March 16, 2011

Division of the House in Franklin

The surprise at the DOE hearing held in Franklin was not that local public officials spoke in favor of the Northern Pass proposal, but rather the extent to which the crowd at the historic Franklin Opera House was divided. Native son Daniel Webster likely would have been proud of the public debate (and unlikely to limit himself to the allotted three minutes the DOE allows each speaker).
Tara Ballenger's story in the Concord Monitor can be read here. In the Laconia Evening Citizen, Bea Lewis' recounting of the hearing can be read here.

If the Northern Pass project were built as proposed, Franklin would host the facility where the DC power would be converted to AC before traveling on to Deerfield for dispersion into the grid to serve southern New England. The Franklin City Council members have been vocal proponents of the tax revenue the project would bring to the city, and they outlined their arguments as expected. Other Franklin residents voice their opposition, questioning who will want to live near the proposed facility, lamenting how it will 'brand' Franklin as a undesireable community, and suggesting that no other more positive development would occur if the facility and power lines were built.

It's a fascinating debate over community values. Will lower taxes thanks to undesireable development lead to community growth? Or will creating a more desireable community (as a small riverfront city in the Lakes Region with good access to I-93, Franklin has tremendous potential) lead to sustainable growth and a vibrant population?

Here's a likely scenario: should the project get built as proposed, those people who ultimately get the few permanent jobs that Franklin city officials covet today will end up paying their own property taxes in the surrounding communities, where they will choose to live. But they will buy a quart of milk in Franklin on their way home.

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