Zoning Amendment 15 backers ask for rehearing

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/9/2019 1:41:44 PM

A group of Peterborough residents filed an appeal Friday contesting the town’s decision to uphold the results of the Town Meeting vote on Zoning Amendment 15.

Mark Fernald, the attorney representing the 15 residents who backed Zoning Amendment 15, submitted the request for a rehearing of the Select Board’s June 4 decision to accept a report confirming the validity of two protest petitions. The protest petitions required that Zoning Amendment 15 pass by a two-thirds majority at the polls in May. Without the protest petitions, the zoning amendment would have passed with the simple majority it garnered from voters.

Zoning Amendment 15 would have repealed the Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone II and amended Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I to require larger lot sizes, frontage and setbacks.

On June 4, the Select Board voted unanimously to accept a memorandum compiled by town employees that verified the signatures and acreage of land held by the property owners in and around the Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I that signed the protest petitions.

By state law, a zoning protest petition increases the majority needed to pass the zoning amendment from a 50 percent majority to a two-thirds majority. To be valid a protest petition must be signed by either the owners of 20 percent of the land in an area impacted by a proposed zoning amendment or the owners of 20 percent of the land within 100 feet of the area impacted.

The town received two protest petitions regarding Zoning Amendment 15 a week before the vote went to the polls, one for landowners in Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I and one for a single landowner abutting Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I.

Because Zoning Amendment 15 only got a narrow majority at the polls in May it failed.

A group of 15 residents, among them those who originally petitioned to have Amendment 15 put on the ballot, are now challenging the town’s assertion that the protest petitions are valid.

One of the central arguments, Fernald said, is the petition only addresses Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I – when the amendment proposed changes to both Traditional Neighborhood Zones I and II.

This has multiple implications, one being that the protest petition is only valid if it covers 20 percent of the affected area, and the other being that by law, a protest petition is only applicable if the amendment affects less than one-third of the town. When you take into account Traditional Neighborhood Zone II, neither of those conditions is met, Fernald argued.

Fernald submitted these disputes to the town in a letter on May 11. He said Friday the June 4 memorandum did not address these questions at all.

“I have the impression that they think they’ve answered those questions, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen those answers,” Fernald said.

The request for a rehearing asks for clarity on how the town calculated the impacted area and the parcels included in the protest petition.

In his submission Friday, Fernald also raised a new issue regarding one of the signatures of residents within Traditional Neighborhood I. Hugh Beyer of Peterborough signed on behalf of a property at 50 Summer Street. Fernald alleged that on May 6 when the petition was filed the Hillsborough County of Deed showed the property to be owned by Larrabee Street Neighborhood LLC, the sole member of which is Beyer’s wife, Ivy Vann. If that signature is not valid, Fernald said, there are not enough signatures to create a valid petition and calls into question the method used to verify property ownership and signatures.

According to town records online Friday, 50 Summer Street is listed as being jointly owned by both Vann and Beyer.

Selectmen are to determine whether or not to revisit the decision made June 4. If the board declines to rehear the matter, or re-hears the matter and upholds its original decision, their decision could then be appealed to a superior court.

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


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