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Francestown eyes work with regional planning commission

Union Leader Correspondent

November 21. 2013 9:04PM

FRANCESTOWN — With the town’s master plan in need of an update, officials are considering renewing their relationship with a regional planning commission, but which commission they go with has yet to be decided.

The town plans a public forum at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at town hall to hear presentations from two potential planning partners.

According to Town Administrator Michael Branley, Francestown was affiliated with the Southwest Regional Planning Commission until 2009, when the town stopped paying dues to the organization.

Branley said regional planning commissions are created by state law and provide towns with a variety of services, including assistance with creating master plans, advice on land use and planning, as well as emergency management, grants and regionalization.

Last year, the planning board expressed interest in affiliating with a planning commission in order to work on updating its master plan, a community-created vision for the future of the town that includes development, transportation, protection of resources and other criteria.

Though Francestown sits within the region overseen by the Southwest Regional Planning Commission and had used the organization in the past, there is some talk among officials that the Southern New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission might be a better fit.

The Southwest Region covers 35 towns from Francestown to the Vermont border, and south to the Massachusetts. The Southern Region includes 14 towns north of Francestown in the south-central area of the state. New Boston and Weare, which border Francestown, are part of the Southern Region.

According to Branley, in addition to borders, Francestown also shares important waterways with Weare and New Boston, a factor that the town must take into consideration when developing its master plan.

Branley said when he contacted the Southwest Regional Planning Commission to discuss renewing membership, he was informed the town had the option of moving to a different region if it was believed there would be a better fit.

“The board agreed to consider the option of moving and saw the Southern Region as another viable possibility, primarily due to our connection with mutually important waterways,” he said.

But before any decision can be made, the town is planning to meet with representatives of both planning commissions to help decide the best option. The two planning commissions will give presentations during the public forum next month.

“I feel it is important to have a conversation with the community about which region they feel is the best fit for Francestown, and I think this informational session is a great way to start that process, said Betsy Hardwick, chairman of the board of selectmen. “I am looking forward to the presentations from both of these professional organizations and hope we see a great turnout from our town officials and the general public.”

If the town opts to change regions, the board of selectmen must petition the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning, Branley said.

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