Silver Scone neighbors file contempt suit

Town of New Ipswich.

Town of New Ipswich. FILE PHOTO

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 08-23-2023 1:30 PM

The Town of New Ipswich and neighbors opposed to the Silver Scone Tea party event business in the town’s village district are scheduled to head to court at the end of the month, following allegations that the business has been moving forward with construction in violation of a court order.

The court has scheduled a hearing on a petition for relief at the Hillsborough Superior Court, South, in Nashua on Aug. 29 at 11 a.m.

The neighbors, who have filed appeals as a group, include Richard Craig and Sharin Smeeth, Robert and Annmarie Fournier, Stan Zabierek and Louise Delpapa, Christopher Allen and Marilyn Stowe, Gregory and Soyoo Caltabiano, Christopher O’Leary, Elizabeth Freeman and Colin Carrroll. They initially protested the overflow of parking into the street, but have since brought up concerns related to operating a business in the rural district, increased traffic, impacts to the conserved portion of owner Jane Elwell’s property, removal of stones from a stone wall.

The group of neighbors, which is represented by attorney Nancy Clark, who also lives in the neighborhood, has challenged multiple decisions made by the town related to the operation of the business, which is located on River Road, including approvals from the town’s planning and zoning boards and approval of a driveway permit for a parking area.

The challenges included a filing with the Superior Court to appeal a decision of the New Ipswich Planning Board to approve a site plan application for Silver Scone. That decision was rendered on June 7, and neighbors appealed the decision to the Zoning Board, which upheld the Planning Board’s original decision.

The neighbors then filed an appeal with the Superior Court, which issued an order on June 23 putting a stay on any proceedings upon the site plan decision until the conclusion of the appeal. Clark argued that an appeal of a permit or certificate, under state law, is considered a suspension of the permit, unless not moving forward would cause imminent peril to life health, safety or the environment.

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Clark alleges that in early July, Elwell had several trees removed to clear and expand the parking area, which she called “significant construction,” and alleged that work on the lot had continued through the at least July 11, when Clark filed a motion for contempt at the Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua. In later filings, Clark alleges that Elwell continued to work on the parking lot by removing stumps into the month of August.

Annmarie Fournier, who lives on River Road and is an abutter to Elwell’s property, filed an affidavit with the court, claiming she witnessed taking down of trees on July 3 and 6.

Elwell, in her court-filed response, alleges the trees were cut for firewood, and that logging and agricultural activities are permitted on the property.

Fournier’s filing claims she contacted the town, including Building Inspector Gary Somero, Town Administrator Debbie Deaton and Select Board Chair Shawn Talbot, on July 5 and 6 to make them aware of the cutting and requesting that the town issue a cease-and-desist order.

Clark alleged that as of her July 11 filing, the town had not acted on the matter or issued a cease-and-desist. She sought an ex parte motion for contempt and to enforce the previous court order. An ex parte motion allows the court to hear arguments from only one side of the filing, or, alternatively, to schedule an expedited hearing.

Judge Charles S. Temple denied the motion for an ex parte hearing, but did approve an expedited hearing on Clark’s motion Aug. 29. Temple ordered that prior to that hearing, all construction activity at 99 River Road in New Ipswich must cease on a temporary basis, as was requested in Clark’s filing.

Clark’s motion requested relief including sanctions for either the Town of New Ipswich, Elwell or both, and attorney’s fees.

Ashley Saari  can be reache  d at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.