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Lyme Favors Rerouting Road

  • Arend Tensen, of Lyme, holds up proposed plans for a bypass of a closed section of River Road after his description of retaining wall in the project was questioned by another resident during town meeting in Lyme, N.H. Tuesday, March 14, 2017. The new road, which was approved by voters, would run through Tensen's property and need to be acquired by the town through eminent domain. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Hoyt Alverson, left, speaks during debate about Lyme's closed River Road during Town Meeting in Lyme, N.H., Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Alverson spoke about retaining the common institutions and infrastructure of the town to foster its sense of community. Microphone runner Faith Pushee crouches at left, and Susanne Simon sits on the floor at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Paphanh Sithavady, left, wipes away a tear after being named citizen of the year along with Peggy Little, right, at Lyme Town Meeting at the Lyme School, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • From left Geoffrey Little, Blake Allison, and Vice Moderator Bill Waste, listen to debate on funds for repairing class IV and class V roads during town meeting in Lyme, N.H., Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/14/2017 9:16:19 PM
Modified: 3/14/2017 11:04:23 PM

Lyme — Lyme moved a step closer to resolving a long debate over erosion-plagued River Road, as voters approved funding to reroute the road, bypassing a 600-foot stretch that has been closed for more than a year.

The plan involves taking land by eminent domain from a property owner opposed to having the bypass on his land.

Despite Tuesday’s big snowstorm, Lyme School gym was packed for most of Town Meeting, which started at 9 a.m. and ended just before 2:30 p.m.

Much of the discussion concerned four articles related to River Road, including one that will provide $755,000 for rerouting the road, with $150,000 to be raised by taxation. The article, decided by a ballot vote, passed 161-148.

The vote followed a synopsis of the history of the 250-year-old road, which is built on “a sandbank,” said Selectboard Chairwoman Sue MacKenzie, who also outlined potential fixes the Selectboard has investigated.

While rerouting the road is not ideal, “it’s really the best option we have,” MacKenzie said.

River Road residents and others weighed in on various sides of the issue; some advocated for exploring other possible solutions. When they disagreed, they did so civilly, as requested by Town Moderator Kevin Peterson.

At the beginning of the meeting, Peterson noted there had been “a lot of back and forth” about River Road on the Listserv and at Town Meeting, and asked residents to be fair and respectful in their comments and avoid personal attacks.

River Road resident Hoyt Alverson urged the town to support the solidarity of the community, and not abandon roads and services due to budget problems. Alverson cautioned against adopting a “lifeboat mentality,” with individuals seeking what might be best for him or herself.

To undertake the rerouting of the road, the town is in the process of taking 5.6 acres of the land through eminent domain a parcel that is owned by Arend Tensen, with a mortgage held by Lyme resident David Roby.

Tensen, a Lebanon lawyer, reiterated concerns he’d laid out in a letter delivered to Lyme residents last week. Those included damage to wildlife and agricultural soils, and the cost of rerouting the road, including legal fees the town would incur when taking the property.

In the letter, Tensen said his appraiser has put the value of the land at $229,000. An appraisal by the town came in at $46,000.

In a posting on the Lyme Listserv Saturday, resident Colin Robinson, also a lawyer, contested Tensen’s claims and offered to represent the town in the matter for free. At the meeting, Robinson noted that the two appraisals weren’t all that far apart, and said parties usually can come to a financial agreement.

But Tensen said that’s not the point.

“I don’t want a dime of town money,” he said. “I do not want this road across my land.”

In related articles, voters approved two articles raising a combined total of $170,000 for bank stabilization projects on two other sections of the road, but shot down a bid to reopen River Road as a class VI highway, meaning the town wouldn’t be responsible for maintaining it and people could drive it at their own risk.

The road has long been plagued by erosion some attribute to the management of dams along the Connecticut River. Lyme was among 10 communities along the river to consider articles pertaining to those issues. Voters widely supported Article 25, which recommended the town request TransCanada, or subsequent owners, to modify dam operations and create a mitigation fund to reimburse towns and landowners for damages, if the operation of the Bellows Falls or Wilder Dam is shown to have caused deterioration of riverbank, roads and farmland.

The $2.19 million town budget passed easily, as did a plan to solarize the town office and police building.

Voters shot down two measures that emerged from a tax study and advisory committee charged with decreasing the tax burden on fixed income, retired residents struggling to stay in the town.

Lyme does “quite a lot” to help people having difficulty with taxes, including offering “pretty much the maximum” under a state program that provides tax relief based on age and income, committee member Karl Furstenberg said in a phone interview last night.

The proposed articles reflected the committee’s discussion about what it could do to generate more revenue for the town, Furstenberg said.

One asked to change the tax collection schedule to twice yearly payments. The other would have allotted half of land-use-change taxes to defray town expenses; the money currently is deposited in the Conservation Fund.

According to town officials, about 93 percent of the land in Lyme is either conserved or in current use.

Bradford “Rusty” Keith said that results in nearly $1.63 million in tax savings for landowners.

“That’s an extra $5 on the tax rate so other people in this town don’t have to pay on this land,” said Keith, who was elected yesterday to a three-year term on the Selectboard.

The land-use-change tax is charged when land owners take property out of current use. It is supposed to be given to the town to make up for some of the lost revenue, he said.

An article affirming civil rights for all people in Lyme, including citizens of the U.S. and other countries, prompted debate over whether it was inappropriately political, and beyond the scope of Town Meeting.

James Graham, who petitioned the article, said he didn’t see it as a partisan issue.

“I think people should understand that there are (people) who fear some of the basic rights in our Constitution are under assault right now, … who are afraid and who are experiencing a rise in bias-related incidents.”

School administrators have seen an uptick in such incidents, and he has witnessed it firsthand, Graham said. “I think it’s a direct result of things the president has said.”

The article passed, 99-39.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.




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