LANCASTER, N.H. – There was little debate or discussion on most of the 25 articles that made up the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting here on Tuesday evening, but the noise level escalated at Article 23.
That article, which proposed a rights-based ordinance “to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and ecosystems of Lancaster, N.H., by establishing a bill of rights…and by prohibiting the siting of new energy projects that violate the people’s right to a sustainable energy future,” was declared out of order by moderator Jay Riff at the outset of the debate. That gave way to more clamoring from the floor. He said town counsel said the ordinance was not constitutional.
Riff yelled out, “O.K., folks, if I can have your attention!” He said that article would see special rules during the discussion.
“Part of my job is to make that ruling to prevent the town from being charged with a misdemeanor but I understand that people still want to discuss it and vote on it and I would expect a legal challenge on it either way, no matter how the vote goes,” said Riff.
The first person to speak on the article was Valerie Herres.
Herres got quickly to the inspiration for the ordinance, saying the movement began in late 2010 when she and others “learned about the Northern Pass. The line would cut through some of the most beautiful areas of New Hampshire, including Lancaster.”
“Northern Pass will come in and take property that they will use for this project. They can and will take your land,” said Herres. “They don’t care about our Lancaster and our families, our health and our welfare.”
The last to speak in the handful of back and forth on the emotional subject was Leo Rideout. “I fear this ordinance more than I do them (the towers of Northern Pass),” he said. “This ordinance is bad…This is not good for Lancaster. This is not good for the individual landowner… We’re all done with people meddling with our business and I can guarantee you there are a lot more people who feel like I do,” he said, taking his seat.
And the question was then called.
Rideout was right; there were a lot more people who felt like he did.
In the end, the article failed, with 65 people voting in support of it and 233 against it.
Other articles on the warning sailed through with little discussion, including the town budget of $4,978,226.
A special appropriation request of $4,600 from the Community Contact Division of Tri-County Community Action,was turned down by voters, after no one from the agency stood to speak to the request, and Town Manager Ed Samson said, “It disappoints me that they didn’t think this is important enough to attend.”
Also given the thumbs-down by voters was a request from the Mt. Washington Regional Airport for $2,464, again with no one representing the request to speak.
Also failing was Article 22, a petitioned article seeking to have the town’s planning board elected.
Two appropriations requests were approved with higher amounts than requested.
Caleb Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers sought an increase from their original request of $3,520. An increase of $740 was approved from the floor.
A second amendment to increase help to the Lancaster Community Cupboard and the Community Cupboard Kitchen was made to move the amount from $100 to $500.
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