Francestown

Town comparing planning options

Informational session on consultant options to be held Dec. 10

FRANCESTOWN — The Select Board will host an informational session about the potential of switching regional planning commissions.

Whether a town pays yearly dues to a regional planning commission or not, every town is still a member of a planning commission regardless, Town Administrator Michael Branley said in an interview Tuesday. At the moment, Francestown is a nonpaying member of the Southwest Regional Planning Commission, which services 35 towns in the state.

According to Branley, the town has never really looked into the other neighboring regional commission, the Southern N.H. Regional Planning Commission, which services 14 towns in New Hampshire.

Branley said Francestown has not had problems with the Southwest Commission, but is interested in learning more about the Southern N.H. Commission. “I’m not saying Southwest is not a good planning commission,” he said.

In early October, Branley said he was emailing Southwest Commission Executive Director Tim Murphy about updating the town’s master plan and the topic of regional planning commissions was discussed, and Murphy told him that if the town didn’t think the Southwest Commission was a good fit, they should explore other options.

“We haven’t looked at Southern as an option before,” Branley said. He mentioned, however, that the Southern N.H. Commission has helped Francestown in the past with water issues associated with the Piscataquog River.

Branley said that even as a nonpaying member, Southwest Regional can still provide Francestown with planning help. This past year, Southwest helped the town with its hazard mitigation plan. Branley said the Southwest Commission attended meetings in Francestown, organized information and helped with correspondence with the federal government, which reviews the mitigation plan.

For towns that are due-paying members of a planning commission, Branley said the yearly cost ranges from $1,000 to $2,000. He said the last time Francestown paid dues to the Southwest Commission was in 2009, and the total cost for a year of service was $1,700.

Chief Planner at Southern N.H. Commission Jack Munn said in an interview Wednesday that for dues-paying members, the commission can do hands-on research for the town, help with ordinances and developing reports. For non-dues-paying commission members, Munn said the commission functions strictly as advisers and can provide the town with information and respond to requests pertaining to ongoing projects.

“We sent out information and emails, we went to conservation commission meetings and held watershed-wide public forums that all towns were invited to,” Munn said about the help provided to Francestown regarding the Piscataquog River.

Francestown is located on the edge of the Southwest region, which includes 35 towns and runs from Francestown northwest to the Vermont border and south to the Massachusetts border. However, Francestown also shares a border with Weare and New Boston, which are located in the Southern region. Although the Southern N.H. Commission seems like a smaller commission, Branley mentioned that some of those 14 towns it serves are larger than the towns in the Southwest Commission. The Southern N.H. Commission includes highly populated areas like Manchester and Derry.

The town’s informational session will take place Dec. 10 at the town offices and include presentations from the executive directors of the Southwest Regional Planning Commission and the Southern N.H. Regional Planning Commission about their organizations and regions.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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