A presentation requesting that the town of Windham partake in a sustainable communities initiative turned into several residents and some Board of Selectmen members raising concerns about the plan.
The initiative, which was presented by Rockingham Planning Commission Executive Director Cliff Sinnott, drew fire from residents who felt that the plan was reaching too far.
One of those residents, Eileen Mashimo, said the initiative "overreached the scope" of a regional land plan.
"I would highly encourage you to take a look at this and really think hard about this because there are things in the framework that have nothing to do with land planning," she said.
Mashimo offered examples from the plan, including a section labeled "healthy eating active living" and another related to family assistance for early care and education.
Sinnott defended that master plans aren't just about land, but rather everything from water, housing and commercial development.
"It's about planning for the future, and if that's something that you think is a bad thing, then you're not going to like this," he said.
But that future plan, which Sinnott said stretches to about 2035, is something that Ken Eyring, another Windham resident, disagreed with.
Eyring said that 35 years ago, there was no way to predict where society would be from a technological standpoint, an item that he said the board should consider.
Eyring also picked apart other parts of the plan, including a section saying that the public relations firm ActionMedia will serve as a contractor.
ActionMedia, according to the initiative, will provide $43,500 in grant funds to develop the communications strategy and train RPC staff in effective outreach technique.
But Eyring referenced one part of the ActionMedia website, questioning whether it was the type of company the town wants associated with the regional planning.
"Our work is about the power of communications to shift the advantage, to mobilize support and neutralize opposition," said the site.
Commenting on Eyring's concerns, Sinnott said that the plans are not mandating that Windham or any of the other 26 towns in the RPC do what they suggest.
"What we do is advisory, there is no regulatory piece to this at all," Sinnott said.
A third resident – Bill McNally – opposed the plan completely, saying that he believed the planning commission is coming directly or indirectly from the United Nations Agenda 21, an action plan related to sustainable development.
"I'd like to see people keep their initiative here in Windham and not be getting into a regional commission," McNally said.
Sinnott said that the RPC has "no connection whatsoever" to the United Nations.
"Before we got involved with this project, I had never heard of Agenda 21," he said.
According to Sinnott, funding for the regional plan was approved in December. It had originally been turned down in 2010.
That funding is contingent on enough towns participating in the initiative.
Sinnott said that the project will take three years and is federally funded, with a 8.5 percent of local dues going into it as a match.
That number amounts to $37,500 in dues over three years from the RPC towns. The entire grant is worth $300,000.
The goal, as Sinnott explained, is to build individual regional plans for all nine commissions in New Hampshire.
Those plans will specifically cover items such as vision, goals and objectives, housing, transportation, infrastructure, natural resources and environment and economic development.
The idea after that will be to bring the plans to the state from the bottom up.
"When we're done with our individual regional plans, the idea is to combine those plans at least to summarize them into what are the common pieces that are found throughout the state," Sinnott said.
The RPC is comprised of residents from the 27 towns, with Peter Griffin serving as Windham's member.
18 of the 27 RPC communities provided letters of support when the grant was first applied for. Windham's support letter indicated a willingness to sign a partnership agreement to provide input for the project.
Sinnott said that Hampstead was the only town that explicitely did not want to participate.
"From what I understand it was simply a philosophical desire not to accept federal funds to engage in this," he said.
Selectman Phil LoChiatto also took issue with the federal dollars.
"It always comes out in the end that when the federal government give you something they always want someting else in return," he said.
But Selectman Ross McLeod backed up the idea of the master plan, agreeing with the planned outcome of bringing efficiencies to the state level once the regional initiatives are complete.
McLeod said that too many towns are "in it for themselves and themselves only," leading to inefficiencies on the state level.
"It's incumbent on us to try to help the state more efficiently," he said
Following the suggestion of McLeod, the board tabled the discussion until next month so that it can research all of the concerns brought up by residents.