Supreme Court backs ZBA ruling

SHARON — A N. H. Supreme Court decision announced this week has put an end to a two-year battle over a gravel extraction proposal from a Nashua Road lot.

Two years ago, Kenny Lehtonen, through his business San-Ken Homes, asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment for approval to remove 108,000 cubic yards of gravel from 22 acres on Nashua Road. When his proposal was rejected by the ZBA, which ruled that the project had to meet a 75-foot setback requirement rather than the 25-foot setback that was being proposed, Lehtonen appealed to N.H. Superior Court, which affirmed the ZBA ruling. Earlier this year, Lehtonen appealed that ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.

In a Dec. 5 order, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the lower court, agreeing that the more restrictive 75-foot setback required for a woodland vegetative buffer should apply.

The case is the second excavation-related issue in Sharon that went all the way to the state Supreme Court. In October, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling upholding the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s denial of a special exception for a large sand and gravel excavation project at a Swamp Road site.

“We’re particularly pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld both decisions by the Zoning Board,” said Chet Bowles, administrative assistant to the Sharon Select Board, on Tuesday. “It has to be unusual for a town our size to have two Supreme Court cases in the same year.

Bowles said the town had budgeted $6,000 for legal expenses this year and the two cases had prompted residents to approve a warrant article in March to put an additional $15,000 in a new legal expense reserve fund.

“We believe we’ll end up spending $10,000 to $12,000 on these two cases,” Bowles said. “We’ve spent all that we budgeted and we’ll be transferring funds from the legal expense reserve soon. We didn’t expect this ruling quite this early.”

Lehtonen did not return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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