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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — Who wants to see the land around Spofford Lake, and Chesterfield as a whole, covered up with pavement?

Chances are it’s no one. But, members of the town’s Planning Board remain nervous that a new zoning amendment might lead to massive amounts of paving, if its wording is left as-is.

Because of that, the Board on Monday night declined to endorse the amendment that would redefine impermeable coverage. The petitioned amendment will still go before voters during Town Meeting next year, but it will be noted that the Board recommends voters say no.

“Do you want people to be able to go out and pave their entire lot?” asked board member Joe Brodbine, contending the way the amendment is written, that could happen in this rural town of 3,552.

Nonetheless, noted Brodbine, the town does need to update its zoning amendment to allow for permeable paver systems on a case by case basis.

“But with this ordinance in, it leaves it wide open,” he said.

While the town’s zoning ordinance doesn’t recognize permeable pavers, the state defines and allows for a pervious paver system that has a top layer of impervious bricks, a permeable filling between the bricks, and a sublayer of aggregate that allows storm-water to infiltrate into the ground.

The petition calls for the town to adopt the state’s definition of impervious surfaces as any modified surface that cannot effectively absorb or infiltrate water including roofs “and unless designed to effectively absorb or infiltrate water, decks, patios, and paved, gravel, or crushed stone driveways, parking areas, and walkways.”

The zoning amendment petition was submitted by Michael Bentley, a Keene attorney who has represented Rob and Christine Sugarman, who own a home at 217 Route 9A in Spofford.

The Sugarmans have appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court a county court’s affirmation of a Zoning Board decision that found the Sugarmans violated the town ordinance when they installed a permeable paver system of more than 2,500 square feet on their property. The Sugarmans had received approval from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, but only for the installation of 504 square feet. They eventually received approval from the state for the entire system, but never applied to the town to install the system.

In November 2019, the Sugarmans received a notice of violation from the town’s code enforcement officer, which ordered them to remove the pavers or face a daily fine of $550.

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Sugarman appealed the town’s notice twice to the Zoning Board, which each time denied the appeal. Sugarman then appealed to the Cheshire Superior Court twice, where again his appeals were denied.

On Aug. 20, Bentley filed an appeal with the N.H. Supreme Court, which has not yet scheduled hearings.

No fines are being levied while the appeal is being heard.

“The sole purpose of permeable technology is to create a mechanism to mitigate flooding and erosion and treat stormwater runoff,” said Sugarman. “We need to start to give our residents the means to accomplish what your board and all of us are trying to do, which is to save our lake and preserve our watershed district by supporting these common sense amendments to our zoning ordinance.”

However, noted board alternate Maria Bissell, because impermeable coverage is noted in a number of places in the zoning ordinance, adding new language would create a conflict that would need to be resolved with further language changes that would need to be approved by voters.

Other board members noted that the town’s code enforcement officer is already very busy and might not have time to inspect permeable paver systems during installation .

Sugarman acknowledged the change might have “a snowball effect” on the zoning ordinance. But he said the amendment does nothing more than define permeable paver systems and doesn’t affect how the town regulates or approves land use.

He also noted that the town has been talking about how best to protect Spofford Lake for nearly a decade.

“Global warming is not going to slow down because you don’t have inspectors to figure out whether there is more stormwater runoff this year than there was last year,” said Sugarman. “Things are getting worse on the planet. What are you going to do about it?”

The town recently established a watershed committee to examine issues affecting the lake watershed and to recommend actions the town might take to mitigate the issues. The committee meets this Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Town Offices and via Zoom.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.