Public hearing Monday on move to pull out of beach precinct
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, December 14, 2012
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Commissioners of the Hampton Beach Village District voted unanimously Wednesday to staunchly oppose the secession movement brought forward by what they call a "small minority" who live in the White's Island section of the beach.
The commissioners said they will speak out during the Dec. 17 Board of Selectmen's meeting, where there will be a public hearing on the petition that calls for the removal of White's Island from the district.
"This is brought by a small minority who are looking for a free ride," said Precinct Chairman Chuck Rage, who urged residents of the district to join them in speaking out against the petition.
Selectmen called for the hearing after residents from the White's Island neighborhood filed a petition asking them to approve their request to secede, saying they no longer want to pay additional taxes to belong to the district.
Per state statute, selectmen are required to host a public hearing on the request.
If selectmen grant the petition to change the district's boundaries, it would go before voters of the district for final approval.
While selectmen had said originally that 59 people signed the petition, Rage said it had only 42 signatures.
Of that 42, only 11 are voters in the district. Rage said one signed the petition twice, another lives in Sun Valley — a different section of Hampton Beach — and another is no longer alive.
"The majority who I talked to (in the White's Island area) are upset that this is going forward," Rage said.
The petition states that the precinct was formed in 1907 due to the town's failure to provide municipal services. But its purpose now is just to promote Hampton Beach, including nightly entertainment and weekly fireworks shows during the summer.
Residents who signed the petition said they want to withdraw because White's Island consists of mostly single-family homes used by the owners and their families, and they do not receive a direct benefit from what the precinct offers.
Rage disputes the notion that people in the White's Island section do not receive a benefit from the district.
"What the precinct does benefits the whole beach," Rage said. "People come to the beach and buy property because of what is here."Commissioner Robert Ladd noted 27 of the signatures of the petition live out of state.
"I don't know how you can rent multiple properties every summer and say what the precinct does 'has no impact on my ability to rent those properties,'" said Ladd.
Rage said he can understand why single-family homes in the district may not want to pay for advertisement and entertainment at the beach. He said that is why residents can file a tax exemption from paying that portion of the precinct property tax.
"Those residents paid 10 cents per $1,000 (of assessed property value) last year," Rage said. "And if you do the math on a half million dollar home, that equates to $4.50 a month. That is two cups a coffee at the cafe. It's not a lot of money when you get free concerts every night and fireworks once a week during the summer."
Ladd said the beach area has been experiencing a renaissance as of late and the petition is counterproductive to all the work that has been done.
"The beach is on the edge of being incredible," Ladd said. "This type of a distraction is counterproductive."
Rage said one of the reasons they are fighting so hard against the petition is because of a possible "domino effect."
"If these people are looking for a free ride what is to stop residents from O Street and B Street from filing a petition." Rage said.
Rage said it could potentially end the district and what people have come to expect from Hampton Beach.
"It's sad that a few people are trying to change what we have been doing for over a 100 years," Rage said.
Ladd said hopefully selectmen will reject the petition and the issue will be put to rest.
"I think when this is all over we can all come together," Ladd said. "There will be a time for healing, but that will happen after the resolution of this issue."
Selectmen Chairman Rick Griffin said the board intends to listen to all the facts brought out during Monday's public hearing to make a sound decision.
While the board had said they would not reach a decision that night, Griffin said they may be willing to make one if the commissioners want an answer.
If not, the board will take a vote on Dec. 27.
Even if selectmen grant the petition, the petition still needs approval from the district at its annual town meeting.