Town orders removal of pavers in lake district

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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — During its Thursday night meeting, the Chesterfield Zoning Board voted to postpone until Oct. 8 reviewing an appeal related to the installation of pavers at a property in the Spofford Lake District.

At its June 11 meeting, the Zoning Board of Adjustment denied an appeal of a cease-and-desist letter sent to the owners of 217 Route 9A in Spofford.

In that letter, issued on Nov. 7, 2019, Ted Athanasopoulos, the town's code enforcement officer, ordered property owners Robert and Christine Sugarman to remove more than 1,500 pavers installed earlier that year.

According to Chesterfield property records, 217 Route 9A was purchased by Joy Street LLC in 2011 for $777,400. According to those records, Joy Street LLC is located in Oyster Bay, N.Y. According to a records search, Joy Street LLC is owned by the Sugarmans. According to corporate records filed in Connecticut, Robert Sugarman is the chairman and Christine Sugarman is the executive vice president of Teq, located in Huntington Station, N.Y. According to its website, Teq "provides technology and professional development solutions to ultimately increase student achievement."

While the Sugarmans had requested and received a permit from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to replace a 160-square-foot walkway with 200 square feet of new permeable pavers and to replace a 144-square-foot deck with another 304 square feet of permeable pavers, they never got a permit from the town.

During a visit to the site, Athanasopoulos also learned that the Sugarmans had installed another 1,567 square feet of pavers, this time without a permit form the state or the town. In his cease-and-desist order he told the Sugarmans the 500 square feet approved by the state could remain, but those installed without authorization had to be removed by Nov. 29, 2019. According to the order, the Sugermans could be fined $550 a day until the pavers are removed.

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On Oct. 28, 2019, the Sugarmans submitted an "after the fact" permit for all 2,071 square feet of pavers, which was approved by state DES on Nov. 21, two weeks after Athanasopoulos issued the cease and desist order. However, again the Sugarmans did not receive approval from the town.

Michael Bentley, of Lane & Bentley in Keene, who is representing the Sugarmans, asked for a rehearing on the Zoning Board's June 11 decision. In the request, Bentley wrote that a conflict between the Shoreland Protection Act and the town's ordinance means the state has final say in permitting.The town's zoning ordinance, which doesn't even recognize permeable pavers, defines impermeable coverage as "[a]ll that horizontal area of a lot, parcel or tract due to manmade alterations to the natural surface of the land, including structures, parking lot and driveway areas or other development. All area beneath a structure is impervious."

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The state defines an impervious surface as "any modified surface that cannot effectively absorb or infiltrate water. Examples of impervious surfaces include but are not limited to, roofs and unless designed to effectively absorb or infiltrate water, decks, patios, and paved, gravel, or crushed stone driveways, parking areas and walkways."

Bentley wrote in the motion that the town ordinance notes "In the Spofford Lake District all uses shall first be regulated by the Shoreland Protection Act and then permitted in compliance with the existing residential district ... By the use of the word 'first' ... the Town of Chesterfield granted to DES the authority to first regulate uses within those areas which fall within the geographic areas defined in the Shoreland Protection Act," wrote Bentley. "Joy Street, LLC takes the position that since the zoning ordinance provides that DES regulates these matters 'first' that in the event of a conflict between the two, DES's determination controls and not that under the Town of Chesterfield Zoning Ordinance."

Bentley noted that the installed pavers were "specifically designed to effectively absorb and infiltrate water ..."

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Bentley also wrote that two of the board's findings in its June 11 denial were not part of the cease and desist order. Those two findings were that the ZBA had not heard whether sand and salt will not run into the lake when the pavers are not properly maintained and that the Sugarmans did not get a permit from the town.

"[T]he injection of those issues by the Town of Chesterfield Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Board's subsequent findings on same only after the public hearing had been closed preventing Joy Street, LLC from commenting on same are indications of bias of the Town of Chesterfield Zoning Board of Adjustment against Joy Street, LLC," Bentley wrote. "The Code Enforcement Officer raised no issue about a maintenance plan for the permeable paving system nor did he raise any issue about the lack of any permit from the Town of Chesterfield to do either the work originally permitted by DES or the additional work."

The Board's two findings, wrote Bentley, were nothing more than an attempt by the Board to make further negative findings on the record against Joy Street, LLC on issues that had nothing to do with the administrative appeal before it."

Bentley asked the Zoning Board to rescind the cease and desist order and "find that the installation of 2,071 square feet of pervious surface by Joy Street, LLC was in strict accordance with [its permit]."

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


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