During the past several months and weeks I have tried to carefully listen to all of the arguments around changing our current form of government. Also, during the same period of time I have been weighing the cause and effect to the number one goal of this years Town Council. That goal is the Broadening of our Tax Base through Economic Development, not the elimination of town meeting. Many of us have spent the last 3 years investing vast amounts of personal time and tens of thousands of dollars to develop a go forward strategy with the end game being a 20-25 million dollars of increased tax revenues over the next 3- 7 years. If we take a moment to examine the process:
1.Planning board was asked by Town Council to revisit the (POD) Performance Overlay Districts for routes 28 and 102; this is to be completed this fall 2009
2.Small Area Master Plan findings to be adopted during this fall 2009
3.Economic Development Task Force has spent the summer socializing their plan for input, with the final presentation in September, 2009 for the Town Council.
4.Pettingill Road stimulus package and regular partnership meetings with the Boston Manchester Regional Airport ( Earmarks being pursued jointly)
5.The last 8 months during a severe economic downturn we are being activity solicited by the developers who see the potential of Southern New Hampshire. ( especially Londonderry as a central location)
6.Renewed support of Governor Lynch and the State Department of Transportation.
7.We are within 30 days of completing new ordinances to enable growth that meets the intent of our Master Plan.
8.Many hours of planning, research and individual efforts by numerous people to learn what is the best approach for Londonderry's future.
Throughout this process we have all learned one very important fact. The stabilization of our community is the most attractive selling point. The tax rate has been stable for the last several years. Our form of government is stable and works. It may not be perfect but what is in life? What turns off prospects is unstable behavior by elected and appointed officials. Additionally, constant spikes in taxes without justification.
Maybe SB2 is good for the town. Or it might not be a good idea for Londonderry. We have not appointed a task force to study the question, process, charter committee or the timing. We follow that kind of a process for most if not all other strategic directions. Why not this one? It affects everyone in the community. If we followed the same logic for Economic development it would be a useless exercise given all of the changes over the past three years. Couldn't the same be said for changing our form of government? Many rules, regulations and the atmosphere have changed in the last five years to become more business friendly. Doesn't it make sense at a bare minimum to do the same level of due diligence that has been invested in other projects. Versus what appears to be a reactionary decision. What is the urgency?
If we come back to the number #1 strategic goal of the Town Council; expand the revenue through Economic Development at the Airport and the exterior arteries of the town.
Creating controversy and sending a message to the public that we are unstable is contrary to the prime directive. With all due respect to the Council let's not lose the momentum created by hundreds of hours of voluntary work without the proper planning and research. Now more than ever we need to be TEAM LONDONDERRY.
Your comments, suggestions and debate are welcome.
John Farrell is chairman of the Londondery Economic Development Taskforce and vice chairman of the Londonderry Planning Board.