at a community input meeting on June 27.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Planning Board Vice Chair Kim McCummings tells residents that it's important for the town of Rindge to anticipate change and encourage the type of development that the people want to see.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Residents discuss future economic development at the Route 119 and Route 202 intersection, in addition to West Rindge Village at a community input session on June 27.<br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Kaitlyn Smith of Greenfield, an occupational therapist, talks about her support for PTSD patients' access to medical marijuana at a cafe in Depot Square in downtown Peterborough.<br/>(Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • Kenny Finn of Greenfield says in a recent interview in downtown Peterborough that he fears the recent medical marijuana legislation will be abused.<br/>(Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)

Change can be difficult sometimes, even an unnerving experience that muddies your perception of the world and makes you nostalgic for the way things were five years ago, or even 50 years ago. But as the old adage goes, change is inevitable. It’s one of the only constants in life.

For residents who have lived in Rindge from birth through retirement, they’ve seen the Massachusetts-border town grow with the addition of a private university and commercial retail stores that many never imagined would one day be a part of the rural landscape. Today, Franklin Pierce University is the town’s largest employer, with 75 full-time faculty and 189 full-time staff, in addition to part-time employees, and large-scale retailers on Route 202 — including Walmart, Hannaford, Market Basket and Tractor Supply — are a few of the reasons why out-of-staters venture north on a Saturday to shop.

But are those the reasons for which Rindge wants to be known to visitors? In short, what is the town’s economic identity?

Residents may look to their neighbors for answers, but discover that no matter a town’s stage of economic development the pros and cons of encouraging more is an ongoing debate. In Peterborough, residents are weighing the feasibility of a new arts hub downtown — the details of which are a bit nebulous at the moment — and opportunities to partner with existing businesses to accomplish that aim and bring more jobs to the region. In Jaffrey, a proposed Route 202 roundabout and bridge project designed to funnel through traffic away from downtown has received mixed reviews from Main Street business owners who fear the project may divert potential customers and thereby have a negative impact on the local economy.

Without proper planning, some Rindge residents said at a community input session on June 27 that their little town could easily become a strip mall, lined with retail outlets they never wanted. Others said they welcomed change, noting the benefits. Without it, they argued, future generations could leave Rindge because there won’t be the jobs capable of supporting families and the recreational activities to interest them. Even still, a small group of residents maintained they’d be happy if Rindge remained a “pass-through” town, with the intersection of routes 119 and 202 an open bed of pavement and terrain.

In January 2012, Plan N.H., a nonprofit planning organization, provided engineers, architects and other business professionals to help residents develop a concept plan for the Route 202 and Route 119 intersection. The town had submitted an application in 2011 to Plan NH’s Charrette Committee, whose members endorsed the proposed West Rindge development and committed up to $30,000 in consultant work , at an expense of $5,000 to Rindge. The input received showed residents’ interest in small-scale development, including the addition of a bakery or coffee shop, arts and entertainment space, as well as accommodations for professional offices. The residents who participated in the workshop also identified bike-friendly space and new walking paths as important assets of a new town center.

Some of those same ideas were revisited on June 27 by a packed crowd at the West Rindge Methodist Church, where Roger Hawk, planning consultant with Hawk Planning Resources in Concord, spoke about the importance of developing an economic vision for Rindge, and possible zoning and regulation changes that could help carry that vision forward.

But community response to development at the intersection of routes 119 and 202, in addition to West Rindge Village — where Mountain Road and Bradford Street merge onto Route 202 near J.P. Stephens Restaurant and Tavern — was deeply divided, with longtime residents of the village speaking adamantly against change and new zoning regulations.

Zoning regulations that would guide future development in West Rindge Village, but not other sections of town, don’t make sense, said resident Rick Sirvint. He said that just because the town prefers a certain architectural style in the village doesn’t mean that residents of the village should have to comply and be subject to it. The question of why Rindge’s economic future is tied to West Rindge Village is one Sirvint put to town officials, who in response have argued that it is a gateway to the town for those headed south on Route 202 from Jaffrey.

Sirvint also opposed the addition of sidewalks in the village, which he said would be a significant burden for the town to maintain.

“I don’t want Rindge to look like Jaffrey or Winchendon,” he said.

Larry Cleveland, who has lived in West Rindge Village his entire life, agreed, saying he doesn’t want to see the area around his home succumb to development. “If you just took West Rindge Village out of the equation, a lot of the controversy would go away,” he said.

But not everyone at the meeting saw eye-to-eye about economic development. Resident Elisa Benincaso, who has lived in Rindge since 1985, spoke about her experience growing up in Italy. Today, she said there are a lot of abandoned villages in her home country because people had to leave to find work elsewhere. Benincaso said she doesn’t want to see the same scenario play out in Rindge.

In a follow-up interview with the Ledger-Transcript on July 1, Benincaso said, “We can either be in control and create a wonderful community, or we can allow change to happen in a haphazard way and let ourselves be victimized by those who do not have the best interests of Rindge at heart.”

A plan to attract to Rindge low-impact, environmentally friendly businesses that provide decent paying jobs with benefits, as well as a defined town center with locally owned shops and cafes are missing from the Rindge economy, Benincaso said. While there is little denying that some residents would like to see the town remain a pass-through town, Benincaso said she hopes that one day Rindge will embrace the qualities that make it unique and become a destination.

Select Board member Roberta Oeser, who also attended the June 27 meeting, said in a interview last week that the town should encourage smaller, cottage industry stores, and not additional big box stores at this time. Development in West Rindge Village will most likely grow from people’s unique passions or hobbies, she said, adding that a florist shop, bakery, or bicycle shop are businesses that people can easily start at home or in an adjacent building.

Without public water and sewer in Rindge, Oeser said the village district doesn’t have the resources to resemble downtown Jaffrey. A somewhat more developed Jaffrey Center on the other hand may be within the realm of possibilities, she said.

“What we need to do as a community is to lay the groundwork to make sure that the change we get is the change we want, instead of trying to stop the future from happening,” Oeser said.

Since Pat Martin moved to Rindge in 1999 she’s grown to love the town for “its character and its characters,” she said, explaining that it’s the people who have the power to shape the direction of their town as active participants.

Today, Martin said she defines Rindge’s economic identity as one tied to the construction industry and higher education — two assets that Rindge can use in refining that identity in the years ahead.

“At this stage of the game, the future of FPU and the future of Rindge are intertwined,” Martin said. But more needs to be done to strengthen those ties and improve the relationships between the youth in the community — both those attending FPU and Rindge natives — and the adults, she said. Through the work of the Town Gown, university and town officials are striving to accomplish that aim, according to Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini.

“You can’t expect to build a bright future if you alienate and recoil from the people who will inhabit it,” Martin said.

President of FPU James Birge and his wife, Lisa, both of whom live in Rindge, attended the community input session at the Rindge Methodist Church. Birge said Rindge’s rural character could be viewed as a double-edged sword, because while the beauty attracts students to FPU the lack of retail shops and restaurants in Rindge also prompt students to transfer.

This summer, Hawk is expected to prepare more detailed concepts of a new Rindge town center in the area of the Route 202 and Route 119 intersection and West Rindge Village. He said he plans to present those revised concepts to the Planning Board this fall, when additional meetings will be held in order to elicit public input.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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