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Proposed zoning ordinance changes spark debate on Ossipee Planning Board

January 11, 2018
OSSIPEE —The Ossipee Planning Board is proposing several changes to the town's zoning ordinance, and will hold a public hearing Jan. 16 to field questions and comments about the changes. One change brought on a lengthy and divided debate Jan. 2 that ended in the chairman and vice-chairman voting not to recommend it.

Currently, section 24.1.1 states that a building permit is only required if the cost of a projects' materials exceeds $2,500. Ossipee Code Enforcement Officer Steve McConarty argued that the ordinance should be changed so that every project, no matter the cost, requires a building permit, a necessary move to keep track of what is going on in town.

"Right now, the town doesn't have a clue what is going on with half the places in town. You can't keep up with it," McConarty told the board.

Under the proposed revision, most projects will require a permit. However, if the project is being done on an Ossipee resident's primary home, no permit fees will be charged until the project material cost exceeds $2,500. So, second home owners and commercial property owners will pay fees for any building permit while residents get a break from the fees if doing a small project at their home.

Chairman Connie Billings and vice-chairman Roy Barron both expressed concern the ordinance change is discriminatory because some are charged while others are not and it makes property owners jump through hoops they never had to before. Both voted against the change.

"Doesn't seem like you can nail a board without going to see Steve," said Billings.

Barron said the change discriminates against "a whole bunch of people that weren't discriminated against before," and he objected to the perceived government overreach.

"The government knows best nowadays. They think the rest of us are [intellectually challenged], and frankly, I'm a little sick of it," Baron said.

Members Tim Otterbach, Dennis Legendre, Sam Martin and Bob Gillette all voted in favor of the change, with Gillette calling the fee-exemption on small projects a perk for residents much like being able to vote in town.

State Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield) seemed to offer the most novel idea of the evening, He suggested the town eliminate building permit fees altogether and that doing so would encourage more people to get permits and become better educated and involved in the development of their property.

According to budget information posted on the town website, the average amount collected annually in building permit fees is a mere $16,000 out of about $2.5 million total revenue collected. McConarty said the board of selectmen oversees setting the permit fee amounts.

Other zoning changes proposed for the March 13 ballot that will be discussed at the Jan. 16 hearing include the addition of several definitions and restrictions on tents, campers, and recreational vehicles, including how they can be used and stored on private property.

The board also voted in favor of allowing bed and breakfasts in the rural district and requiring that temporary and portable structures (canopies, garage, shelter, tent) meet the same setback requirements as a permanent structure.

The public hearing will he held at Freight House on Moultonville Road beginning at 7 p.m.

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