Chesterfield ZBA needs an attorney for appeal
CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- It remains to be determined who will foot the bill stemming from a Selectmen-backed citizen group's appeal of a decision by the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The Chesterfield Board of Selectmen earlier in the month gave the nod to residents Valerie and Jonathan Starbuck to act as the selectmen's agents in filing an appeal in Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene and with the ZBA. The Starbucks, and a collection of like-minded townspeople, want to appeal the Zoning Board's decision to allow Nine A LLC to tear down the old Spofford Hall and replace it with a cluster subdivision. The decision to grant a variance already has been appealed and was reaffirmed by the Zoning Board in April.
ZBA Chairman Burt Riendeau said Tuesday he contacted the town's attorney, who does not believe the ZBA was required to hold another rehearing. The ZBA voted to deem a new rehearing unnecessary and inappropriate and to refrain from holding one. But there is still an appeal filed in Superior Court.
The appeal will require legal counsel -- but no one is sure who will pay for it. William Saturley, the attorney for Nine A LLC, said his clients won't foot the bill and Jon McKeon, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the town won't either -- and the zoning board cannot use Chesterfield's official legal counsel.
This frustrated ZBA members.
"We're not paying the bill, Jon," Riendeau said to McKeon, who was in attendance at Tuesday's meeting. The ZBA will look into the legal services of a few suggested attorneys. Riendeau said if the ZBA does not acquire an attorney, it will lose by default. Saturley said he intends to ensure the Zoning Board gets all the time it needs to obtain legal counsel, so it does not default.
McKeon explained to the Reformer that the group of concerned citizens was legally required to get the Selectmen's approval because the Selectmen were the only party that had requested the first rehearing. He said he and Selectman Elaine Levlocke voted in favor of the group's request, while Selectman Jim Larkin voted against it.
Saturley informed the ZBA his clients plan to intervene in the court case and he has every reason to believe they will be allowed to in order to represent their views.
The citizen's group led by the Starbucks wants the ordinance left intact. Everyone involved feels the Spofford Lake District (SLD) zoning was established in 1999 for a clear reason -- to protect Lake Spofford and its shoreline from further high-density development.
"Town residents voted 2 to 1 in favor of creating the Spofford Lake District, which, specifically, prohibits cluster and multi-family housing. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found that the Superior Court had acted correctly when it upheld the ZBA denial of a cluster housing development in 2006 on the Spofford Hall property," Valerie Starbuck said in a statement. "We believe that nothing has changed from the reasons for the ZBA's denial of cluster housing in 2006."
Nine A LLC had asked for the variance in order to split the roughly 6.18-acre site into five parcels that development consultant Jim Phippard, of Brickstone Land Use Consultants, calls a cluster subdivision. According to Phippard, the residential cluster would be made up of five lots on 30 acres of land. Spofford Hall, which Phippard has said consists of nearly 99,000 square feet of floor space, sits on land owned by Nine A LLC and was once used as a substance-abuse rehabilitation center starting in the 1970s. It remained in operation for nearly 20 years and has fallen into disrepair since its closure. It is filled with hazardous stachybotrys, more commonly known as black mold.
Phippard has told the Reformer the five single-family house lots will range in size from .88 acres to 1.37 acres. Nine A LLC is made up of the family members of the late John Chakalos, who was found dead in his Windsor, Conn., home on Dec. 20. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and detectives have been investigating to find out who was responsible.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.
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