Manchester Select Board approves strategic plan

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MANCHESTER — The Select Board voted to approve the downtown strategic plan at its meeting, with dissent from one board member.

The board continued its second hearing on the town plan to the Dec. 18 meeting, but received no comments or discussion from anybody in attendance.

Board chairman Ivan C. Beattie said he wasn't terribly surprised at the dearth of comments as it had been discussed thoroughly previously.

"There was a lot of public participation at the front end of this," Beattie said. "We've discussed it pretty extensively over the past couple of meetings."

After not getting any additional feedback on the plan, the board closed the hearing portion of the meeting and then debated whether to put a vote to approve the plan on the agenda for the next meeting or tackle it immediately.

The consensus was that the topic was ready to move forward and Town Manager John O'Keefe told the board he believed the planning commission was eager to move on.

Board member Wayne Bell moved to approve the downtown strategic plan and it was approved with one objection.

Steven Nichols' no vote wasn't explained at the meeting, but in a message that evening, Nichols said he had some issues with the plan.

Those issues focused a great deal on affordability, as Nichols doesn't think the changes will alleviate those problems or solve other issues in the downtown area.

"I believe with the plan, as is, really segregates and only reaches a select few in the business community," Nichols wrote, adding that the proposal originally mandated two-story buildings with residential areas upstairs and retail space on the lower level that would prove too costly and unaffordable.

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Another issue he had with the plan was the intention to build bike paths and walking trails connecting the downtown with other areas.

Nichols thinks the strategic plan meetings should have been held before zoning decisions were made, and that the cart had been put before the horse.

"I just don't believe this plan addresses all the issues," Nichols said. "Just a select few."

The Planning Commission held a warned public hearing on the downtown strategic plan on Sept. 17, at which a Journal reporter was the only person in attendance. It was formulated in part through a planning charrette in the fall of 2017, at which a number of town business owners were in attendance and provided feedback.

In other business, the board authorized O'Keefe to appoint Eric Severance to the position of water and sewer superintendent and chief operator.

Severance has been with the town for nearly 30 years.

Earlier in the day, the town water board confirmed that appointment.

In another move in the water and sewer department, Roger Sheehan has been promoted to senior operator.

O'Keefe said Sheehan has been with the town for two years, but has 20 years of experience.

The town announced during the meeting that there is an entry-level position open for a water and sewer operator.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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