Peterborough Zoning Amendment 15 backers are taking May vote to court

  • Peterborough’s Zoning Amendment 15 that failed at the polls in May is headed to court. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/19/2019 10:44:01 AM

Backers of Peterborough’s Zoning Amendment 15 are headed to court.

Through their attorney, Mark Fernald, a group of Peterborough residents have filed with the Hillsborough Superior Court in Manchester, asking for the court to overrule a protest petition that was key in defeating a Zoning Amendment 15, which was proposed by the same group of residents.

Zoning Amendment 15 was brought by petition to be put on the ballot in May. It would have repealed the Traditional Neighborhood Zone II, and amended the Traditional Neighborhood Zone I to require larger lot sizes and setbacks.

Before the May ballot voting, residents who owned land inside and around Traditional Neighborhood Zone I filed a protest petition, which met the legal requirements to raise the bar at the voting booth from a simple majority needed to pass to a two-thirds majority.

Zoning Amendment 15 got 778 yes votes and 719 no votes. So while it had a majority of votes it didn’t get a two-thirds majority and therefore, because of the protest petition, didn’t pass.

“My clients feel that when we have an election with a huge turnout and the voters have spoken, the results should be respected, and I think that’s why we’re going to court,” Fernald said Thursday.

Peterborough town officials have affirmed the validity of the protest petition and upheld that decision after Fernald’s clients challenged it, leaving a superior court appeal the next step.

Most of the arguments filed with the court are aligned with the arguments Fernald submitted to the town when challenging the protest petition’s validity.

Fernald said when Peterborough validated the petitions, it did not address some of his arguments, and those it did address were not addressed sufficiently.

One of Fernald’s arguments is a protest petition shouldn’t apply at all in the case of Amendment 15, because the Traditional Neighborhood Zone II can apply in any residential district if a developer is willing to extend water and sewer to the area. Protest petitions aren’t allowed when a zoning amendment would impact more than one-third of the entire town.

When calculating the area to check the validity of the petition, the town included up to 1,000 feet outside of the current boundary of the water and sewer lines.

In a memo prepared by Deputy Town Administrator Nicole MacStay, the 1,000-foot mark was chosen because as of the beginning of July, the longest water and sewer extension proposed by a developer was 915 feet, “which made 1,000 feet seem like a reasonable estimate.”

Fernald challenged that, saying since July, at least one development had been proposed for the Traditional Neighborhood Zone II that would extend water and sewer by more than 1,100 feet.

“It’s an arbitrary assumption that was disproved within a week of the memo being released,” Fernald said.

Fernald is also challenging some of the signatures on the protest petition, as well as the fact that the signatures only account for the required percentage of landowners in Traditional Neighborhood Zone I, despite the amendment addressing both Traditional Neighborhood Zones I and II.

When contacted Thursday, MacStay said the town had not yet received notification of the filing.

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


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