Resident questions Dublin’s smallest car lot

  • Dublin resident Steve Baldwin has complained to the Select Board about the sale of used cars in uninhabited lots. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 02, 2017 6:46PM

Dublin’s selectmen will continue to allow the sale of one used car on an uninhabited lot on Route 101, saying the use is grandfathered and that the ordinance that governs such sales is unenforceable in its current form. 

Resident Steve Baldwin brought forth the complaint, saying the sale of cars on the lot — situated on the northern side of Route 101 between the intersections of Old County Road and East Harrisville Road — violates article IV, section Q of the town’s zoning ordinance and land use regulations, which states that “only one vehicle registered to and owned by the property resident may be placed for sale on a lot at a given time,” further arguing that the use should not be grandfathered for the lot in question. 

“I think there’s a problem… there’s a violation of the ordinance,” said Baldwin, during a Sept. 25 meeting with Selectmen. “There’s a right way to do this… cease and desist everything until all of this is straightened out.”

After speaking with Baldwin, the board unanimously approved two motions: one saying that the selling of one vehicle on the aforementioned lot as well as another across the street is a pre-existing, non-conforming use, and another saying that the planning board should review the ordinance in question as it is currently unenforceable on uninhabited lots. Both motions were made with the advisement of two attorneys, one from the New Hampshire Municipal Association and another from the town’s attorney. 

“The problem I have with the ordinance is that it’s very vague,” said board chair Walter Snitko. “I have an issue with the word resident. If there is no resident, it’s a grey area.”

The zoning ordinance was passed by a town vote of 173 to 115 in 1998. The ordinance was sparked at least in part by a question of selling used cars at Carr’s Store at the intersection of Route 101 and 137, according to meeting minutes from the Dec. 13, 1997 planning board meeting. 

Town Administrator Sherry Miller said Wednesday that one attorney recommended that the town change the ordinance to reflect property owners instead of residents.

Lot owner Andy Freeman told the Ledger-Transcript in an email Friday that a half-dozen or so neighbors a year ask to sell their later-model registered cars in the field, which is always maintained.

“We allow folks to put their car there for free,” said Freeman, who at the time was in Montana fighting forest fires. “I think we have bigger issues to worry about rather than picking on a traditional practice. I now have to defend myself for helping people that live around the store.”

Freeman added that a lot of town time and money “will and has been spent on an issue that innocuously occurs throughout the region.”

Planning Board chair Bruce Simpson, in a Sept. 26 to the Selectmen and Miller, said New Hampshire law says the zoning board should be the ones to make a ruling on any ambiguity in the town’s zoning ordinance.

The email refers to a 2009 article written by NH attorney H. Bernard Waugh, Jr.,Esq, titled “GRANDFATHERED – The Law of Nonconforming Uses and Vested Rights,” which state that the landowner asserting a grandfathered right should go before the town’s zoning board where he/she has the burden of proof to show why a grandfathered use should remain in effect.

Baldwin said Monday morning that he is considering appealing the case to the town’s zoning board. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.