Charlestown neighbors dispute building permits approved on Perry Mountain

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 01-09-2023 4:35 PM

CHARLESTOWN — A group of residents is demanding that two building permits issued to a landowner whose property is at the end of a Class VI road be rescinded, claiming they are not in compliance with local building codes or state law and threaten a conservation easement.

In its appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Perry Mountain Community Group’s attorney argued that the Selectboard did not follow the town’s own codes when it issued the permits to Roger Clarke and did not obtain Planning Board review as required under state law, and that improving the road to Clarke’s land would violate the boundaries of an abutting conservation easement.

The Zoning Board will hear the appeal on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the community room below the Silsby Library, which is located at 26 Railroad St. in Charlestown.

The appeal of the building permits, which were approved by the Selectboard in October, was filed by the BCM Environmental and Land Law, of Keene, N.H., on behalf of the Perry Mountain Community Group, which includes Bonnie Remick, owner of the Sky Farm easement property along Borough Road extension, a Class VI road.

BCM attorney Jason Reimers argued in the eight-page appeal that not only would widening the road violate the easement boundaries, but also that the Selectboard did not obtain the information required by the town’s building code before issuing the permits.

Reimers seeks to have the permits rescinded and the matter returned to the Selectboard for full compliance with the town building code and state law.

“The Bonnie Remick Trust owns property on both sides of Borough Road that is subject to a conservation easement held by the Town of Charlestown,” Reimers wrote. “Any upgrades, widening or more intensive use of the Class VI Borough Road would adversely impact the purposes and values of the conservation easement.”

Reimers also cites New Hampshire state law which states in part that “RSA 674:41 generally prohibits the issuance of a building permit for a lot unless that lot has frontage on a Class V or better road.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

The Selectboard approved two building permits for Clarke, who owns about 40 acres near the top of Perry Mountain on the Charlestown and Unity border. One permit allows the construction of a 10,000-square-foot house and the second for a 60-by-40-foot garage and barn. Clarke’s property begins near the end of a roughly half-mile section of the Class VI portion of Borough Road, which is bordered on either side by the conservation easement that was established in the early 1990s.

Remick bought the Sky Farm easement property in 2018. Her home sits a short distance from where the Class VI portion begins. On Saturday, Remick showed sections of the road where the easement boundaries on either side do not have a distance of 33 feet between them, the requirement for the road improvement.

“The easement reads that it goes to the edge of the road, not 33 feet,” Remick said, pointing to markings on several trees that are close to the road. Remick also said the blasting of ledge would be needed to improve the road in some parts and two short steep sections would need to be removed.

The town has placed stakes in the ground to mark where the road would be widened but only near the beginning of the Class VI portion.

At a December Selectboard meeting, Chairman Jeremy Wood said that according to the conservation easement map, the road is 33 feet wide but the town easement is 50 feet wide.

Most of the appeal addresses claims that the Selectboard violated the town building code by issuing permits without obtaining “plans and specifications in duplicate” signed by the owner and contractor.

Also not included, but required according to Reimers, are septic system permits, an indication of compliance with all local land use and control measures as adopted by the town and an “approved construction permit application for an entrance approach on an approved Town or State Road,” the appeal states.

“Despite the plain language of the building code, the Selectboard unreasonably and unlawfully approved two building permit applications that included almost none of the required information and attachments,” Reimers wrote. “The Selectboard hardly knew what it was approving.”

Reimers said because the “subject property” is in a watershed zone and traverses a conservation easement is it “contrary to public interest” and the Zoning Board should reverse the Selectboard’s issuance of two permits and “remand the matter to the Selectboard for full compliance with the Building Code.”

Reimers concluded his appeal by stating the Selectboard made multiple legal errors by not following the language of the building code or RSA 674:41 and not considering its “role as enforcer of the Conservation Easement.”

At a Dec. 6 Planning Board meeting, the board declined to allow comment on the issue and said it was not obligated to review the permits, according to meeting minutes.

“By law, this decision has already been made and public comment cannot change this during this meeting,” the board declared.

Last week, Selectboard member Jeff Lessels declined to comment on the appeal.

“We are trying to be fair to both parties (as they move forward),” he said.

Reached on Sunday, Clarke said he has done nothing wrong and is ready to move forward.

“They have been fighting me since day one,” Clarke said. “The building permits are approved. The road improvements have been approved. Everything is done. Nothing can be done to stop it.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

]]>