Voting Guide – China: Ballot questions explained to about two dozen residents

by Mary Grow

Around two dozen residents attended China’s Oct. 17 public hearing intended to explain the dozen local ballot questions, with as many opinions as questions.

On Nov. 8, China voters will have local elections, with seven candidates for three seats on the board of selectmen and no other contests, and 12 local issues to resolve.

Voting will be in the former portable classroom beside the town office on Lakeview Drive, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are available in advance.

Proposed amendments to the Land Development Code (question #3 on the ballot) generated most discussion at the hearing. The planning board proposed the changes, most of them bringing the town ordinance into conformity with state guidelines.

Former Codes Officer Scott Pierz argued that many of the changes affecting properties around China Lake would have the effect of weakening standards and reversing 25 years of comparatively stringent regulation aimed at restoring the lake’s water quality.

Emphasizing that he was not telling anyone else how to vote, Pierz said he will vote against the changes.

Two other proposed ordinance amendments, questions 1 and 2, deal with solid waste. The major change, according to Transfer Station Committee Chairman Frank Soares, is in transfer station days: if voters approve the amended Solid Waste Disposal Ordinance (question 2), the transfer station will be open Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday instead of the current Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The purpose is to eliminate the long space between Saturday and Wednesday when Monday is a holiday.

Three ballot questions propose land acquisitions. Question 4 asks voters to spend up to $12,000 for a parcel of land at the head of China Lake’s east basin; question 5 asks voters to accept as a gift the subdivided Wachusetts property on the east side of Lakeview Drive opposite the former Candlewood Camps; and question 12 asks voters to take up to $10,000 from the Tax Increment Financing fund to buy a lot adjoining the town office land.

Members of the selectboard endorsed all three proposals. The $12,000 would buy the land currently used for parking at the boat landing, so that it could be improved as a parking area, they said. Selectmen Joann Austin and Ronald Breton emphasized that the town would not fill in any of the wetland on the property. The plan for development in the area, which Austin said is related to, but not dependent on, acquiring the parking area, includes installing runoff control measures.

Selectmen have no specific plans for the other pieces of land. The Wachusetts property could be home to a new China Village fire station, or the town could sell it, or, board Chairman Robert MacFarland suggested, it could accommodate a small business park. The parcel by the town office is envisioned as providing room for expanding the town office complex by additional central facilities, like the food pantry should it need to relocate or more ball fields.

Other ballot questions generated little discussion, with the exception of Question 9, asking approval to transfer $100,000 from China’s unassigned fund balance (once known as surplus) to the equipment reserve fund.

Budget Committee Chairman Robert Batteese said a majority of his committee recommended rejecting the proposal, because they believe it would reduce surplus too much. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux strongly supported the transfer; China has more than $500,000 in municipal equipment, he said, and replacing just one piece could cost up to $200,000.

The short selectmen’s meeting that followed the public hearing was, like the hearing, focused mainly on the future. Board members said:

  • On Monday, Oct. 31, MacFarland and others will again run a Halloween Trunk or Treat in the town office parking lot.
  • Because of Halloween, the next regular selectmen’s meeting is rescheduled from the evening of Oct. 31 to 8 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2.
  • Austin and fellow board member Irene Belanger are working on developing a survey of local transportation needs to be distributed at the polls Nov. 8.

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