Superior Court sends castle issue back to town

ZBA asked to determine if rental business is accessory use

KEENE — Cheshire County Superior Court Justice John C. Kissinger Jr. denied three separate motions last month seeking reconsideration of his April 15 ruling that finds Rep. John Hunt (R-Rindge) and his wife, Lynda, are operating a rental business in Rindge’s rural/agricultural zone.

Now the town and the Hunts have 30 days to appeal the Superior Court’s decision to the N.H. Supreme Court, but it is unclear at this time whether they will do so. The Hunts’ neighbors had challenged the town’s determination that their rentals did not constitute a business and, therefore, did require a variance to operate in the residential district.

In his amended order dated May 20, Kissinger remanded a number of decisions to Rindge’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, asking the board members to reconsider whether or not the rental of the Hunts’ Castle — an ornate mansion at 165 Sunridge Rd. — is an accessory use permissible under the town’s zoning ordinance. Kissinger also ordered that the Zoning Board determine if the Hunts need a variance or another form of relief, such as a special exception, to continue to operate their business.

The Hunts and the town of Rindge filed separate motions for reconsideration of Kissinger’s April 15 court order. Both petitioners maintain that the primary and principal use of the Castle is residential and that the rentals are a valid accessory use. The town of Rindge claimed that the court erred in its finding that the rental of an entire single-family house for residential purposes is a business.

William and Maryann Harper, Andrew and Heidi Graff, Donald and Liza Pyke, William and Shirley Preston and Timothy and Susan Wessels, all residents of Sunridge Road, filed an objection to those motions on May 1, stating, “The town and Hunts ignore the evils sought to be guarded against by zoning and reasonable land use restrictions.”

The neighbors also appealed Kissinger’s decision, seeking further clarification. They asked the court to take its decision a step further and rule on whether the continued operation of the Hunts’ business without a variance or special exception violates town zoning laws. But Kissinger denied the request in his amended order on May 20 and remanded the issue to the Rindge Zoning Board.

While Kissinger ruled that the Hunts are operating a business, he did not determine whether the rental business violates Rindge’s zoning, saying “it had not been addressed by the Zoning Board.” Rindge’s Zoning Board and Select Board imposed conditions on the rental of the Castle in 2012 rulings, but did not deem the rentals part of a business.

Zoning Board Chair David Drouin said Friday that, as long as the parties in the civil suit do not appeal Kissinger’s decision to the state’s Supreme Court, his board will meet on the matter in July.

In the meantime, the Hunts continue to let out the Castle, with renters entering and exiting the property by way of Sauvola Drive in Rindge. The Hunts had been renting their second Rindge property, the Holloway House at 63 Sunridge Rd., but about a year ago stopped all rentals there in response to neighbors’ concerns. But Hunt said Friday his efforts have fallen on deaf ears and that his neighbors want the Castle shut down, too.

William Preston said Monday that many of the concerns first brought forth in January 2012 by the neighborhood against Hunt could have been avoided if the Hunts had just applied for a special exception to rent their homes. “There seems to be some story going around town that these actions of ours will affect anyone who rents residential property in town. Our intent was to address only the Hunts business, which is impacting our neighborhood,” Preston said.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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