NOTES OF SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 BOARD OF SELECTMEN WORK SESSION
WITH STATE REGARDING BEACH ISSUES
Draft Revision A – Provided by the RyeCivic League
Clockwise around the table: State Rep. David Borden, Beach Use Committee Chairman Mike LaBrie, Selectman Joe Mills, Selectman Priscilla Jenness, Town Administrator Mike Magnant, Public Works Director Dennis McCarthy, State Trooper Chris Fetter, Police Chief Kevin Walsh, State Parks Representative Mike Houseman, State Rep. Tom Sherman, Selectman Craig Musselman, Lori Carbajal, Katy Sherman, Tom Farrelly (last two on Beach Use Committee), Frank McDermott, N.H.D.O.T. Rep. Doug DePorter, Bill Lampert, State Traffic Rep., State Senator Nancy Stiles. In audience: Bill Epperson, Beach Use Committee.
Parking meters and local enforcement in State Parks
Senator Stiles announced that her inquiry with the State had revealed that communities are allowed to install parking meters on state roads. Such a decision would be in the hands of the selectmen. All money collected from the meters and fines would flow back to the Town, however the town would need to pay for the meters and their maintenance and issue the tickets. She referred to a section of RSA 231. Editor’s note: N.H. RSA 231:130 permits towns to install meters on “any street,” which would appear to encompass state roads.
Senator Stiles continued, stating that she had been asked to observe activities, and noticed that there was some surfing on the State beach, which is not allowed. She requested that DRED (i.e. Department of Resources and Economic Development address the issue.
Senator Stiles then stated that she had passed an RSA a couple of years ago which permits a Memorandum of Understanding between the State and Towns which would permit the local police to enforce rules on the state parks. What is covered by the MOU is up to the Board of Selectmen. Ticket fines would go back to the community. Police Chief Walsh stated that the MOU is being mailed back to the State. Editor’s note: The MOU was approved at the Board of Selectmens’ meeting the prior night.
Lifeguard issues: communications and no surfing signs
Senator Stiles then asked Mr. Houseman whether the communication issue between State and Town lifeguards has been addressed. Editor’s note: This is an apparent reference to the radios not having the same frequencies, preventing the lifeguards from communicating by radio. Mr. Houseman replied that they are in the process of working on new radios and repeaters. The hope is that this will be in place for the next season.
Senator Stiles then asked about additional posting for Jenness Beach with regard to no surfing. Mr. Houseman responded that new signs could be provided.
State vs. Town beaches
The discussion then turned locations between Jenness Beach and the Town Beach. Selectman Musselman stated that the Town has a legal opinion that the Town can enforce rules in the intertidal zone and in the water in these locations. Doug DePorter referred to Town beaches with lifeguards at Cable Rd. Extension and Sawyers Beach. He asked whether other areas were considered Town Beaches. Mike LaBrie stated that the lifeguards are posted where there are swim zones. Otherwise, there’s no differentiation. Everything north and south of Jenness State Beach is Town beach, including north to Locke’s Neck.
New state rules proposed, meeting October 10
Senator Stiles stated that the State has proposed new rules with regard to the beaches. These are posted on a website. Public comment is permitted. There will be a public comment session at the Hampton Beach Sea Shell at 6:00 p.m. on October 10.
Tree trimming at 2190 Ocean Blvd.
In response to a question from Senator Stiles, Doug DePorter stated that the bushes at2190 Ocean Blvd.had been trimmed back. Selectman Mills asked that there be additional trimming to provide for continuing growth.
Senator Stiles asked about posted speed limits. Bill Lampert, responsible for State traffic (transferred to him from district authority effective October 10) responded. He reported that traffic studies had been conducted south of Perkins Rd.and south of Locke Rd., both of which are posted for 35 m.p.h. Speed limits are set based on the 85th percentile (i.e. the speed which 85 percent of the traffic does not exceed). The assumption is that most drivers proceed at a reasonable and prudent speed, and the 85th percentile is an indication of that speed. South of Perkins Rd., the 85th percentile is 32-33 m.p.h., south ofLocke Rd. it is 43 m.p.h. That would indicate that the speed limit at the latter location is too low and should be increased to 40 or 45 m.p.h.
Selectman Mills asked about the time of day that the study had been done. Mr. Lampert responded that the study is generally conducted throughout the day as speed limits are set based on free flowing traffic. One of the studies was done on a Thursday, July 25.
Selectman Mills stated that the problems are worse on Saturdays and Sundays. There are more parked cars and pedestrians on those days. There is no way that the speed limit could be 45 m.p.h. on those days. Mr. Lampert responded that the law requires that the posted speed must be based on ideal conditions. Selectman Mills asked whether that didn’t mean that 55 m.p.h. was OK, suggesting that the police do not ticket for speeding less than 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit. Mr. Lampert denied that this was acceptable.
State Rep. David Borden stated that the logic escaped him. If people are speeding the limit is adjusted upwards. Mr. Lampert responded that there are other things that they look at, although the speed study is the primary factor that is considered. The speed limit would not be raised without involving the community. Selectman Musselman expressed doubt that there would be a hue and cry to raise the speed limit on Ocean Blvd.in Rye.
Mike LaBrie asked whether there could be a flashing light, like in a school zone, temporarily reducing the speed limit. Mr. Lampert responded that this would require a $10,000 to $15,000 piece of equipment. The Department is not in a position to provide this.
Tom Sherman asked whether there could be an ability to change the speed limit based on the season. Mr. Lampert stated that they have that authority, but it would require an engineering study.
Selectman Mills asked whether the speed limit wasn’t 25 m.p.h. on Route 1B in New Castle. State Rep. David Borden confirmed. Editor’s note: Mr. Borden lives in New Castle. Mr. Lampert stated that this was the only road in the State like that. The street is very narrow and observed speeds are 18-20 m.p.h.
Mr. Lampert stated that he knows that speeds need to be lower at times, but reiterated that speed limits are set based on ideal conditions. Police Chief Walsh confirmed that motorists may be ticketed even though traveling less than the speed limit, when conditions dictate. State Trooper Fetter stated that persons can be cited during a snowstorm for traveling at an imprudent speed.
Tom Farrelly brought out a large montage of photographs showing parked cars along the side of the road. People are trying to run, bike and walk along the road under these conditions, with mothers and kids. “We’re on borrowed time,” he said.
Mr. Lampert argued that posting a 25 m.p.h. speed limit would not change the character of the speeds. People already slow down in these sorts of conditions. Now that a 3 foot clearance is required between cars and bicycles, drives are moving into opposing traffic to give sufficient clearance to bicycles.
State Rep. Sherman asked whether Mr. Lampert was saying that people will not slow down due to the lower speed limit. Mr. Lampert agreed and argued that studies have demonstrated this. He gave an example in Hookset, where the 85th percentile of the traffic was 58 m.p.h., even though the speed limit was 40 m.p.h.
Tom Sherman asked what would work to address the seasonal problem.
Mr. Lampert responded that the speed of travel is lower in tougher conditions, due to the presence of parking and pedestrians. However, he acknowledged that only 1 vehicle out of the 15 percent traveling over the 85th percentile can cause problems, as in Hampton. Editor’s note: This was an apparent reference to two bicyclists who had been killed by a speeding driver who went out of control the prior weekend.
Crosswalks and parking
Mr. Lampert stated that he believes that the crosswalks are at logical, acceptable crossing points. Selectman Mills asked whether the crosswalks would be painted before Memorial Day. Mr. Lampert responded that the road was being resurfaced and would be repainted afterwards. The thermoplastic paint used should last 5 years.
Frank McDermott asked about E St., adjacent to the Rye General Store, and the pedestrians crossing there that cannot be seen because vehicles are parked right up to the crosswalks. Mr. Lampert responded, stating that there are parking regulations dating back to the 1950s along Route 1A. He will get together with Dennis McCarthy to discuss. Mr. McDermott asked what the normal distance between crosswalks and parking. The distance is 30 feet at an intersection, Mr. Lampert responded. That is a starting point, he said.
Senator Stiles asked whether everything could be laid out by April. Dennis McCarthy confirmed that it would be.
There was then discussion about the blue crosswalks on Washington were an improvement. Police Chief Walsh confirmed that they were more visible, but were slippery when wet.
Senator Stiles asked whether the number of incidents had increased or decreased this year. Chief Walsh responded that everything depends on the weather. When it’s going to be 85 or 90 degrees, everything is packed by 10:00 a.m. They then see the standard violations that everyone has been talking about.
Selectman Mills asked whether the cost of a traffic cop could be split with the Dunes on extremely hot days. Chief Walsh spoke about the barrier that was pulled across the entrance at Wallis Sands State Beach to prevent traffic from backing up. Next year they may try to do something different at Jenness State Beach.
State Trooper Fetter confirmed that he had come down on two Saturdays and observed the issues that have been talked about, except for excessive speed. It took him 20 minutes to get where he was going because of the traffic.
Tom Farrelly spoke about the signs in the crosswalks being damaged and not making it through the summer. Mr. Farrelly asked about a traffic light during the summer at one of the locations. People don’t even wait for the traffic, he said. Mr. Lampert said that this would be expensive, and the Chief would need to provide enforcement. It’s a short crossing, and when people see a gap they cross over.
Lori Carbajal suggested that parking be limited to one side of Route 1A. There would not need to be crosswalks if cars were not parked on the west side of the road. Selectman Mills responded that this would not solve the problem at the Dunes, where there is parking in the back.
Beach Use Ordinance Committee report
Senator Stiles asked about this Committee. Mr. LaBrie stated that they have been working on a proposed article which would deal with group activities on the beaches for a fee, as well as rentals of surfboards and other equipment. There will be a public hearing on October 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, he said, where people can comment on the proposed article. Editor’s note: This meeting has been moved to the Junior High School. The intention would then be to bring that to the Deliberative Session in February, and hopefully having it pass in the election.
Senator Stiles stated that 80 people had been doing Zumba on Saturday. She asked whether that was commercial. Selectman Mills added that there was yoga and weight lifting as well.
Selectman Musselman stated that the Beach Use Committee’s proposal is that permits would be required for these activities.
Frank McDermott asked whether everything that was not a State Beach was aTown Beach for which permits would be required. Mike LaBrie confirmed and stated that the exact beach locations would need to be specified. Selectman Musselman stated that they would not be issuing permits for the state beaches. There are nine beaches. They have identified all of them.
Mike Magnant suggested that there be a radio frequency that people could tune to to obtain the status of the beaches. It could say something like Wallis Sands is closed, continue on toYorkBeach. Laughter ensued.
Tom Sherman emphasized the importance of meters, limited to the “village” area, which is the most congested. This could provide funding for added enforcement.
Frank McDermott stated that Chief Walsh had been doing an outstanding job of enforcement since the last meeting. There has been a 300 percent improvement. Applause ensued.
Selectman Mills enumerated the various state parks in Town, including Jenness State Beach, RyeHarborState Park, WallisSandsState Park, Odiorne Point, and RaggedNeckState Park. He asked for help from the State Police. He said that Chief Walsh had gotten in a jam with a group of cyclists, but had no authority. Editor’s note: This is an apparent reference to an incident on Route 1A involving Chief Walsh which was posted on YouTube. From the video, it appears that Chief Walsh was almost run down by a pack of cyclists traveling at high speed. He then pulled them over and you can hear a heated discussion between him and members of the group. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUY71RnjLm0
Senator Stiles stated that the State Police cannot come into Town unless the Chief invites them. Chief Walsh responded that they are always invited. One of the State Troopers present stated that Chief Walsh has been in touch with Lt. Vetter of Troop A. Some “passes” have been made through Town, he said.
Senator Stiles asked whether the Board of Selectmen would be working on the parking issue. Selectman Jenness stated that, if there is money involved, there will need to be quick action to get it to the Town Meeting.
Selectman Mills asked whether there is enforcement after dark atJennessStateBeach. Mr. Houseman responded that there was. Senator Stiles stated that this is where the MOU comes in. Selectman Mills stated that only two officers are on duty at night.
Senator Stiles referred to the toilet facilities atJennessStateBeachandWallisSandsStateBeach, and asked that they be brought up to theNorth Hamptonstandard.
Lori Carbajal asked why there could not be a state-sponsored beach patrol. The beach is still packed at 5:00 p.m., all of the lifeguards are gone, and enforcement is falling on the Town’s shoulders. Senator Stiles asked whether the State Parks had the authority to issue citations. Mr. Houseman confirmed that they did not. Chief Walsh indicated that they could work together and address the issue.
Selectman Musselman asked whether the open container ordinance was being enforced on the State beaches as much as on the Town beaches. Chief Walsh confirmed. He continued, stating that there had been 110 citations so far this year. That’s a small percentage of the violations on a busy day, but State liquor enforcement has helped out with two sets of three undercover agents in beach attire. When they observe a violation they radio it in and the police come.
Chief Walsh stated that, in addition to the 110 citations for open container, 1495 parking tickets had been issued year to date, and 61 dogs on the beach tickets. The Town will get all of the ticket revenue.
Senator Stiles suggested that they get together again next April before the start of the next season. Whereupon the meeting adjourned at 7:09 p.m.