Peterborough gun club land dispute in court

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/17/2019 9:12:58 PM

A land dispute between the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club and its neighbor, Scott and Bridgette Perry, is before a Superior Court judge this week.

Hillsborough Superior Court Judge David Anderson heard arguments from witnesses on Tuesday and Wednesday, during a bench trial to decide the ownership of a contested piece of land on the border between the Perrys land and the Rod and Gun Club’s.

Surveyor Jedadiah Paquin, of Paquin Land Surveying in Jaffrey, testified that he had been contracted by the club in early 2018 to survey the land, and had determined that by record title, about six acres of land the club has been using in its northern corner belonged to Scott and Bridgette Perry.

The club, through its attorney, Penny Dean, is arguing they have operated on the land for so long without challenge, that it is theirs through a legal claiming process known as adverse possession.

In order to claim adverse possession, the claimant must show that for a period of 20 years or more, they had continuous, exclusive use of the property without the owner’s permission, and the use was obvious enough that the true owner has, or should have, noticed the use.

The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club presented several witnesses Tuesday to testify about activities that have taken place on the disputed land as far back as the 1970s, and that the use was obvious.

Scott Perry rebutted those arguments on the second day of arguments, testifying he had snowmobiled on the property about five years ago, and at the time did not see any signs posted. 

“I never saw those signs,” he said.

Steve Roberge, a forester who testified he walked the property with Scott Perry in November of 2017, said he saw neither signs nor archery targets at that time.

Dean suggested Roberge was biased, based on his living in proximity to the club, and his having filed complaints about stray bullets coming onto his property from the club with Peterborough Police.

Perry testified he had not visited the edge of the property regularly during his ownership of the property, but had been in the area at least three times, saying he did not spend much time on the southern end of the property because of the gun club activity.

Linda Yarger, a volunteer for the Rod and Gun Club, testified she had volunteered in June to remove old signs on an archery trail and had accidentally strayed into the disputed area, where she removed two to four signs marking archery stations.

Several other people testified that there were obvious signs of use on the land, including a string of wooden signs appearing to mark a boundary, archery targets and trails.

Paul Mercier of Antrim testified he had attended cannon shoots at the club in 1973 and 1976, where the cannons were set up just outside the disputed land, and the shots were fired into a berm on the disputed land.

Vernon Taylor, who has attended and shot archery at the club as far back as 1954 or 1955, testified archery trails, as well as a portion of a shooting range, have always operated on the contested piece of property, “easily” as far back as the 1970s.

The attorney representing the Perrys, L. Phillips Runyon, appeared to mainly be challenging whether the uses of the property were “obvious” and should have been noticed by the Perrys.

He established the archery targets are taken down seasonally, and asked if there were any obvious signs the property was in use during the winter, when the Perrys might snowshoe or snowmobile through the area.

The archery targets are mounted on rebar or pipe, which remain in the ground year-round.

Runyon also questioned whether the trails that had been cut might have been confused for game trails in the winter, or if there were clear indications that signs were hung up were done so by the club.

During Wednesday’s testimony, Runyon attempted to submit a series of 14 aerial photos of the property from as early as 1968, with the majority of photos taken since 2000, which he argued showed the expansion of the club’s ranges over time onto the contested land. Dean questioned the reliability of the photos, as well as the scale, but Anderson over-ruled those objections allowing the photographs into evidence.

Dean also suggested tree cover could hide activities such as archery trails, hiding them from view in aerial photos.

Both sides concluded their arguments on Wednesday. Attorneys are expected to submit their post-trial memorandums by Aug. 7. Anderson will issue a decision on the case at a future date. 

The six acres currently under dispute by the Perrys and the Rod and Gun Club is also at issue between the club and the town of Peterborough. The town alleges the club expanded its range and constructed a new building without the proper permits or processes, and that it filled in wetlands to do so.

The case between the town of Peterborough and the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club is on hold pending the outcome of the current case.


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