EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 10, 2013

Salem board will decide whether to join planning project

Some residents believe it usurps local rights

SALEM — Selectmen will decide Monday if the town will participate in a regional planning project some say seizes local control from communities.

Salem is one of several communities in the state where residents have fought proposals to join A Granite State Future. It’s a three-year initiative launched by the state’s nine regional planning commissions with the goal of developing comprehensive plans for towns through community input.

But some residents, including Selectman Stephen Campbell, say the federally funded program takes away communities’ rights to make planning decisions if they participate.

“Having one set of goals and rules for different towns doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said yesterday. “We don’t need more rules taking away people’s rights.”

Campbell said participating in the project would obligate the town to do anything the federal government orders.

“Once you take their money, you are sort of beholden to them,” he said.

A group of Salem and Windham residents, led by Ken Eyring of Windham, appeared before selectmen in September to oppose the town’s plan to participate.

“I am here because I’m concerned about my children’s future,” Eyring told selectmen. “We have a system of government and it’s being usurped.”

The board voted 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 answered the town’s questions, saying it would retain local control, Hickey said yesterday. But no response was received from the federal government, frustrating selectmen.

Selectmen decided earlier this week to resolve the issue at their next meeting.

While Campbell and Selectman Everett McBride Jr. oppose participation, Selectmen James Keller and Michael Lyons believe the town would benefit from the group’s research.

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