Court rules in favor of Rindge Planning Board over warehouse approval

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/19/2019 5:13:54 PM

The state Superior Court has ruled in favor of the Rindge Planning Board over a decision to approve a site plan for a storage warehouse for a fire suppression foam manufacturer.

In a 25-page decision, Judge David Ruoff ruled the Planning Board’s decision was “neither unreasonable nor unlawful,” and “was amply supported by the contents of the certified record.”

“The judge said the Planning Board considered everything and that we acted correctly,” Selectwoman Roberta Oeser said Monday.

Oeser, who is the Select Board representative on the Planning Board, said the decision wasn’t unexpected.

“We followed the ordinances, we listened to everyone and we took their concerns under consideration,” Oeser said.

The suit was brought against the town by members of the Monadnock Tenant Co-Op, a 75-home mobile home park abutting the proposed warehouse on Route 202 in Rindge. The Planning Board approved plans for an office and warehouse on the property on April 2.

Catherine LeRay, the president of the board of directors for the co-op, said she too, was unsurprised by the court’s decision, but still feels the Planning Board made the wrong choice in approving the project.

“I’m disappointed in the Planning Board,” LeRay said Monday. “It’s our opinion they chose [increased tax] revenue over the safety of our water supply and the water in Lake Monomonac.”

LeRay said the co-op does not have the funds to continue to appeal the decision beyond superior court so they do not plan to take any further court action. 

The cooperative appealed the approval of a warehouse for Colonial Green, which produces fire suppression foam on three basic grounds. The first was that the storage of materials, one of which contains an ingredient classified as hazardous, would be stored too close to the wetlands, that the Planning Board relied on an opinion from the Conservation Commission which was later negated, and that abutters weren’t given adequate time to ask questions or truthful answers to questions.

Ruoff ruled in favor of the town on all three issues.

The town’s ordinance specifies storage of hazardous materials must be at least 125 feet from wetlands, while the building is proposed to be, at its closest edge, 110 feet from wetlands. However, the specific room where materials will be stored is further than 125 feet, and Ruoff ruled that was a reasonable interpretation of the ordinance.

On the other two issues, the Ruoff wrote the cooperative’s main issue was the characterization of the materials stored on-site, which at one point of the proceedings had been represented as non-hazardous, despite one of the materials containing a chemical considered hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, by the time the Planning Board ruled on the matter, the nature of the chemicals was well-known and had been discussed at length, Ruoff noted. The board also discussed multiple points of concern raised by abutters during its decision process.

“It is significant that the Planning Board spent time discussing, deliberating about and asking questions about the hazardous chemicals and their storage, indicating that the Planning Board’s approval was in contemplation of the categorization, not in ignorance of it,” Ruoff wrote.

Ruoff found the cooperative had not raised any specific points abutters were not able to express, which might have influenced the board’s decision, and that public comment was accepted at several different public meetings.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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