WALPOLE, N.H. -- The town's Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to file a petition with the Cheshire County Probate Court to see if the court will approve selling the parcels of land of the George L. Hooper Trust on the southwest side of Prospect Hill Road.
The land consists of about 150 acres and the motion made Thursday calls for a conservation easement of the roughly 10 acres that serve as the Hooper Golf Course. The conservation easement would mean the land cannot be used for commercial development and the vote received a round of applause from the audience at Walpole Town Hall.
Selectmen over the past 18 years have wrestled with what the town should do about the golf course. In 1995, the Charitable Trust Unit of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office began questioning if the town's management of the course was meeting the intention of the trust that turned the property over to the town in 1924.
The proposal for petition to the probate court came at the recommendation of the Hooper Study Committee, a citizens' group that was formed in 2011 to find a solution.
Selectman Jamie Teague said the board will now consult with its lawyers to determine what the ensuing process will be "and what exactly is for sale."
Peggy Pschirrer, chairwoman of the Hooper Study Committee, told members of the public that the land -- despite the easement -- will still be available for recreation, such as sledding during the winter.
Robert Kimball, who was sitting in the audience Thursday, told the Reformer he is part of a group of concerned citizens interested in purchasing the land to protect and preserve the golf course. He also stood up at Thursday's meeting to remind his fellow citizens that the land cannot be sold privately for less than its appraised price.
Toward the end of the discussion, resident Joe Dion asked why some important meetings are held in the afternoon. He acknowledged that most of the people in attendance were retirees and many younger people cannot get out of work to attend afternoon meetings or public hearings.
Chairman Whitney Aldrich said he would not be available in the evening and the meeting was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. so all selectmen could attend so the anticipated motion would pass. He and Teague said the town's selectmen have lives of their own and both said they take exception to rumors that they plan meetings in the afternoon because they have something to hide.
"This is the best time to get everything accomplished that we needed to get accomplished today," said Teague.
Aldrich said rumors floating around town and personal attacks are the reason no current selectmen plan to run for re-election.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 8022-54-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.