Hanover Keeps Floor Meeting

  • Hanover, N.H., residents Mary Donin, left, and Judi Colla, right, talk to Bruce Waters about voting against Hanover becoming an SB2 town on voting day as Melanie Podolec listens to a conversation supporting the article at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on May 8, 2018. This would split the traditional Town Meeting format into a deliberative session and a day of balloted voting. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Carly Geraci

  • Checklist supervisors Arlene Mahler, left, and Ann Bradley sort through files on voting day at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on May 8, 2018. The supervisors had to go through 900 files to send information cards to Dartmouth College seniors. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Carly Geraci

  • State Rep. Patricia Higgins, D-Hanover, holds a sign on voting day at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on May 8, 2018. Higgins was opposing a bid to have Hanover become an SB2 town. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/9/2018 12:21:21 AM
Modified: 5/9/2018 12:21:27 AM

Hanover — Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to change Hanover’s Town Meeting format, electing to maintain its traditional floor meeting.

Residents voted, 694-132, to reject a warrant article that called for Hanover to become an “SB2” town, which would have split the traditional Town Meeting into two parts — a deliberative session where voters can amend articles and a day of ballot voting on those articles.

Under state law, the article would have required a ballot vote, and would have had to pass by a three-fifths majority in order to take effect next year.

“It’s a great event for people to come out and see one another once a year,” said Hanover Judi Colla, of the traditional floor meeting. “To lose that is sad.”

Prior to the vote, opponents argued that moving to an SB2 format would destabilize the town’s annual budgeting process. Deliberative sessions too often are attended by few people who can hold too much influence on decision making, they said.

“A small group of people — oftentimes people who are disgruntled with the budget — can come in and they can change that budget drastically,” Colla said while campaigning outside the polls.

“The budget can fluctuate wildly from one year to the next, which makes it very difficult for the Selectboard and the town manager to plan either in the  short term or the long term,” she said.

Proponents of the change had countered that more people would be able to participate in Town Meeting decisions by expanding ballot voting in Hanover.

“For the 100 people who show up at the nighttime meeting each year, they might feel like something is lost, though they could still attend the deliberative session,” said Daryl Press, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, who was campaigning for the SB2 proposal.

“For the hundreds and hundreds of voters whose voices aren’t heard because they have small children at home, or they work early in the morning, or they’re elderly and don’t have a ride, these arguments that something is lost is just a way of denying them the vote,” he said.

More than 800 people cast ballots this year, but only about 180 voted during the floor meeting. Hanover has about 8,000 registered voters.

Voters on Tuesday also approved $28.3 million in spending articles, which included the town’s operating budget, capital reserve spending and outside funding requests.

Both the cost of town salaries and employee benefits are set to increase in the coming year, said Selectboard Chairman Peter Christie. But some of those costs will be offset by increased fees, and tapping into unspent funds and trusts, he said.

The spending articles, which all passed by a voice vote, will amount to nearly a $2 million, or a 7.3 percent, increase over the current year’s spending plan.

Town officials predict taxes will increase 16 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. That would result in an additional $64 in taxes on a $400,000 house.

An article transferring the Summer Park senior housing community and adjoining parcel of land to the nonprofit Twin Pines Housing Trust also was approved by a voice vote on Tuesday.

Twin Pines hopes to redevelop the property with 24 new, energy-efficient apartments during a first phase of construction coordinated with the town. The group is also planning a second phase, which would consist of additional units for seniors and disabled people, as well as parking for the Richard W. Black Community Center.

Residents also named the trillium as Hanover’s official town flower in a voice vote. The native wildflower has declined during the past few years as deer populations continue to grow, according to town conservationists.

The Hanover Conservation Commission’s Biodiversity Committee has identified the flower as a means of monitoring the deer population, and plans to soon set up stations to monitor the plant’s health.

Voters also approved on Tuesday an article that allows ground-mounted solar installations as an “accessory use” in all districts, except for nature preserves, and as a “principal use” by special exception in rural, industrial and business-oriented parts of town. The measure had the support of the Sustainable Hanover Committee.

On the ballot, incumbent Selectboard members Joanna Whitcomb and Nancy Carter were elected to three-year terms. Both ran unopposed.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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