Here is a nice little package of self-serving conservationism from the Town of Raymond.
The short story:
In November 2008, the Southeast Land Trust, a NH non-profit, buys some property which rests in three towns, Raymond, Epping, and Nottingham. They paid $300,000.00, so says the tax stamp from the deed.
So, naturally, the SLT wants to recoup some of the money, $75,000.00 in this case, they spent, through the more than willing members of the Raymond Conservation Commission who like many NH con coms get half of all the current use penalty money for land purchases. The catch is that under state statute, RSA 36-A, they can only purchase land IN THE INTEREST OF THE TOWN. This parcel would be owned, lock stock and barrel, by a third party.
And another catch: The first conservatioin land non-profit, SLT, gave the parcel to another non-profit, Bear-Paws Regional Greenways. Now we have a third party twice removed.
On Dec. 22, 2008 the Raymond Selectmen signed a “Letter of Agreement” with SLT to pay $75 grand to them for the protection of this parcel. The Letter of Agreement spelled out that Raymond would have no interest or ownership in the parcel “being protected.”
Unbeknownst to the signing selectmen, apparently, was a letter from their own law firm, dated Dec. 17, 2008 saying “in short” that such a transaction was not lawful under RSA 36-A since the land was not purchased in the name of the Town.
No matter, RSA 36-A was up for a change in 2009 so that third parties could receive tax dollars for land from municipalities, a kind of enabling statute that has to be ADOPTED by the voters in each community. You may have noticed this statute slipped into your 2009 Town Warrant as a warrant article. It is very popular with the double dealing, land swapping, self-serving, conservation con artists who haunt this state. Conservation land “investing” becoming a whole, new, unregulated industry.
The voters in Raymond, alerted by their own taxpayer group after contact by CNHT, voted down this change to RSA 36-A by a three to one margin. This leaves the Raymond Con Com in a swampy area of municipal law. The still want to do the deal as far as we know and pay Raymond tax dollars for what has already been paid for with other tax dollars instead of just saying THANK YOU to the third party conservation real estate wheeler dealers who are out roaming NH “protecting” every patch of undeveloped land they deem “unique.”
Stepping all over state statutes, town votes, municipal interests, the limits of elected officials, and common sense is all part of saving the planet when you are a third party conservation land shopper. This one good reason you should find out if your town voted in the past to turn over half of all the land use change tax penalties to what is often the refuge of municipal moonbats in your community, the conservation commission, because these people, unlike most officials, answer to no one when they make long term decisions on behalf or the taxpayers. Current law lets con coms, by a simple majority of often only 5 people, “invest” in any scheme they choose once the money has been put in their fund. And the laws are changing all the time to expand their control of tax dollars and take more of it from voters.
Sure, we all want to buy, or have someone else buy, all the unused land in our town so no one else can move in - once our own house is built. It is the American way – not in my back yard!
But all this compelling conservation spending, along with our rewarding education “investments” have caused a slight problem.
It will not be long before towns own most of the houses on any given street because many smart conservation shoppers will no longer be able to afford to live in eco-utopias.
Stay tuned for ITAMTRAV part two for a who's - who of this deal - you will love it.