Public hearing about renaming streets causes tempers to flare
EPPING - Residents of Camp Hedding aren't happy with the town's plan to rename several of their streets, but state and local emergency officials insist on making changes to avoid confusion over other town roads with similar names.
Tempers flared at a public hearing Monday night where selectmen were expected to approve some name changes, but were met with resistance from residents who said their names have historic value and shouldn't be changed.
Town officials warned Camp Hedding property owners and other residents months ago about the need to change the names of more than a dozen streets to address concerns raised by the fire department and officials from the state's Enhanced 911 system.
Selectmen said they want to change the names of roads where the least number of people will be affected. Several roads in Camp Hedding have similar names that selectmen want to change, arguing that because Hedding - founded as a United Methodist campground in 1862 - is mostly seasonal homes, the changes will impact fewer people. Changing the name of a street with more residents living there year-round would impact more people, selectmen said.
'If you have a 27 Hedding Road and a 27 Hedding Ave., do you want to take the chance that you're lying there and there could be some confusion? Do you want that to happen to you?' asked Kenny-Lynn Dempsey, a field representative with the state's Bureau of Emergency Communications.
After a 45-minute discussion, selectmen urged Camp Hedding residents to hold their own meeting to discuss road name changes and also meet with state E-911 officials to work out the problems before selectmen decide on new names.
Betty Hamilton, who's had a home on Hamilton Avenue in Camp Hedding for 40 years, blamed developers and the planning board for allowing new roads to be given names similar to those that have existed in town for generations.
'The name problem comes in when the town authorizes a subdivision like they did with Hamilton Drive and uses the same name again. You have to get your planning board or whoever picks out the names to eliminate duplication,' she said.
Camp Hedding resident Tom Dwyer also criticized the changes, saying he didn't feel they were necessary.
'How is it that in Massachusetts they can distinguish between streets, roads and aves and Epping, N.H., can't?' he said.
Selectmen acknowledged that any name change will be tough for residents who live on that street, but they said the town can't ignore the problem.
'There can't be an argument about name changes. Somebody's street name is going to change. Get used to it,' Selectman Dianne Gilbert told residents.
Selectman Robert Jordan recalled an emergency at his residence on Lamprey River Court about eight years ago and how some emergency personnel went to Lamprey Village Drive instead.
'We can't have two Lampreys in one neighborhood. It's not safe,' he said.
Police Chief Michael Wallace said roads with similar names often create confusion, especially High Road and High Street.