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January 18, 2013

Salem selectmen reject planning group

Salem officials fear loss of local control in planning project

SALEM — The town has abandoned plans to participate in a regional planning project, fearing it wouldn’t have any say in decisions.

Selectmen decided this week not to take part in A Granite State Future, a three-year initiative launched by the state’s nine regional planning commissions in conjunction with the federal government. The program’s mission is to develop comprehensive plans for towns through community input.

The board voted, 3-2, against participating, with some selectmen saying there would be a loss of local control if Salem joined.

“The group behind it doesn’t seem to support private-property rights,” Selectman Stephen Campbell said.

Joining the group has become a hot issue in at least a half dozen New Hampshire towns, including Windham and Danville, for the same reason — loss of local control. After a lot of debate, Windham joined. Danville did not.

Participation became an issue in town this fall after several Salem and Windham residents voiced their opposition to selectmen.

The group, led by Ken Eyring of Windham, said the federally-funded program would wrest control from communities. The towns would be forced to abide by federal restrictions, they said.

“We have a system of government and it’s being usurped,” Eyring said.

Selectmen voted in October to have Town Manager Keith Hickey ask the Nashua Regional Planning Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development how the town would be impacted if it joined.

The planning commission said the town would retain local control, but selectmen became frustrated when no response was received from the federal government. They decided to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

While Campbell and Selectman Everett McBride opposed the program, Selectmen James Keller and Michael Lyons supported participation.

Keller and Lyons agreed with Hickey and Community Development Director William Scott that Salem could benefit from A Granite State Future’s research on planning issues.

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