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Raymond Selectmen Revisit Vote, Place Conservation Easement on Flint Hill     by Cheryl Killam 12-05-14

The Raymond Board of Selectmen rescinded their vote for a conservation restricted deed and voted instead to put a conservation easement on 145 acres of the Flint Hill 215-acre property.

At the Dec. 1, 2014 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Chairman Wayne Welch made an opening statement on the Flint Hill agenda item that said,  “Two weeks ago we had Flint Hill on the agenda.  The project was a partnership between economic development and conservation.  It was the one time where they came together and understood a process to work together.  The Flint Hill project was a compromise where both sides had their passions and made a deal, while agreeing to use some land for development and some for conservation.  The voters ratified that deal with a vote.  I came along and mucked it up.  I ask the rest of the board to reconsider the vote they took two weeks ago.“

Town Manager Craig Wheeler said he received correspondence from Donahue, Tucker and Ciandella (DTC), the town attorneys, as well as from the New Hampshire Municipal Association and  Mitchell Municipal Group. He also received a seven-page petition signed by 113 registered voters and letters from abutters Alaya and John Chadwick, as well as from Frank Bourque, Gary Brown, and Carolyn Matthews.

The petition requested the selectmen rescind their vote for a conservation restricted deed made on Nov.  17  and instead put a conservation easement on the property, as warrant article 28 in 2009 directed.  

The seven-page petition, signed by 113 registered Raymond voters, stated:

“ We the undersigned voters of Raymond request the Board of Selectmen RESCIND the vote of Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, to place a ‘Restricted Deed’ on 145 acres of Flint Hill property.

We further request the Board of Selectmen abide by the majority of voters 601 – 352 who voted at the 2009 Town Meeting and passed warrant article 28 to place a ‘Conservation Easement’ on 145 acres of the Flint Hill property to be held by a recognized New Hampshire Conservation Easement Holding Entity through a deed from the Town as Grantor to the Entity as Grantee on the parcel.”

The petition was circulated by Kathy Lee, Brian Campbell and Cheryl Killam.

The Chadwicks, who are Flint Hill abutters on Harriman Hill Road, expressed disappointment with the restricted deed.

Former selectman Frank Bourque wrote, “I think it makes sense to go back before the voters in March and ask whether they prefer the easement or deed restrictions. You don’t really have enough time to finalize an easement prior to the election anyway and a lot of time has passed. Sending this back to the voter is probably the best course of action and gets you folks out of the hot seat.”

Gary Brown also suggested a restricted deed amid his recommendations to read Agenda 21 books. 

Laura Spector-Morgan of Mitchell Municipal Group, under the assumption that the town had been unable to find a land trust willing to hold the easement, suggested entering a warrant article in 2015.  However, In 2011 Bear-Paw Regional Greenways presented an $11,900 proposal for the easement.

Paul Sanderson from New Hampshire Municipal Association wrote as attached
Town Meeting Warrant Articles – NHMA Article 234

 DTC summarized all the work that has been done over the past years and stated, “based on the language for the approved warrant article, and earlier opinions issued by my office on similar issues, my opinion is that a conservation easement must be used and not a conservation restriction.”

 Included in the DTC packet were questions and answers about conservation easements going back to 2009 asked by former Town Manager Chris Rose and former Conservation Commission Chairwoman and Selectwoman Cheryl Killam.

Town Attorney Sharon Cuddy Somers wrote, “The warrant article clearly identifies a conservation easement must be used and not a conservation restriction and requires it be held by a conservation holding entity, further it requires the easement be achieved through a deed from the Town to the Entity, and the easement monitoring fees to be paid by the Town from the Conservation Fund.”

Somers further wrote, “The term ‘conservation easement’ is a term of art, with a specific legal meaning: it renders property subject to development restrictions, and the entity holding the easement is legally authorized to enforce any infraction of the restrictions.  The original property owner will still own the property.”
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, only a member who voted for an issue can request it be reopened for another vote to rescind or change it. 

Welch made the motion to rescind the vote from Nov. 17 for a Conservation Restricted Deed on the 145-acre Flint Hill property. The motion passed unanimously.

Welch next motioned to place the conservation easement on the upper 145 acres of the Flint Hill property according to the warrant article.

Welch asked for discussion from the board.  

Selectwoman Colleen West Coates thanked Welch for bringing the matter back to the board, and Selectman Greg Bemis said this matter is not about conservation easements but is about the board members’ sworn oath of office and upholding the vote of the people. Selectmen Jack Barnes and Bill Hoitt did not comment.

The vote was 4-0-1, with Barnes, Coates, Bemis and Welch in favor and Hoitt abstaining.  

Hoitt was asked by resident Brian Campbell why he abstained from voting.  Hoitt said,  “it’s my choice” and refused to give a reason.  According to Robert's Rules, a board member should abstain from voting whenever he or she has an interest in the outcome that directly affects him or her personally or monetarily in a manner not shared by the other members of the group.

The Request for Proposals on the Flint Hill Conservation Easement was posted on The Office of Energy and Planning website on Dec. 3rd with a return date of Dec. 23 at 4 pm.

The RFP can be read by clicking on the link to the Pdf below.

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Requests for Proposals from NH Municipalities and Other Agencies and Organizations

December 3, 2014

Town of Raymond, Flint Hill Conservation Easement pdf file

The Town of Raymond Board of Selectmen are requesting proposals from Land Trust Organizations interested in drafting and managing a Conservation Easement on the northern 145 acres of the 215 acre parcel know as Norris Farms at Flint Hill (Map 35 Lot 4). The easement will be required to contain a reserved right to allow for the potential to withdraw public drinking water, and possible wetland mitigation purposes. The 145 acre conservation plan survey has already been completed by Blaisdell Survey, LLC.

Proposals must be mailed to the Town Manager and are due by 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time on December 23, 2014. Emailed proposals and late proposals will not be accepted.

 

In the interest of full disclosure Cheryl Killam owns Raymond Area News.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond Town Office
4 Epping Street

895-4735

Raymond NH Website

 


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