Someone has moved the rock that was blocking the access to Lower Beech Pond at Brown Road.
As you can see in the video, it’s evident that the rock was dragged along the shoulder. It has been left a considerable distance from its prior position. It is also within the town’s right of way, which extends 14’3″ to either side of the pavement.
This week Tuftonboro Road Agent Jim Bean moved the rocks on Brown Road that had been placed in the town’s right of way by Ted and Carol Steinman along their property. The Steinmans put the rocks in the right of way last year after getting approval from Carolyn Sundquist, who was at the time the chairman of the board of selectmen. The current board of selectmen has disavowed Carolyn’s actions, saying that she acted alone without the full approval of the board.
Here is a photograph of the access to the pond on May 18:
On Friday, April 28, the board of selectmen (Lloyd Wood, Bill Marcussen, and Chip Albee) met at Brown Road to set the edges of the town’s right of way on the property of Ted and Carol Steinman. The selectmen’s meeting was posted as a public meeting and Guy Pike, Ben Ladd, and I attended. At issue for the selectmen to examine was a line of large rocks the Steinmans had installed on the of the road last summer within the town’s right of way.
Brown Road Road at Lower Beech Pond is a 3-rod road, meaning the town’s easement is 49.5 feet wide. (A rod is equal to 16 ½ feet.) While a road might not be in the exact center of the original easement, the Steinman’s attorney last week stated that their assumption is the road is centered in the easement. The pavement of the road is 21-feet wide, according to the selectmen’s measurement, which means the town has a 14¼ foot right of way on either side of the road (21+14.25+14.25=49.5).
Although it appeared Lloyd was opposed in general to spending public money, Albee and Bill indicated that they were in favor of having the town Road Agent (Jim Bean, an elected official) move the line of rocks out of the town right of way, farther onto the Steinman’s property.
There is a separate issue of the public access to Lower Beech Pond, which the Steinmans also blocked off.
One possibility there is that NH Fish & Game could install a boat ramp. It’s unclear what the town would have to do, if anything, in preparation for that. Chip mentioned the town could stabilize the bank for Fish & Game.
The board will likely have more to discuss on this issue at Monday’s meeting at 4PM at the town offices.
Saying that they had met with Carolyn Sundquist “at this table” in a “series of meetings,” Dr. Ted Steinman and his wife, Carol, accompanied by their attorney, Jeremy Eggleton of the law firm Orr & Reno, described to the board of selectmen (left to right: Chip Albee, Bill Marcussen, Lloyd Wood) on Monday, April 24, how last year they had sought and “followed directly the town’s directions” when placing boulders along the edge of Brown Road on their property in order to block access to Lower Beech Pond from boat trailers and bob houses.
1:15 First appointment: Gerry Hammer / Jack Parsons
5:00 Intent to excavate permits: discussion of ordinances in light of new articles passed at Town Meeting
5:10 — Jack Parsons
7:00 — Chris Sawyer, PB chairman weighs in
12:30 Review of pending intent to excavate paperwork
14:00 — motion to approve with provisions that selectmen can rescind. 3-0
15:00 — Signing paperwork
15:50 Jack Parson Building department update (the only damage to town property from Storm Stella was a few shingles blew off town house roof)
16:35 Ben Ladd — Mirror Lake boat ramp grant that was passed by Town Meeting. Discussion of contractor bids.
21:45 Chip would like to set a policy for putting contracts out for bid in the future, but not for this project since it’s already in process.
23:50 motion approval of project. passed 3-0 and Lloyd signed the paperwork
25:30 Clay Gallagher Transfer Station update & household hazardous waste collection update (july 29 & august 5). Pamphlets at transfer station.
44:15 Transfer station workers would like to work half day on Easter. They would receive holiday pay + half day.
50:30 Chip raises issue of different rates for contractors at transfer station
51:25 Review of 3-27-17 meeting minutes
53:00 Continued business
53:10 — Board committee assignments
Chip: Budget, welfare, Parks & Recreation
Bill: Planning, Old Homes, Energy, CIP Joint loss, milfoil, Planning
Lloyd: emergency planning, conservation, TACC, watershed
57:12 Board meeting schedule. Bill doesn’t want more meetings. Chip says if there aren’t more meetings, then the meetings have to be better organized. Chip doesn’t like relying on attorney client privilege as a way to subvert open meeting requirement to respond to RTK. Lloyd is ok with meeting every Monday. That way the meetings will be shorter, too. Lloyd suggests meeting once a month at 7PM. Also at different locations around town. Next meeting Friday at NINE AM.
1:06:45 Brown Road
Chip “I don’t know how you got into; well, I do know how you got into this mess.” Says to direct Road Agent to remove the rocks.
Bill: rocks clearly within right of way.
Chip: problem I have with this is it was all done without a vote.
Chip: enormous amount of legal bills in this town, and this is one of the reasons why.
Lloyd asks for input from public
1:17:20 Sandy Knoll Road
1:23:30 Selectmen’s update
1:23:40 Chip looked at the tree on Union Wharf Road. Chip says it’s not on town property, but is in town right of way. Chip thinks it’s health and not a danger.
1:25:12 Bill went to workshop on town roads. If someone wants to build on a property on Sandy Knoll Road, they’ll still have to get a building permit, and the governing body doesn’t have to approve it. Noted with sadness the passing of Steve Honeycutt, town Sextant.
1:33:00 Lloyd met with Mark Howard and others to tour three areas of concern in town on state roads: Tuftonboro Corner, 109/109A, and Mirror Lake narrows.
1:42:50 Appointments to Agricultural Commission. Approved.
1:44:35 Motion to appeal all yield taxes. Perchanski. Bob Wood. Alan Blazek. 3-0
1:47:23 Intent to cut. Blazek. Perchanski. 3-0
1:48:42 Request for change in employment compensation. (RETROACTIVE to January 1, 2017.) Tabled.
1:51:30 Other business
1:52:00 Right to Know from Ed Comeau
1:58:15 Chip “I don’t know what Comeau’s after.”
1:59:30 in past Tuftonboro had a former employee who was still covered.
2:07:45 Chip says they need to set a price per copy policy at a market rate.
2:09:45 Chip need to respond to Comeau saying the board will working on the request.
2:10:40 public input
2:10:50 Elissa Paquette question about intent to excavate and the board wanting to have an addendum allowing the to revoke permit.
2:15:06 Charlotte Allen: NarCan training opportunities
2:16:32 Carla Lootens: Wanted to make sure town won’t give anything to Comeau unless the selectmen’s attorney, Richard Sager, has looked at it.
2:17:05 Gordon Hunt: Was happy selectmen were not giving in to Comeau just because he has an attorney.
2:17:35 Steven : follow up Brown Road. Why did property owners place rocks?
Max Ledoux: To clarify, Carolyn Sundquist told Steinmans it was ok.
Elissa Paquette jumped to Carolyn’s defense.
In an email recently, Glenn Normandeau, Executive Director of the NH Fish & Game Department, confirmed what many Tuftonboro residents are already aware of: The department did not stock Lower Beech Pond with fish in 2016.
Mark Evitts, president of the Hidden Valley Property Owners Association, and David Smith, a board member of the same association, worked closely with Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen Chair Carolyn Sundquist over the summer and fall to place a “stone wall,” as Evitts characterized it, along Brown Road to block vehicles with boat trailers from accessing Lower Beech Pond.
To keep trucks and cars off the road shoulder/pond bank to limit further compression of the soil and to stop/limit erosion/road water runoff.
I’d appreciate it if you would focus on the second goal when discussing this at your public meetings. I may be overreacting, but I fear a disgruntled person might purposely introduce milfoil into Lower Beech Pond. Thus, if we don’t emphasize this goal in public no one will get any bad ideas.
Sundquist told Smith in an email on August 3, “At this point the water access could be blocked by boulders but the side of the road should not be blocked.”
However, on August 25, Sundquest emailed Road Agent Jim Bean, “I advised the Steinmans to go ahead with placing boulders in front of the access.”
It’s not clear whether Sundquist advised the Steinmans in person, over the phone, or by email. Pike said his Right to Know request was for “any and all communications” to or from town elected officials or employees on the subject of access to Lower Beech Pond. The selectmen did include in their response to Pike a two-page email that has been completely redacted other than Sundquist’s email signature. The selectmen did not give Pike any explanation why the two pages were redacted, so it’s impossible currently to determine if the redacted email might be from Sundquist to the Steinmans advising them to “go ahead with placing boulders in front of the access.”
The public body must have a basis for invoking the exemption and may not simply mark a document “confidential” in an attempt to circumvent disclosure.
In addition, the attorney general further states:
The governmental entity should retain a copy of both the redacted and un-redacted record. The governmental entity producing the record should also include an explanation of why certain information has been redacted or removed from the record. For example, if a record contains both public information and confidential medical information that has been redacted, the person requesting the record should be informed that the record has been redacted to prevent disclosure of confidential medical information. It is helpful to cite the applicable section of the Right-to-Know law or the other legal authority which exempts the information from disclosure. The person seeking the governmental record can then easily independently assess the appropriateness of the redaction.
After Sundquist advised the Steinmans to “go ahead with placing boulders in front of the access,” they did just that, as Evitts wrote in his September 5 email.
The Selectmen have reviewed the issue of the very large rocks placed in the Town’s right-of-way on Brown Road. The placement of the rocks was not authorized by the Board of Selectmen. In your discussion with Board Chair Carolyn Sundquist and Code Officer Jack Parsons, it seems there was a misunderstanding of what was allowed at the time. Chairman Sundquist advised that you would only be able to close off the access to Lower Beech Pond with a couple of large rocks. She also mentioned the possibility of a No Parking sign, but never authorized blocking off the right-of-way. Chairman Sundquist apologizes that she may not have been specific enough in what was allowed.
The selectmen then requested that the Steinmans “move the boulders from the right-of-way to your property line as soon as possible.”
In a good neighbor gesture, and discussed with you and Jack Parsons in advance, we left a 3-foot wide opening at the head of the pong to allow small boats, canoes, kayaks to be carried in. We complied with the direction of Jack Parsons to keep the rocks 3-feet back from the road so as not to interfere with plowing. Our contractor, Jake Dawson, spoke with Tuftonboro’s Road Agent, Jim Bean, in advance of any work to clarify the correct placement of the rocks.
We have tried to be good citizens and we have worked with the town in good faith to develop a plan to address the erosion problem. A group of us banded together this summer to personally fund the rock warrior, which we view as a first step in this Erosion Control Project. We spent approximately $3,500 on the project, so I’m sure you can understand our dismay when we received your request to remove the rocks. Again, our objective is simply to protect the lake and by extension the surrounding property values while enabling all to access the pond through our property.
The selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Bill Marcussen, Lloyd Wood) had a special meeting this morning at 10AM to encumber funds that had been appropriated for 2016 but not spent. Encumbering allows the funds to be spent in 2017 instead. Selectmen Wood voted “no” on the measure to encumber funds for new garage doors at the high department garage on Sodom Road. Other than that, the selectmen were unanimous in their other votes, including to encumber funds for storm windows at the Town House.
The selectmen also voted to authorize their attorney, Rick Sager, to investigate public access to Lower Beech Pond from Brown Road. In an August 25, 2016, email to Road Agent Jim Bean, which local resident Guy Pike acquired through a Right to Know request, Carolyn Sundquist wrote “I advised the Steinmans to go ahead with placing boulders in front of the access.” The Steinmans are Theodore and Carol Steinman, of Brown Road. After Sundquist advised the Steinmens to “go ahead with placing boulders,” they paid their contractor $3,500 to place boulders at the public access to Lower Beech Pond, which is a state pond stocked with fish by the New Hampshire Fish and Game department. Sundquist apparently did not consult with Sager before advising the Steinmans.
The Steinmans explained in a letter to Sundquist dated November 15, 2016, also pursuant to Pike’s Right to Know request, “In a good neighbor gesture, and discussed with you and Jack Parsons in advance, we left a three foot wide opening at the head of the pond to allow small boats, canoes, kayaks, to be carried in. We complied with the direction of Jack Parsons to keep the rocks three feet back from the road so as not to interfere with plowing. Our contractor, Jake Dawson, spoke with Tuftonboro Road Agent, Jim Bean, in advance of any work to clarify the correct placement of the rocks.”
Unfortunately for the Steinmans, it appears that the rocks are within the town’s right of way. The question now is, should the Steinmans, who diligently sought the town’s advice before taking action, be held financially responsible for moving the rocks? According to an article on the concept of Municipal Estoppel at the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s web site, no. If the Steinmans can prove that they sought the advice of an “elected official or a municipal employee with actual authority to represent the municipality on the matter” who “makes a statement to a person which proves to be false” then “the municipality will be ‘estopped’ or ‘prevented’ from taking action to reach some other result with the person.”
In this case two elected officials, Selectmen Carolyn Sundquist and Road Agent Jim Bean, as well as a town employee, Jack Parsons, told the Steinmans it was OK to place the rocks where they are currently located, in the town’s right of way. Since the Steinmans relied, in good faith, on advice that turned out to be false, that means that the town will be “estopped” from requiring the Steinmans to move the rocks.
Carolyn Sundquist gave bad advice. Now the town has to pay Rick Sager $175 an hour in taxpayer money to tell her that it was bad advice. Then we might have to spend public money to move the rocks that are only where they are now due to Sundquist’s mistake.
The selectmen forgot to say the pledge of allegiance before this morning’s meeting (they are required by vote of Town Meeting to start each meeting with the pledge), so Guy Pike led a recitation of the pledge, joined by other members of the public, after the selectmen adjourned their meeting.