Planning commissioners presented their 134-page town plan update, which planning commission member Wendy Manners noted would be an eight-year plan under a recent change in state land use law. Until the change, town plans were updated every five years. Manners said that the state envisions a review process for town plans at the four-year mark to evaluate how the plans are being implemented.
Board members asked about a proposal in the plan that commissioners said is related to implementation. In the plan, commissioners call for the creation of four subcommittees that would be tasked with addressing the implementation of specific goals and objectives in the plan. The membership of the community services and facilities committee, economic development committee, flood resilience committee, and natural resources and energy committees would include community members, town employees, and other interested parties.
Selectboard members asked whether enough volunteers could be found for the committees, and whether the committee would simply create an additional layer of bureaucracy.
“In the past, town plans have been documents that sit on a shelf,” said Manners. “So, yes, this creates a structure to implement the town plan. There’s no point to a town plan if you’re not going to try to implement it. And, yes, we’re challenged by volunteerism in this town, for sure. But I don’t think that is a reason not to proceed, and we plan to up our game and increase volunteerism.”
Planning commission chair Cheryl Rothman said the committee membership would be drawn from people who already have an interest in the committee’s subject matter. “I think Wilmington Works would be drawn into the economic development or community services and facilities committees,” she said. “The planning commission plans to spend the next year focused on flood resilience and I think that subcommittee can be led, with some other people, by the planning commission. I think we have a core group of people who are passionate about each of the topics.”
Selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald also asked about the plan’s history section. He noted that the the board has been “taken to task” for claiming that the town was “chartered” in 1751, despite that fact that the town does not have a governance charter under state statute. Zoning administrator Craig Ohlson explained that the term “chartered” referred to the 1751 land grant charter issued by New Hampshire Gov. Benning Wentworth, not to a statutory municipal governance charter. Ohlson noted that the original grantees failed to meet the settlement conditions of the charter, and it was re-granted in 1763, renaming the town Draper. “But the residents didn’t like the name, so they changed it back to Wilmington,” Ohlson said.
“So, we can say the town received a land grant charter,” said Fitzgerald.
Selectboard member Ann Manwaring noted that the plan included goals, policies, and actions under a section on community facilities and services. She said the way some of the language was worded appeared negative, and suggested the commission rewrite some of the passages to be more aspirational. “One of the most important things we have to do in this community is enhance and invigorate our education system,” she said.
Selectboard members also officially received the planning commission’s report on proposed zoning amendments. Among the provisions in the proposed ordinance are several sections laying out new design review district language creating a “village design review district” in support of Wilmington Works’ expanded designated downtown. According to the planning commission’s report, property owners in the village design review district would need a DRB review of “substantial changes” from construction or alteration of a building to removal of “natural features, shrubs, hedges, or trees.”
In other matters, Wilmington Finance Officer Christine Richter told board members she was working with the town attorney to hold a tax sale before the end of the fiscal year. She said that the list of properties eligible for tax sale, those that have missed a full calendar year of tax payments, has fallen over the last month, and is expected to shrink even more over the next several days. “There were 84 properties on the list, and $288,000 owed,” she said. “Seven have paid, another three have made payment plans, and another 12 have contacted us to make a payment or set up a payment plan,” she said.
Board members asked if the Hermitage Club has made any progress in paying off taxes for 35 of their properties that are on the list. Richter said she has been working with Hermitage Club attorney Bob Fisher to come up with a plan to pay their tax liabilities for the properties.