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Legislator says Goffstown should pass on HUD funds

GOFFSTOWN — State Rep. John Burt said the town should do whatever it can to avoid any involvement with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development because the federal agency might force them to build multi-use developments and ruin the character of the town.

In what was advertised by Burt as a presentation on the pros and cons of the plan, the meeting Tuesday focused mainly on the reasons why Goffstown should not accept HUD money.

He began the meeting with a skit by bringing 10-year-old Riley Webb and her father, Bret, on stage. Burt held up a sign that read “HUD,” then gave a sign labeled “NHHFA” to Webb, and a sign labeled “Goffstown” to Riley. He joked that HUD is similar to his own hefty size and compared that to the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and the town of Goffstown.

“Look how cute little Goffstown is,” Burt said, then he held up a check for $50,000 – the money the town has received to design Plan Pinardville. “This is the link. HUD is the scary part.”

Throughout the meeting, Burt urged residents to alert their neighbors and attend the planning board review of the plan scheduled for Thursday. He said the planning board will be forced to take notice if hundreds of people appear at town hall for the meeting.

“Our voices will be heard,” Burt said, adding if the planning board approves the plan, it then goes on the March ballot. “If the planning board turns it down, we’ve met our obligation to HUD and we’re done.”

Some of the 150 residents who attended the meeting came to hear Burt and guest speakers discuss Plan Pinardville’s impact on the town and voiced their own dissatisfaction with the project.

“We need a plan that makes sense. ... We need a plan that we can afford,” said Dick Gamache, a member of the Plan Pinardville Ad Hoc Committee. “Once the plan is adopted by the planning board, it’s done. It will become part of the master plan.”

In a similar sentiment, Goffstown School Board member Dan Cloutier said residents should attend regular meetings to be more familiar with town affairs and let their elected officials know where they stand.

“You need to be the people to come and tell the planning board. Your voice does make a difference,” Cloutier said.

Resident Kyle Smith said he’s against Plan Pinardville, but he is concerned about safety and security. He urged residents to keep the momentum going to protect their town.

“Things are changing and things are going to continue to change and we must take control,” he said.

Resident Alice Cuchetti said she doesn’t want Pinardville to feel alone and separated from Goffstown.

“We’re all in this together and we’ll all be affected,” she said after the meeting.

Speakers included Brookline Rep. Jim Flanagan, who said his town looked at mixed-use housing but soon found that accepting HUD money would have forced them to comply with many terms and conditions.

“Do you know how many regulations HUD has?” Flanagan said. “There’s no such thing as free money. I voted to send the money back. I didn’t want to compromise the value of my town.”

Burt presented a video on New York’s Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who said HUD wants the power to dismantle local zoning so communities have what the agency considers the right mix of economic, racial and ethnic diversity. Astorino said his county accepted HUD money and then saw a 200 percent tax hike to pay for it. The county and HUD are battling over local zoning that arose from a 2009 settlement to build 750 affordable-housing units in 31 mostly white communities.

“HUD calls us the grand experiment,” he said. “Going up against Goliath is not easy.”

Burt advised Goffstown to return the $50,000 it received from NHHFA through HUD, of which about $38,000 has already been spent designing the plan.

The Plan Pinardville Ad Hoc Committee has held public meetings since January and agreed to submit the final draft to the planning board for approval. Many residents in town have voiced their concerns about the plan, saying it will change the character of the town, raise taxes and force them to build low-income housing.

The planning board’s review, and possible acceptance of the plan, takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. in Goffstown Town Hall.

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