Court rules against Monadnock Rod and Gun Club in land dispute

  • The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/26/2019 3:28:34 PM

A Superior Court judge has ruled against the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club in a land dispute with an abutter.

In July, the gun club on Route 202 in Peterborough took its neighbors, Scott and Bridgette Perry, to court to try to claim possession of a portion of the Perrys’ land, arguing that the club has used the land for so long without challenge that the land now belongs to the gun club.

On Sept. 10, Hillsborough Superior Court Judge David Anderson issued his decision in the case, siding with the Perrys.

The court has yet to rule on a counter-claim filed by the Perrys, alleging the club cut down trees on the property and caused lead contamination. A damage hearing on the counter-claim is pending.

Ken Caisse, chair of the board of directors for the club, said Monday the club is still seeking counsel about its next steps, but doesn’t plan to appeal the decision at this time. Caisse said club members will have to meet to decide what it will do about the archery trail and shooting range which encroach on the Perry land.

Caisse said as the case is still under litigation he could not comment further.

The issue dates back nearly two years, when neighbors told the Perrys the club was operating on their land, and its shooting range had been extended across their shared property line.

In the winter of 2017-18, a surveyor concluded the Perrys had record title to land the club had been using as part of its shooting range, and also land it had used for archery trails.

The club argued in court that it has operated on the property for years in one capacity or another, and that the Perrys never challenged their use of it since their purchase of the property in 1997.

The club claimed adverse possession of the land, a legal process where someone has right to land if they have been using it for more than 20 years continuously either with the knowledge of, or obviously enough that the owner should have had knowledge of, the use without challenging it.

However, the court found the club had not sufficiently proved either the length of its use or the land, nor that it was obvious enough to be noticed.

In order to acquire property by adverse possession, the possession must be “continuous, exclusive and uninterrupted,” according to court documents.

“The Court finds that the Club has not proven, by a balance of probabilities, that it has adversely possessed either of those areas for the required period of time,” Anderson wrote in his decision.

The club argued it has always used a portion of the Perry property for its shooting range, with members testifying the range has been used in some form since the mid-50s, and cannon shoots had been held where cannons were shot into a berm on the Perrys land as far back as the 1970s.

Peterborough town records of aerial photographs over the course of years submitted as evidence at the trial showed the shooting range clearly encroaching on the Perrys’ property in 2010, when trees were cut to accommodate it, and even further into the property in 2015. The court ruled the club’s evidence didn’t produce enough evidence regarding dates of changes to the shooting range, or historical maps of the shooting range to prove it’s been using the land for 20 years.

The same was true of the archery trail, Anderson ruled. The court found the club didn’t present enough evidence to show how long archery targets and trail signs are in place during the year or when they were first installed.

Aside from its dispute with the Perrys, the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club also has a suit pending with the town of Peterborough. Peterborough filed an injunction against the club asking the court to impose civil penalties on the club for alleged violations of the town’s zoning and coding rules. The town alleges the club moved shooting ranges and built a pavilion without required town approvals, and filled wetlands. The suit has been on hold until the resolution of the dispute between the club and the Perrys, as some of the violations alleged happened on the Perry land.

Caisse said the club will be meeting with its lawyer later this week to discuss moving forward with the Peterborough suit.

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


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