Legal bills an issue in Winchester

Thursday January 10, 2013

WINCHESTER, N.H. -- Some town officials are unhappy with the costs associated with defending the Winchester Planning Board in a lawsuit.

The board in July denied a plan for a combination Dunkin’ Donuts/gas station at the intersection Routes 10 and 79 and now the developer, S.S. Baker’s Realty Co., has filed suit against the board.

Gustave Ruth Jr., the Board of Selectmen’s representative to the planning board, said the planning board was split on the decision and believes the individuals unhappy with the ensuing legal expenses are those who wanted the plan approved.

Ruth, who voted for approval, said the reasons for denial included traffic concerns and the speed of vehicles in the general vicinity. He said the town has a legal obligation to defend the positions of its planning board though townspeople cannot overturn a decision it makes within its authority. A non-binding article conveying the citizens’ disappointment, however, is acceptable.

According to the Winchester Finance/Human Resource Department, the town’s board of selectmen have approved $21,999 for attorney fees for 2012-13, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Just more than $6,700 was spent in October alone.

Winchester spent $56,584 on legal expenses during FY2011-12 and $27,713 the year before that.

The developer appealed to the Cheshire County Superior Court but the planning board decided not to reconsider its vote.

In the lawsuit, S.S. Baker’s Realty Co. claims the decision was tainted by conflicts of interest. The business argues that the planning board’s decision was based on bias, instead of facts.

Matthew R. Serge, the attorney representing the planning board in the case, denied the developer’s allegations and said there is no evidence to support them.

He mentioned a hearing on the merits on the lawsuits is set for Tuesday, Jan. 29.

The town’s Board of Selectmen meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. while the planning board has meetings at the same time on the first and third Mondays of every month.

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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