Court Allows Lawsuit Against Monadnock Condos to Proceed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jack Savage, VP for Communications & Outreach
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
(603) 224-9945, ext. 330;
KEENE, NH, June 16, 2006—In an emphatic and unusually long 16-page decision, Cheshire County Superior Court Judge John P. Arnold denied the Town of Jaffrey’s motions to dismiss a lawsuit against 36 condos at the base of Mt. Monadnock in the four-town Mountain Zone.
“This is the decision we expected, and what we thought should happen. We’re going to get our day in court,” said attorney James Bassett from the Concord firm of Orr & Reno. Bassett represents the petitioners, including former State Rep. H. Charles Royce, 20 other Jaffrey land owners, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Town of Dublin. “The Town of Jaffrey didn’t want us to be able to tell our story,” Bassett said, “but the court has said now that it will consider our arguments and that it’s not right to bar the door to the courthouse.”.
“This is only step one, but it’s an important step,” said Will Abbott, Vice President for Policy at the Forest Society. “We are pleased that the court will now hear the substantive arguments originally raised by the petitioners in bringing this suit, and we believe there is a strong argument for the Court to send this project back to square one for reconsideration as a project with regional impact.”.
The petitioners claimed in their original filing of the lawsuit that the decisions of the Jaffrey Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment should be declared null and void because of their failure to determine regional impact and failure to notify regional abutters (the Mountain Zone Towns of Dublin, Marlborough and Troy, and the Southwest Regional Planning Commission) in a timely fashion..
In bringing the suit last August, Royce, the former superintendent of Monadnock State Park, said in a news release, “The suburbanization of rural mountain areas is happening all over New England and America. We cannot let it happen to Mount Monadnock, a National Natural Landmark that is recognized in New Hampshire law as ‘a unique geographical attraction.’”.
Most of the houses in the development are planned to be 30 feet apart, bunched together on either side of a road along a 17-acre, 700-yard ridge in the Mountain Zone delineated by the Town of Jaffrey. The lots are an average of about half an acre instead of the standard 1.5 acre zoning allowed in rural areas served by town water. The road access to the site is on Mountain Road in Jaffrey, the entrance is about 1400 feet west of the sign directing people to the Monadnock State Park..
In denying the motions to dismiss, Judge Arnold noted that the argument of Town Counsel H. Neil Berkson to the Court that the ZBA—and not the Court--has jurisdiction on the issues in question “is a direct contradiction to the position taken by the Town [Counsel] during the ZBA’s September 6, 2005 hearing.”.
Arnold added, “In essence, if the Court were to accept the Town’s current arguments, the Town would be able to evade any substantive review of the Planning Board’s decision, thereby denying the petitioners’ opportunity for judicial remedy, if appropriate. Such an outcome is patently unfair and unwarranted in this case.”.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. In order to preserve the quality of life New Hampshire residents know today, the goal of the Forest Society, in partnership with other conservation organizations, private landowners, and government, is to conserve an additional one million acres of the state’s most significant natural lands for trails, parks, farms and forests by 2026.