Charlestown board rejects appeal of Perry Mountain project permit

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 01-27-2023 5:26 PM

CHARLESTOWN — A town board has rejected an appeal of a building permit issued to a landowner who has plans for a 10,000-square-foot home on Perry Mountain accessed by a Class VI road.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment, acting in its capacity as the Building Code Board of Appeals, voted, 3-1, against reconsidering the permit on Thursday.

Board members did not address the key claims raised in the appeal brought by the Perry Mountain Community Group; opponents of the permit say the proposed widening and improvements to a half-mile portion of the Class VI Borough Road extension would violate a conservation easement at neighboring Sky Farm.

Building Code Board Chairman Andrew Jellie said at the start of Thursday’s meeting that hearing an appeal of the Selectboard’s approval to improve the road is not within its jurisdiction.

“Whether or not a Class VI road can be widened is not a question tied to the issuance of the building permit,” Jellie said, referring to a written communication received from the town’s attorney. “It needs to be appealed to the Superior Court, not to us.”

Jellie said the building code board’s authority in the appeal was limited to determining the completeness of the application for the permits issued to landowner Roger Clarke in the fall for the house and a barn.

The next step for opponents of the permits would be to appeal the board’s decision Thursday to Superior Court.

Bonnie Remick, owner of the Sky Farm property, which has been protected through a permanent conservation easement since 1992, said after the meeting that appealing the Selectboard’s decision on the Class VI road section of Borough Road to the Superior Court appears to be the community group’s only option.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Search for missing Dartmouth graduate student ends tragically
Missing Dartmouth student’s body found in Connecticut River
Dartmouth faculty censure of Beilock further highlights divide over response to protest
NH Cold Case Unit searches Newport property
Rivendell superintendent departure adds to district’s challenges
Affordable apartments slated for vacant city-owned land in Lebanon

The appeal to the building code board, filed by attorney Jason Reimers, argues that widening the road would violate the boundaries of the easement and disturb easement property, which is prohibited.

The board’s vote on Thursday came shortly after board member Terri Fisk withdrew her motion to “approve the appeal” and have Clarke provide the exact location of the house, the type of construction and an approved septic system plan before the permit is approved. Planning and Zoning Administrator Liz Emerson said approval of the motion would require Clarke to start the application process from “scratch.”

“That was not my intent,” said Fisk, who withdrew her motion and voted against the motion by member Matthew Baran to deny the appeal that was supported by Jellie and Bob Davis.

Emerson’s statement about the process conflicts with what Jellie said at the beginning of the meeting. Referring to legal advice, Jellie said they had four options, the first being to deny the appeal while the other three would ask Clarke to provide additional information before the permits are considered complete and approved. He did not say Clarke would need to begin the application process from the start.

On Friday, Emerson said that because Fisk’s motion contained the words “approve the appeal” Clarke would have had to refile the application. Emerson said if the board had only voted on obtaining additional information for the permits then that is all Clarke would have been required to submit.

Fisk said several times she thought the application was not complete.

“There is more that should be required at this stage,” Fisk said.

Before the board discussed the appeal, Reimers outlined the community group’s objections to the permits, referring to the town’s building codes. He said there were no plans and specifications submitted.

“All the application said was 10,000-square-foot house, five bedrooms, five bath, one story,” Reimers said. “That’s it. 10,000 square feet, one story. That is quite a footprint.” (Plans have been updated, Emerson said, to include 9,500 square feet and two-stories.)

Reimers also noted the steep slopes adjacent to where the house would sit and said the public interest has to be served, as stated in the code.

“It does not serve the public interest to ignore this requirement when construction will not only go through the conservation easement but be near steep slopes on a mountaintop,” Reimers said. “Building codes say these shall be provided.”

Reimers also said the code requires that plans be stamped by an engineer or architect, and it is even more important with the size and location of the house and the steep slopes.

The exact location of the house and type of construction together with the required information on the building permit are needed according to the code, Reimers said.

“Requiring the location of the proposed structure is basic,” Reimers said. “Yet the application ignores basic information that the location of the home be shown.”

A septic system proposal needs to be submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and this has not been done, Reimers said.

Emerson said the location is approximate, but until the boundary lines of the property are verified in the spring the exact location cannot be stated nor can the location of the septic system be determined.

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

]]>