Silver Scone appeal delayed again due to noticing error

Zoning Board Chair Walker Farrey consults code books while determining whether to continue a hearing on an appeal of a decision by the Planning Board regarding Silver Scone Teas.

Zoning Board Chair Walker Farrey consults code books while determining whether to continue a hearing on an appeal of a decision by the Planning Board regarding Silver Scone Teas. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Zoning Board members David Lage and Brett Kivela consult code books.

Zoning Board members David Lage and Brett Kivela consult code books. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 11-17-2023 8:14 AM

Modified: 11-24-2023 11:05 AM


The appeal of an approval for the Silver Scone Teas tea party event business in New Ipswich, scheduled for Thursday’s Zoning Board meeting, has been continued again, delayed this time by a noticing error.

A group of neighbors, represented by attorney Nancy Clark, have appealed the Planning Board’s decision to approve the site plan for 99 River Road, a private residence owned by Jane Elwell which she uses to host tea party events and parties. Clark is also representing the neighbors in their appeal of a Zoning Board decision to grant a variance to Elwell to allow the operation of the business in the Village District I, which allows only certain types of businesses with a Special Exception process.

The Zoning Board was initially scheduled to hold a hearing on the Planning Board decision Nov. 2, but was unable to field a full board. Multiple board members have recused themselves from the case, either of their own volition or after objections raised by Clark that they had shown bias in the case. The board asked Clark if she would like to move forward with the three members it had at the time – which would have required a vote in the applicants’ favor to be 3-0 -- or to wait until a full board could be sat. Clark indicated she wished for a full board, and the board agreed to continue the appeal hearing until Nov. 16.

Following that meeting, the board added a new alternate, Michelle Saari, who was a seated member for the proceedings on Thursday, along with alternates Brett Kivela and Jay Hopkins, member David Lage and Chair Walker Farrey.

Once the Zoning Board opened the hearing, Clark immediately objected on the grounds that there had been a “fatal flaw” in the board’s procedure – namely that the public hearing notice that had appeared in the Oct. 24 edition of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript had not indicated the location of the meeting, as is required by law.

Lage initially asked Clark why she had not raised the objection during the Nov. 2 hearing. Clark replied that the board had not officially opened that hearing for substantive arguments, but merely asked her if she would prefer a full board, which she had said yes to.

“I’m not required to bring anything substantive if the hearing’s not open for substantive reasons,” Clark said.

The board noted that the meeting had been noticed in two public places – the town office and the post office – on letterhead that included the town office address, as well as on the town’s website with the same letterhead. The law requires posting in either a paper of public record, or “prominently” on the home page of the town’s website, and that the notice be kept up on the website through the course of the public hearing, as well as being posted in public locations.

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The board consulted code books to determine whether the website posting met the law’s standard for notification, but ultimately decided to continue the hearing and re-notice it on the website, in public locations and in a paper of record, with the correct time, date and location.

“I want to make sure we’re legal and doing this correct,” Farrey said, adding that he wants to err on the side of caution. “Belt and suspenders,” Farrey added, referencing the reliance on redundancy rather than risk failure.

Clark immediately offered an objection to the process of continuing the hearing, stating that the Nov. 2 hearing was deficient due to the noticing, meaning that continuations of the initial hearing were similarly contaminated, which would require the process start from scratch.

The board did not acknowledge Clark’s objection or debate the point, but moved forward with a motion by Lage to continue the hearing until its next scheduled meeting on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the town office. Hopkins seconded the motion, and the board unanimously agreed.

Following the vote, when asked, Farrey clarified that the meeting would be a continuation, and that there would not be a new notification of abutters by certified mail, despite the re-noticing through the newspaper, which is only required for the first meeting of a public hearing.

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