Coos Planning Board Wants To Assert Its Authority Over Private Projects On Government Land

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Chris Jensen photo

By Chris Jensen,

Coos County’s Planning Board wants to make it clear its position that it has authority over private projects on state and federal land, including the White Mountain National Forest.

That’s part of a proposed revision of zoning regulations that will be the focus of a public hearing on Aug. 2 in Lancaster.

It is the first time in about 30 years that there’s been such a comprehensive review of the regulations. Those regulations control development in unincorporated areas that lack local government.

When the zoning document was created more than 30 years ago, federal areas such as the White Mountain National Forest were listed as “non-jurisdictional,” said Planning Board Chairman John Scarinza.

“I think what the county was recognizing was if there was a federal project on federal lands, local zoning laws don’t apply,” Scarinza said at a planning board meeting last month.

That meant if the government wanted to build a ranger station or a maintenance building it was none of the planning board’s business.

But the old regulations didn’t address the planning board’s position that it has jurisdiction if either the state or federal government gives a private developer permission to build something, Scarinza said.

Such projects could range from a ski resort to a new Appalachian Mountain Club hut.

Scarinza said the planning board wants to make it clear that it would have control over such a project “to ensure that it was constructed with the best management practices, storm water management, setbacks and all that,” he said. “So, it is those projects we are trying to capture.”

Under the proposed revision those government lands would no longer be considered “non-jurisdictional.”

However, the board would still lack authority over projects that the government itself carries out on its land.

White Mountain National Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner said he hasn’t seen the changes and had no comment.

The planning board has yet to give final approval to the changes. If that happens they would still need the approval of the County Commissioners as well as Coos County delegation.

The proposed changes are expected to be posted on the county’s website soon. The public hearing is scheduled during a meeting that will begin at 6 p.m. on Aug 2 at the North Country Resource Center in Lancaster.



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