Planning Board Workshop Meeting Minutes – 3/22/22

Present: Chair Jeff Miller, Vice-Chair Dennis Marcom, Clerk Jason Perron, Board Members Joanna Andros and Jeff Harrington; Alternates Trevor MacLachlan and Travis Adams; and Southwest Regional Planning Commission Services Senior Planner Lisa Murphy was the facilitator of the meeting to discuss the Economic Development Section of the Master Plan.

The meeting started promptly at 7 pm.

For the past year or more the Planning Board has been working on updating the Master Plan, which hasn’t been done for more than a decade. At this meeting the Board looked at a new addition to the previous sections – an Economic Development Chapter. Ms. Murphy said one of the benefits of this new chapter is it gives a business profile of the town – employers in town, the labor force, wages and income comparisons, average weekly salaries, unemployment rate, the education level of the employees. There are text and graphs to go with each topic.

The document states that the population of Walpole “in the 2020 US Census is 3,633, which is slightly down from the 2010 census.’’ Ms. Murphy said she wasn’t confident in that figure. Because of the pandemic, census figures are thought to be lower because there was less canvassing and there was an increase of people coming to New Hampshire from other states. The only town in the Fall Mountain District that had an increase in population was Langdon.

The 10 largest private sector employer by number of employees was listed with Bensonwood and Unity Homes being the highest having approximately 120 employees. However, three other large employers were left off of the list. Mr. Miller suggested including figures for Hubbard Farms, Shaw’s supermarket and Pinnacleview Equipment. The types of work by industry was reported. Of 1,995 employees age16 and over 683 were involved in educational services, health care and social assistance; 284 in manufacturing, 184 in construction, 134 in arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services, etc. Mr. Marcom asked Ms. Murphy if she could put them in descending order and she said yes.

The townspeople’s income was compared with Cheshire County and New Hampshire from 2015 to 2020. Jobs were divided into three categories: Goods-Producing industries, Service-Producing Industries and Government. In 2015 the per capita income was $37,137 in Walpole. In 2020 it was $41,303. That’s compared to $38,984 for Cheshire County and $43,777 for New Hampshire in 2020. The median Walpole family income for 2015 was $77,802 compared to $97,153 in 2020. Cheshire County was $83,400 and New Hampshire was $97,001 in 2020. That’s a significant jump for Walpole, Ms. Murphy noted.

Producing industries provided the highest average weekly wages in Walpole. Construction provides the average weekly wage with $1,186.99. Service-producing industries provides an average of $813.42 in weekly wages among all of its categories. The average weekly wage of all governments jobs is $625.72 with federal jobs paying considerably more than local or state jobs. The highest weekly paying work is in Information, which pays a significant $2,297.52 a week. Only 10 people were in that category.

In the section on level of education: In 2020 Walpole 30 percent of residents had a bachelor degree while 13 percent had graduate degrees compared to 21 and 13 percent with bachelor degrees in Cheshire County and 23 and 15 percent with graduate degrees in New Hampshire. It was pointed out that this has an up side and a down side. Walpole has a high number of college-educated graduates but because of the tight labor market, high school graduates are currently being hired for jobs that previously went to college graduates. As one board member put it, some employers just need a warm body.

Other information shows that during the pandemic 4.7 percent of Walpoleans were unemployed compared to 6.3 percent in Cheshire county and 6.7 percent in New Hampshire.

Another section compared tax rates and ranking with neighboring town in Fall Mountain and Surry. It was suggested by Joanna Andros that maybe Ms. Murphy could get those rates also for neighboring states – Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine, as well as for the US.

Commuting patterns into and out of Walpole for work: Yes, people commute to Walpole for work. It was estimated that 903 people come to Walpole to work, while 1,268 Walpole residents commuted out of town daily. Another 217 residents both live and work in town. These figure were compiled with numbers from the Department of Transportation.

Utilities and Municipal Services that might affect work places and families: This section includes information on water, sewer, electric and broadband services. Fortunately for Walpole, the Broadband Committee saw to it that all residents did have some digital access.

The last two items of the Economic Development Chapter were zoning-related. In general, lot size in Walpole is smaller than the required lot size in some neighboring towns. Walpole lot size for the residential district is just under an acre. Charlestown has 15,000 square feet for residential district. Other towns are an acre and up to 5 and 10 acres minimum lot size for rural and forestry districts. Ms. Murphy pointed out that the 65-foot-from-the-center-of-the-road setback means that the homes have a more of a scenic face and parking is often in back and out of sight.

The last table is included a list of Walpole Districts and Permitted Uses.

Goals, Objectives and strategies for economic development are:

“Goal: To have a balance of business opportunities to meet the retail, service and employment needs at a scale appropriate for the Town.

“Objective1: To provide the necessary infrastructure in place to retain and foster economic growth of existing businesses and to attract the development of new ones.

            Action 1: Review the needs of business for additional infrastructure such as (but not limited to)       3-phase power and improved broadband.

Objective 2: Plan for a diverse mix of commercial and industrial uses.

            Action 2. Investigate options for commercial nodal development along NH 12.

Objective 3: Support a moderate level of tourism.

            Action: Update the Town website periodically to help promote the local economy.

This is a fascinating section of the Master Plan. Look at the highs and lows and the numbers in each of the categories. Consider the types of work and their remunerations.

Ms. Murphy will go back to the Commissions office and take the suggestions made by the people who were at the meeting and come back with a revision next month.

Next month the Planning Board will look at the completed Economic Development Chapter and see for the first time the Historical and Recreation Resources Chapter. This is also new to the Master Plan. The next workshop date is Tuesday, April 26. Same place, same time. The public is welcome.

Respectfully submitted,

Marilou Blaine

cc: WPB, ZBA, Town Offices, The Walpolean.

Posted: Inside the Town Offices, on the bulletin board outside the Post Office, www.walpolenh.us

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