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Conservation Measure Ties in Lyme After Lengthy Debate

  • Lyme Parish Nurse Ellen Thompson is hugged by Rev. Amy Hayden of the Lyme Congregational Church after Thompson was named Lyme Citizen of the Year during Town Meeting on March 13, 2018 in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ballot clerk Paul Klee counts votes during the Lyme Town Meeting on March 13, 2018 in Lyme, N.H. After counting the yes or no paper votes the count was a tie, ending with the amended article on current use being defeated. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lyme residents Hoyt Alverson, left, Stephanie Carney, and Alexis Schleicher listen during their Town Meeting on March 13, 2018, in Lyme N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Robert's Rules of Order on hand at the Lyme Town Meeting on March 13, 2018 in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ballot clerks Kris Pekala, right, with Jenny Bent is given the thumbs up on a voter at the check-in table at the Lyme Town Meeting on March 13, 2018 in Lyme, N.H. The clerks use the yard stick to get the attention from ballot clerks at the voter registration table. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lucia Santos, 6, and Oliver Santos, 3, eat their lunch during the Lyme Town Meeting on March 13, 2018 in Lyme, N.H. They were standing with their parents Amelia and Fernando Santos. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lyme — Town Meeting Day voters were evenly split — literally — about whether to redirect money collected in penalties paid by property owners when they take land out of current use.

After much debate and two paper ballot votes, the final tally was 92 to 92 on an amended version of an article that would have redirected penalty payments away from the Conservation Commission fund to a land use change tax fund unless the amount held in the conservation fund dropped below $100,000.

The tie vote amounted to a rejection of the proposal.

“It’s important to show up,” Moderator Kevin Peterson said after announcing the results.

At the polls on Tuesday, Lyme voters approved a hotly contested petitioned warrant article to extend the southern boundary of the town’s commercial district for two lots on Route 10 which belong to Lyme resident Bret Ryan.

A counterpetition resulted in a requirement that the article’s passage must be approved by a two-thirds vote, which it was with 366 votes in support of the change to 150 against. 

In comments on the town’s Listserv in recent weeks some residents expressed concerns about spot zoning, while others described the amendment as a way to allow the development of property that could help offset some of the town’s property tax burden.

Voters also approved three other zoning articles and elected town and school officers at the polls on Tuesday. There were no major contested races.

Roads continue to weigh heavily on the town’s finances. In addition to approving a $2.25 million operating budget — to which voters approved adding $1,500 to increase the salary of a summer day-camp coordinator — voters also approved spending nearly $250,000 to stabilize the portion of River Road that sits south of Grant Brook and $200,000 to repair and stabilize Baker Hill Road — a north-south road that serves as an alternative to Route 10.

Selectboard member Sue MacKenzie said she hopes the repairs to River Road will result in reopening the section of the road that sits south of Grant Brook by the end of the year.

“We’re optimistic that this is going to work,” she said to applause.

MacKenzie also showed Town Meeting attendees pictures of damage Baker Hill Road incurred in rainstorms on July 1. The $200,000 will not be enough to cover the cost of the necessary repairs, but it will be a start, MacKenzie said.

“They are critical,” MacKenzie said of the road projects.

In other floor votes on Tuesday, Lyme voters also approved spending $21,000 to conduct a culvert inventory, in hopes that better understanding where improvements are needed will help to prevent road damage in future storms.

Voters also approved spending to support capital reserve funds, an Independence Day celebration and milfoil treatment for Post Pond.

The proposed redirection of the current use penalty funds, which recently have resulted in an average of $6,000 annually for the Conservation Commission, inspired the most discussion, with voters on both sides of the issue weighing in.

Members of the Conservation Commission opposed the measure, while the Selectboard supported it as a way to help reduce property taxes.

Conservation Commissioner Meg Sheehan spoke against both the amended article and the original article, which would have redirected all current use penalties to the land use change tax fund, which — had voters approved the change — voters would have decided how to use at Town Meeting.

“I think it’s a slippery slope,” Sheehan said.

The commission uses its funds to support conservation projects, as well as to maintain town-owned lands, trails and water bodies, Sheehan said.

Selectman Rusty Keith said the Selectboard proposed the change because there is “no need to immediately acquire more conservation acreage in the town of Lyme.”

The town currently owns over 1,000 acres of tax-exempt land in Lyme, Keith said. And 92 percent of all the taxable land in Lyme is taxed at current use rates, he said.

Resident Duncan Mackintosh said he wasn’t convinced this change would make a difference for taxpayers.

“The overall issue here is what the town does with its money,” Mackintosh said. “Our town is spending more goddamn money than it has.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.