Fitzwilliam Economic Development Committee
June 8, 2011 7:00 p.m.— Minutes
Members: Craig Alley, Rebeckah Bullock, Tim Elkins, Joan Geary, Carl Hagstrom, Jim LaValley, Suzanne Gray.
Guests: Macreay Landy, Sam Lipson, Chris Temple, Frank Bequeart, Stephen Dunbar, Sandra Gillis.
Welcome and Introductions:
Introductions were made by all Committee members present.
Right to Know Laws:
Jim LaValley explained that he wants to ensure that the Committee follows all appropriate “Right-to-Know” laws. He noted that Rebeckah Bullock emailed each member a copy of the law prior to this meeting. Rebeckah Bullock provided a brief overview of the document, noting that the Committee must be cautious regarding the email communications that have been occurring outside of the scheduled meetings. Suzanne Gray provided additional information on the Right-to-Know Law, pointing out that it is okay to pass around facts; however it is the dialogue that can’t be done outside of the public meetings. She additionally noted that small projects involving 1-2 Committee members are also okay.
Approval of Last Meeting’s Minutes:
Jim LaValley asked the Committee to discuss any revisions to the minutes from the May 25, 2011 meeting. Tim Elkins pointed out that the Town’s website is Fitzwilliam-nh.gov, not the Fitzwilliam.gov noted in the minutes. Jim LaValley pointed out that the HFEDA was written as HFEDC in the minutes, and suggested that be revised to reflect the true title. Suzanne Gray asked that the statement under “Other” regarding Carl Hagstrom’s presentation on infrastructure issues be expanded to describe the types of infrastructure being investigated. Craig Alley motioned to approve the minutes of May 4, 2011 as amended, seconded by Carl Hagstrom. Approved by unanimous vote.
Discussion of HFEDA by Mac Landy:
Jim LaValley thanked Mac Landy for attending and presenting on the Historic Fitzwilliam Economic Development Association (HFEDA). He then turned the floor over to Mac Landy for his presentation.
Mac Landy explained that the HFEDA was formed after a much debated water treatment system for the center of Town was voted down. He noted that the name for the HFEDA came from the fact that Fitzwilliam is a very historic town. He stated that the HFEDA is a 501C(3), and read the mission statement. He commented that the HFEDA has held two workshops, one on adaptive reuse of historic structures and another on website design. He noted some projects that the HFEDA explored, including Crossroads and Elephant Rock. He pointed out that members of the HFEDA are involved with many different projects, citing his and Carl Hagstrom’s involvement in infrastructure and Mr. and Mrs. Green’s involvement in communications. He pointed out that infrastructure is often a major stumbling block for economic
Mac Landy briefly discussed some of the HFEDA more recent activities, including their continued upkeep of the business directly which is published once per year. He commented that members are allowed an ad space for free. He added that the HFEDA maintains that Fitzwilliam.org website, and the business-related Bulletin Board and Information sign at Crossroads.
Mac Landy discussed the importance of infrastructure, noting that The Fitzwilliam Inn and the Old General Store were and are both limited by their septic systems. He added that a proposed senior housing development was unable to come to town due to the lack of water and sewer infrastructure. Frank Bequeart pointed out that these infrastructure projects would require a bond, which is difficult to get approved because the project would benefit only a few residents in the short term; however the long-term benefits are substantial. Suzanne Gray asked if water and sewer infrastructure investments would benefit businesses. Mac Landy asserted that it would, and that it would also benefit the municipal buildings in the center of town. Mac Landy suggested that the EDC work closely with the Board of
Selectmen to gain support for their efforts.
Jim LaValley asked how the HFEDA collected the business information for the business directory. Mac Landy explained that it was collected from the Planning Board and the Fitzwilliam Newsletter.
Craig Alley asked how the EDC can collaborate and support the HFEDA. Mac Landy said he was unsure, noting that the continuation of the HFEDA is somewhat questionable since many of its members have been on it since the beginning. When they retire, there may not be anyone to keep the effort moving forward.
Joan Geary asked if the HFEDA would be willing to collaborate on the business directory. Mac Landy indicated that they would be; pointing out that the HFEDA attempted surveys in 2003 with very limited responses.
Suzanne Gray suggested that more responses might be acquired if the surveys were hand-delivered, to make them more personal. She asked if the needs of the businesses in Town have been identified and/or addressed. Mac Landy Pointed out that one has been addressed in recent years; high-speed internet.
Jim LaValley thanked Mac Landy for his presentation.
Discussion of New Business Survey:
Jim LaValley asked Craig Alley and Joan Geary to provide an update on the business survey. Joan provided a copy of the draft for discussion. She pointed out that the EDC had discussed mailing out the survey with self-addressed envelopes, visiting the businesses personally, and putting the survey online as means of disseminating it to local businesses. Joan Geary described changes that had occurred to the draft since the last meeting, based upon Committee input. She noted that Question 10 discusses “rating experiences with the town departments and committees” and is a little awkward; however that question was included in every similar survey that she referenced online. She commented that this question could provide very important feedback.
Craig Alley pointed out that one goal of the survey is to help determine what processes in town are “broken” with regards to economic development, so that the Committee can help work towards fixing the barriers that exist.
Mac Landy provided a copy of the survey that the HFEDA used in 2003. Craig Alley discussed some of the benefits of the questions included in that survey.
Suzanne Gray commented on the importance of going through the survey with the business in-person, so the Committee can collect information on why people rated a town department poorly. Jim LaValley noted that he has talked to almost every owner of vacant business properties in town, and that the majority have acknowledged problems with the current system. Suzanne Gray emphasized the importance of following up the question by asking why working with certain Town boards/departments/committees is poorly rated.
Craig Alley opened up the floor to suggestions for the business survey. He pointed out the alternative option to Question 10 for the Committee to review. Tim Elkins commented that they could add in an option to comment on the different Town departments/boards/committees. Joan Geary pointed out that Question 10 is asking for a perception, while the alternate is asking for an opinion.
Stephen Dunbar commented that some businesses may not feel comfortable answering this question, especially if they expect to go before the Town soon. Frank Bequeart asked how the surveys would remain confidential to allow businesses to feel comfortable answering the questions. Suzanne Gray suggested having the survey be two parts; one page that collects business information for the directory, and another that would be the confidential survey. Craig Alley noted that this could be done, since the survey hasn’t been formatted yet. He added that it would be important to clarify what information would and wouldn’t be shared beyond the EDC.
Mac Landy suggested adding a statement that would permit the Committee members to
Craig Alley said that he would work with Joan Geary to finish up the draft for the Committee’s review at the next meeting.
Sandra Gillis pointed out that there was a town-wide survey completed in 2007 with some information from residents regarding what types of businesses they would like to see in town. Suzanne Gray added that a survey was done for the updated Master Plan in the last year and a half. Jim LaValley asked if the Committee could be provided copies of the surveys and of the updated Master Plan. Suzanne noted that it was still in draft form. Sandra said she would check to see if it could be made available.
Presentation by Sam Lipson:
Jim LaValley introduced Sam Lipson as a property owner in town that is interested in potentially developing an industrial park on a parcel on Route 12 South.
Sam Lipson noted that he has owned the parcel on Route 12 South for quite a while, but has noticed that not a lot of economic development activity has been occurring. He expressed concerns over “red tape” and other obstacles to development such as high taxes, noting the importance of facilitating growth. He noted the need to bring in a variety of business types into Fitzwilliam, and provided a few articles on the topic for the EDC to review.
Sam Lipson described the location of his property, noting that it includes a grandfathered residential development with some rental properties. He added that he petitioned the State of New Hampshire for the trade name of “Fitzwilliam Industrial Park”. He commented that he has met with Fieldstone Consultants and others to discuss options for the property, and discussed a letter that he sent to Fieldstone Consultants regarding the property.
Craig asked if he had any tenants interested in the property. Sam Lipson indicated that he had not pursued tenants yet.
Sam Lipson discussed a Massachusetts statute 43(b), which supports business development and mentioned that a similar in New Hampshire would be beneficial.
Sam Lipson explained that he has the land and the name to start the initial development process. He mentioned that he has been speaking with Representative Dwinell about the property. Stephen Dunbar noted that he had looked at that property, pointing out the nice soils, sand, and gravel, but noted that the problem was the lack of three-phase power to the site.
Craig Alley thanked Sam Lipson for his presentation, and for pointing out some of the issues that he has encountered in town. Craig Alley asked Sam Lipson to keep the EDC in the loop as he goes forward with the property’s development.
“Welcome to Fitzwilliam” Theme:
Carl Hagstrom passed around a draft of the EDC business card and logo for the Committee’s review. He noted that he would like to send it to Connie Porter soon. Due to time constraints, this agenda item was table until a future meeting.
Town Infrastructure Presentation by Skip Hagstrom:
Due to time constraints, this agenda item was tabled until a future meeting.
Monadnock Business Development Presentation by Suzanne Gray
Due to time constraints, this agenda item was tabled until a future meeting.
Tim Elkins noted that he will be working with Dave Kenney on the broadband issue. He additionally mentioned that Connie Porter has offered to help format the business survey. Connie Porter has offered her graphic design skills to the Committee as they may be needed for different projects that are undertaken as well.
Mac Landy expressed concern that the HFEDA and the EDC similar names could cause confusion.
The next meeting was scheduled for June 22, 2011.