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Town seeks legal help with Crotched

FRANCESTOWN — The town reached out to a New Hampshire attorney last week for assistance in contacting Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride regarding compliance with a zoning variance for outdoor lighting.

Crotched was asked to install shields to 38 lights in their 2012 expansion to comply with a variance, to allow the new lights that proved to have regional impact. Town Code Enforcement Officer Ed Hunter last spoke with Crotched Mountain Manager Pat Terry on Feb. 3, Hunter said in an interview Wednesday. Hunter said Terry told him on Feb. 3 that the shields were on order and that he would contact Hunter once he got a date of when the shields would arrive. Hunter said he has not heard anything from Terry since then.

Hunter said he is leaving it up to the Select Board to make decisions of how to go forward.

Terry did not return multiple messages by press time on Wednesday.

Town Administrator Michael Branley contacted Concord Attorney Matthew Serge last week for assistance with this situation, Serge confirmed in an interview Tuesday. Serge said he is “trying to pursue Crotched vigorously” about the shield installation.

When questioned about this, Branley said in an interview Tuesday that any concerns about the shields should be directed to Hunter. On Wednesday, Hunter said he does not know what prompted Branley to reach out to Serge.

“We’re going to increase some pressure on the mountain,” Serge said. He plans to send a communication out to the mountain this week, explaining the situation, and that the mountain needs to get this resolved quickly.

Hunter established a Jan. 22 deadline for shield installation and neither town officials nor Serge have received confirmation from Crotched that the shields are up, Serge said.

The Zoning Board granted Crotched Mountain the variance on Nov. 26 and it is still unclear if the shields, if any, have been installed, Hunter said.

This discussion over lights at Crotched Mountain began in the summer of 2013 when residents of Francestown, abutting towns and beyond began speaking out about the brightness of the lights near the mountain’s summit.

Although this issue over installation of the light shields could be brought to court, Serge said he would like to see if he can achieve a resolution locally. He has worked with the town for 11 years now.

Hancock resident Ted Leach said he doesn’t think the shields have been installed yet. “It looks like a car lot up there,” Leach said in an interview Tuesday about the new, 2012 lights.

Leach said he agrees the lights should be shielded, but the job is not getting done. “It’s obvious what they’re trying to do here, they’re trying to wait out the season,” Leach said.

“They leave them on all the time,” Leach said about the 38 lights in the 2012 expansion. The mountain will sometimes turn them off at 10 p.m., he said, then turn them back on again at midnight and keep them on until 6 a.m.

Terry has said at multiple Zoning Board hearings that the mountain would only have the lights on for skiing and slope maintenance. And the lights remain on until 3 a.m. for Midnight Madness, which takes place Fridays and Saturday, beginning Dec. 27 through March 1 — a total of 20 days.

But Leach said the lights are on beyond these times and that the slope maintenance trucks have plenty of lighting on them.

“We’re still working through the situation,” Branley said in an interview Monday. “We have been in repeated communication [with Crotched Mountain].”

“Most of the communication has been through Ed Hunter,” Branley said.

He did not know the last time Hunter spoke with Crotched Mountain officials. When asked if he knew why the shields were not up yet, Branley said he had no comment.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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