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Hanover Approves Higher Fees

Hanover — Drivers will soon be paying more to park in Hanover, and those seeking planning and zoning permits will also see an increase.

The Selectboard last night approved the increased parking and permit fees for the upcoming fiscal year, saying in the past it was necessary to expand parking downtown and bring the town more in line with permit fees of other communities. The proposals were part of a 24-page document, that included proposals to raise fees for ambulance and police service.

More than 20 people attended last night’s meeting on the town’s proposed rate and fee increases. The meeting comprised two public hearings — the first for the new rates and fees schedule and the second for a proposed town rental housing ordinance that would ensure safe living conditions for tenants.

All the proposals contained in the town’s fiscal year 2013-14 rate and fee schedule passed with few objections.

John Ruth, a Hanover resident and member of the finance committee, said the board’s goal of getting drivers to use the parking garage by street raising meter fees was misguided. Ruth — who said he was speaking only on his behalf and not as a member of the finance committee — said that although it’s inconvenient to “meter feed” throughout the day, it’s a less costly option than paying to park in the garage.

“If you want people to park in the garage, I encourage you to lower the fees,” Ruth said during the meeting.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said the town has not yet decided which parking meter plan it will adopt, but that none of the meter increases will go into effect before July 1. Meter fees on Main Street and in Lot 1 behind Town Hall are anticipated to increase to $1 per hour on or after July 1.

David Dostal, with the Hanover bicycle and pedestrian committee, asked the board to consider tapping the parking fund to explore transportation alternatives that would eliminate the need to build additional parking spaces.

“It’s important to point out that anyone who drives downtown becomes a pedestrian as soon as they get out of their car,” Dostal said during the meeting, suggesting that if there were more bike lanes and covered bike parking areas downtown, more residents would choose to walk or ride rather than drive.

During a Selectboard work session meeting two weeks ago, Parking Operations Supervisor Patrick O’Neill presented a variety of options for new, bank card-accepting parking meters and more aesthetically appealing traditional parking meters.

He also identified about 25 new parking spaces that could be added along Sargent Street, Lebanon Street, Sanborn Road and Hovey Lane.

Most of the attendees at last night’s meeting were there to hear public comment on the town’s proposed rental housing ordinance, an effort that has been in the works for more than five years and seeks to hold landlords accountable.

Several residents, who said they are landlords themselves, expressed concern that the ordinance provides more protection for the tenants than the landlords.

“There’s not an awful lot there for the landlord,” said Hanover resident Ann Crow, who has been renting to tenants since 1972. “There’s some of us that have been renting for a long time to people and it’s been very easy.”

Griffin reassured Crow and other concerned residents that the ordinance was not designed to be a mediation service between landlord and tenant. Rather, the ordinance would implement a free rental housing registration program and then require a building inspection only in the event of a formal, written complaint from a tenant or neighbor or if the town determines it needs to investigate. Those landlords who fail to register their rental properties would face a $500 fine and automatic registration by the town.

“We would not arbitrate between you and a tenant,” Griffin said. “Our role is to make sure that living units are safe and up to code.”

Any personal disputes between landlords and tenants regarding unpaid rent or other non-building code related issues would not be the town’s responsibility to resolve, Griffin said.

The second and final public hearing for the proposed rental housing ordinance will take place at the board’s next meeting on July 1.

A full overview of the approved rates and fees increases can be found on the town’s website at hanovernh.org.

Katie Mettler can be reached at 603-727-3234 or kmettler@vnews.com.