June 05. 2012 8:24PM

Regional planning deal is approved

By JULIE HANSON
Union Leader Correspondent

WINDHAM — The third time was a charm for proponents of the Granite State Future Project.

After three public meetings, the town agreed to partner with the Rockingham Planning Commission and other local municipalities to create a regional planning document. Some residents rejected the invitation to join a program that receives funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, believing the move would relinquish town authority.

Selectmen approved the contract Monday, 3-2.

“I have it in my heart not to take those HUD funds,” said Bruce Breton, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

Throughout the debate, Breton spoke against mixing federal funds with town business. He cast the dissenting vote along with Selectman Phil LoChiatto.

Selectman Kathleen DiFruscia had also been wary of working with HUD. She had time to review the agreement thoroughly, she said, and also felt comfortable the opinion from Town Counsel Bernard Campbell that the agreement was advisory and did not bind the town to anything.

“I really felt that it was important that we have a strong voice at the table to give input,” DiFruscia said.

Cliff Sinnott, executive director of the Rockingham Planning Commission, provided written responses to DiFruscia's questions regarding HUD's involvement, she said. In the end she was able to support the agreement after amending the language to clarify that regional planning was strictly advisory.

Rockingham Regional Planning is putting $37,500 from membership dues into the project during the three-year timeframe. Windham's share comes to $2,900 over three years.

The town will decide if it wants to adopt any parts of the regional planning document. DiFruscia hopes it will benefit from its efforts.

“My interest is what's in the best interest for the people of Windham,” DiFruscia said.

During the next three months, the town will also be deciding whether to remain with the Rockingham Planning Commission or join another regional planning commission. Selectmen and representatives of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Conservation Commission and other town boards will meet with the Rockingham Planning Commission, the Nashua Regional Planning Commission and the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission throughout the summer.

“We want to let the commissions get to know us, and we want to know them,” Breton said.

Community Development Director Laura Scott will make a recommendation in September, Breton said.

Jhanson@newstote.com