Meeting Minutes of the Select Board

 Location:  Town offices Date:  April 8, 2021
 Opened:    7:00 pm Adjourned: 10:15 pm

Select Board Members:  Jay Jacobs, Kathy Scott, Andrea Hodson _____________________________

 Attendees: Steve Weber, Mike Wilder, Diana Shonk, Andrew Maneval, Cathy Lovas, Jeff Cady, Don Scott, Wayne DeRosia, Mike Tollett, Andrea Loeb, Laurie Katz, Peter Katz, Marcia Caswell, Scott Caswell, Jerry Moschan, Tonya Wilder, Pam Wilder, Roy Ayotte, Cathy Shanahan, Robert Morin, Lisa Anderson, George Colony, Sarah Kendall, John Newcombe, Peter Thayer, Jim Putnam, Ben Dexter, Jamie Kierstead, Kelly Byam, Ted Braun, Izola Porter, Marylou DiPietro, Erik Anderson, Nancy Chabott, Suzanne Hodgkins, Noah Saxton, Michael Jacobson, Cindy Tindall, Ranae O’Neil, Mary Armstrong, Jeff Miller, Julia Pakradooni, Sal Mollica, Josh Houle, Barbara Watkins, Elaine Fallon, David Putnam, Peter Allen, Chick Colony, Bob Gogolen, Jeff McGrath, Michael Reilly, Sue Weller, Kathy Manfre

SB Administrative
-The SB signed the pay warrant in the amount of $238,047.50.
-The board confirmed that resident Esther Solondz could reach out directly to the Road Agent regarding a one-time mowing for the wildflower garden at the Brown Road / Chesham Road triangle and otherwise begin work with volunteers.

Skatutakee Spring
The Health Officer, Code Enforcement Officer and Steve Weber met with the Select Board to discuss potential replacement of a new well head and whether or not to file a police report regarding tampering with the spring valve. Following discussion and the concern about interrupting water flow now that the spring is running, the group agreed to wait to proceed. David Belknap will meet with the Police Chief to discuss. All agreed a sign should go up at the spring informing people to contact the Select Board before taking any action on town property.

Public hearing on Silver Lake Parking Plan
Andrea Hodson opened the public hearing at 7:30 pm. She explained the rules of the meeting, including that members of the public would be given three minutes to speak to allow adequate time for all attending. She also noted the purpose of the hearing was to discuss parking near the boat ramp and not other recreational activities around the lake. She stated that the plan’s purpose is not about privileging one person over another, or about the town ordinance of 1994 prohibiting certain activities around the boat ramp and along the water, but that these issues would be dealt with at a later date.

Referring to the research that went into the plan, she thanked members of the Silver Lake Association, the Stoney Beach Research Group, and state agency representatives, all of whom have helped inform the board, as well as Don Scott for the visual rendition of the plan, and Kathy Scott for the time and effort and research communicating with state agency reps.  Ms. Hodson reminded all that, in 2010, the town passed a parking ban on the south side of Breed Road.

Kathy Scott then reviewed the history of the area and explained the Road to Public Waters program, which led to the rerouting of a section of Breed Road for the design of the current boat ramp. When the Road to Public Waters Program ended in 1993, state funding ended, and management of public access to the lakes was turned over to towns. NHDOT owns this land (700 feet on the north side of Breed Road) and the state maintains the rest of the road over which it has a prescriptive easement. Homeowners own the land under the road. Ms. Scott stated that the state only requires parking be allowed along this 700 foot stretch.

At 2007 Town Meeting voters approved a $20,000 contribution by the town toward improvements to the boat ramp area, which were projected to cost $72,000. When an attendee remarked that the redesign was done in a manner desired by the lake association but all taxpayers paid for it, Ms. Scott replied that the design was what the state required and this requirement was met.

More recently, in 2017, through private donations and a contribution by the Conservation Commission, upgrades were made to the waterfront adjacent to the ramp to protect against erosion. Ms. Scott also showed slides depicting ownership of the various parcels around the boat ramp, and photos of summer of 2020 depicting recreational use and parking of vehicles and trailers. She further cited the state RSAs authorizing towns to enforce parking restrictions and Fish & Game codes allowing the town to regulate the site, and showed photos of Spofford’s parking area, restricted to 15 spaces, and sample no parking signage.

The proposed plan was then shared on screen, with recommended no parking along the south side of Breed Road where, currently, parking off pavement is allowed. Ms. Scott described the proposed number of spaces, a total of 30, and where parking is recommended for vehicles only and for tandems (vehicles and trailers) only. (This color-coded map is posted on the town website and is available at town offices). She stated that the board discussed this with DES, the  Department of Safety, and the Right of Way agent, traffic engineer and engineer from district 4 of the DOT and that  all have assured the board that the state will support what the town wants to do.

At this point, the board opened up the microphone to attendees.

Fire Chief Wayne Derosia asked the board why the Traffic Safety Committee, which includes the Police and Fire Chiefs and Road Agent and a resident, wasn’t engaged in the discussion. Andrea Hodson replied that this topic has been discussed for two years and the board wasn’t saying it wouldn’t engage the committee. It does so with all other parking/safety issues.  The Fire Chief added that no emergency officials he has contacted wants a space designated solely or emergency use, but believe this space should go to the public.

Jerry Moschan, a 42-year resident and taxpayer, cited safety risks if tandem parking is allowed on the lakeside of the road, noting the south side of the road is safest for this. He asked the board to give people a chance to enjoy themselves and use the lake, the way he has for years fishing with his grandson. Pam Wilder, also a resident, boarder and boarder, stated she loves to enjoy all water access points and that, by limiting parking, the board is limiting access to the lake. She agreed with Mr. Moschan about the safest place to park. She also doesn’t believe the current parking configuration presents a safety issue. The Fire Chief echoed this from his 17 years as head of the department, that no safety issues have occurred and that there is an easier fix than restricting parking. The Select Board noted that the focus is safety and they want to stay ahead of any potential issues.

Mr. Moschan then suggested widening the shoulder on the south side of Breed Road to accommodate two widths of tandems. The SB wasn’t sure if the DOT would consider this.  Paul Whitney, a Harrisville resident who has gone to Silver Lake for 50 years, believes the parking is getting worse but advocates enhancing it, agreeing with the suggestion to widen the south side of the breed road embankment. He does not recommend taking away spaces.

Roy Ayotte, Swanzey resident but part-time in Harrisville, doesn’t believe there is adequate space for boaters to load and unload and proposing parking in front of the ramp would impede this further. His experience is that people slow down on busy days, and are polite and aware of pedestrians and doesn’t understand the safety issue. He supports keeping the south side of Breed Road available for off-pavement parking. Mr. Ayotte and others agreed there has been an uptick in lake traffic due to the pandemic.

Joe Stone, a town resident since ’86 and visitor to Silver Lake for 42 years, noted that vehicles don’t generally park in the spaces proposed for vehicles only because there is not enough room for boats to swing through. It is used as a temporary input and tiedown area.

Andrew Scanlan, a new resident to the area, didn’t understand the comments about parking on private property and believes there are other ways to address safety concerns without restricting parking because he doesn’t believe it is a safety issue.

Kelly Byam, Harrisville resident, opposes the plan, speaking to the length of most boats currently on lake and trailer length required. A 40’ space as proposed is restrictive for trailer/vehicle combinations. Ms. Byam also noted there are lots of restrictions already on lake and feels this is a step toward privatizing or semi-privatizing a public body of water and that it’s wrong to restrict. Kathy Scott noted the length was recommended by Fish & Game and that the town doesn’t have to provide any more than that parking area.

Benjamin Dexter, president of the Silver Lake Association and resident of Manchester who summers in Harrisville supports the plan and applauds the time and effort expended to prepare and present it. He supports whatever the town wants to create a safe and inclusive experience at the lake.

Susan Allen a non-resident taxpayer, stated that several times in August of 2020 Breed Road was backed up and impassable.

Suzanne Hodgkins, a Walpole resident and Silver Lake property owner and boat owner expressed concern about the proposal and not having access for boating. She agreed with previous statements about inadequate space for loading and unloading but also expressed gratitude for board’s considering the matter, believing work still needs to be done to protect the area from safety problems. Jeff Miller, Silver Lake property owner and lake user for 42 years, worries about kids darting out with parking allowed on the south side of Breed Road, having had a couple of close calls last summer and not because of speeding. He believes the town is incurring a legal risk if an accident occurs and it’s noted in the record that safety concerns have been raised.

Select Board member Andrea Hodson reviewed that the town voted in 2010 to ban parking on the south side of Breed Road but that this plan was not implemented. The goal now is to implement this plan, while not arbitrarily choosing a number of parking spaces but basing the proposed number on data from around the state, and from Lake Host records. These records show, she explained, that if this plan had been in place in 2019, there were only three days in July during which an inadequate number of spaces would have been provided.

Pete Thayer, born and raised in Harrisville and member of the Beach Committee and the Planning Board, noted his concern that if the plan is instituted here, the same will be instituted at all water bodies in town and there will be a move to privatize them. He would like to make sure that all lakes are treated equally, wondering why ordinances at Sunset Beach on Harrisville Pond are not enforced.

Kyle Anderson, Harrisville resident agreed with the high demand put on all lakes last year because of Covid and that Silver Lake was usable when others weren’t because of drought conditions. He didn’t understand why the town would restrict access when safety issues aren’t related to parking, which is what’s being addressed. He believes the plan negatively impacts boaters and doesn’t solve safety issues.

Fire Chief Wayne Derosia stated that in his 30 years of emergency service experience and as chief the last 17, there was 1 pedestrian accident in the whole town of Harrisville and that he doesn’t believe safety is an issue at Silver Lake. He would like to see no parking along Breed Road from Westside Road south to the Kingsbury’s property, where no parking signs currently exist. In the other direction, as long as cars are off the road, he sees no danger. He and others noted it’s practically impossible to parallel park a tandem between two vehicles so that the proposed number of spaces can’t realistically accommodate the number of people the town is saying they can accommodate. He asked the board not to cite safety as an issue or the reason for the plan. He also recommended a pedestrian crossing or crossing signs but not elimination of spaces. He further pointed to the risks at the Hancock Road boat landing and wonders why they haven’t been addressed.

It was noted that private owners do not wish to have parking on their land.  There was ensuing disagreement about the number of proposed spaces and how many vehicles and boats could actually be accommodated, thus denying access to the lake.

Tonya  Wilder noted she has always returned to Harrisville to kayak because Harrisville historically hasn’t been restrictive, whereas other areas in the state are growing more restrictive, and is against limiting parking here. Her experience is that people drive more slowly when it’s busier. Peter Katz, a resident of HV since 2004, agreed with Ms. Wilder about overregulation and over restriction and would love to see Silver Lake work for as many people as possible. He would like to see the town expand rather than restrict, as he recognizes how valuable a resource the lake is.

Jerry Moschan reiterated the question about amending the plan for tandems on the lakeside of the road, where he feels tandem parking is more dangerous. He also reiterated that taking away any parking is bad idea.

When asked about the Select Board’s authority to institute this plan versus having it brought to Town Meeting, Kathy Scott cited the RSA provisions from Article 47:17 VI, VII, and VIII related to SB authorization.

Barbara Watkins, who has spent her whole life in Harrisville, reviewed the facts from her research going to 2008, when at Town Meeting, the town approved the design of parking and money to contribute to the boat landing upgrade. After the landing was built in 2010, implementation of the parking plan, approved by the town and the state, did not occur.  In the past 10 years, property owners have noticed increased activity and dangerous situations. Acknowledging that all have to share use of the lake, she noted that it can get scary and dangerous. Reiterating Andrea Hodson’s earlier remark, she stated that the Lake Host records show that in 2019 there were enough spaces to accommodate whoever wanted to come.  She emphasized that access to the lake is not being bought, and that the proposed number, 30 spaces, is twice the number Spofford Lake accommodates, and that lake is twice as big.

Joe Stone asked at what point the SB would address the opposition’s comments and suggestions and change the proposal, as he had only heard two people speak in its favor? Brian Halvonik, resident since 1985, also stated his opposition.

Board member Jay Jacobs, noted all the talk about safety, referring to concerns raised when the Route 101 bypass was planned and associated fears about increasing number of accidents and hazards. He believes the proponents of the proposal are grasping at straws to prove a point; that, while there was increased activity last summer, people were patient and accommodating. He echoed earlier comments of the great difficulty of parking and maneuvering boat trailers in limited space and that cutting back on these spaces means cutting back on a lot more. He also agreed with allowing parking on the south side of Breed Road, a better area.  He believes this is an issue about trying to restrict access to the lake. Because it’s a state body of water, Mr. Jacobs believes the proper place to address this is with the state of NH, and that it’s not up to the Town of Harrisville to dictate what is and isn’t a safe lake load, or safe number of boats.

Questions and comments arose about why the parking signs installed on the south side of Breed Road following 2010 vote said ‘no parking on pavement’ versus ‘no parking’. The DOT installed them but it wasn’t know, why the change was made. Kathy Scott stated the DOT said the town requested it.

Kathy Scott referred to Marine Patrol’s process for receiving petitions from residents.  Residents can petition for greater or less restriction. Many lakeside residents around the area, including Harrisville, have done this regarding bans on jetskis, for example. Mr. Jacobs reiterated he believes the onus should be on them as they own the property.

When asked by resident Michael Reilly what other safety concerns are being researched, Kathy Scott spoke to her discussions with all the state agencies who uniformly informed her that the best way to manage safe access to a site is by managing parking. Mr. Reilly asked if you could still allow parking on the south side and be safe, and Ms. Scott responded yes.

Ted Braun, Breed Road property owner, former lake host and frequent boat ramp area visitor and caretaker, noted he has seen much go on there. He believes the Town has the responsibility to manage the site and doesn’t believe there is any money budgeted to assist with its maintenance. He asked if the town will allocate resources to take care of the area, as this has been done by the Lake Association?

Don Scott, a member of the Conservation Commission, noted the commission’s concerns about invasive species, for which a fund is in place.

Regarding enforcement of parking and compliance with town ordinances, the town’s Police Chief would oversee these. Andrea Hodson asked Chief Mike Tollett his experience in Winchester enforcing lake activity. He noted that most of the issues related to Pisgah State Park and infringement on roads by out of staters with ATVs. When it comes to enforcement, he explained there are different levels, including signage and education, which he believes is most helpful. Tickets don’t often solve the problem. He noted that, on this issue, no matter where the town ultimately lands with its parking plan, there will be more dedicated patrols. While it will be hard to manage, he and his department will try to get ahead of the curve and educate as much as possible.

As no decision on the plan would be made tonight, Jay Jacobs moved to close the public hearing. Andrea Hodson noted that, to the point that parking is being managed everywhere else, this puts more pressure on towns that don’t restrict it. She cited the statistic of 21 towns with similar boat landings, who have a ratio average of 28 lake acres for 1 parking space. Jay Jacobs questioned the validity of the number of spaces calculated, questioning the 76 that were claimed to be at Silver Lake. The board noted the conversation would continue at next Thursday’s regular meeting.

Marcia Caswell noted there seems to be a lot of opposition and that the plan could need revising with more input.

Lisa Anderson, Harrisville resident and planning Board co-Chair, stated that one of the challenges with this boat is there isn’t a good place to secure a boat while parking a car, which is part of the parking problem. She recommended a simple mooring area, which could relieve pressure on the parking area. She also believes the median in the lot is a barrier impeding the loading and unloading process.

A couple of additional comments were made that there is an access issue with the belief that homeowners around the lake are trying to restrict use of the lake by others. Andrea Hodson noted that the plan doesn’t mean anything permanent and that the board will consider all input.

Andrew Maneval submitted comments that the question comes down to how to manage parking and services and agreed the Traffic Safety Committee should be consulted. He does not believe it’s an access issue, but a safety issue. Laurie Katz added if the plan is reworked, maybe it could work for all.