When you have done nothing wrong and the government sends armed men to your door as part of an effort to stifle your rights, tyranny is not too strong a word.
The deputy’s name was Brian Argue, and he visited both my and Bob Mcwhirter’s homes to serve us with a lawsuit from the board of selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen). Despite his last name, Deputy Argue was very genial and truly professional. I have no argument with his conduct. Nevertheless, how would you like an officer of the law–no matter how polite–to show up on your door with a court order, just because you made a Right to Know request?
We made a lawful request to inspect governmental records (emails, in this case), and the selectmen responded by irresponsibly and abusively dragging us into court. All because the selectmen don’t want to abide by the Right to Know law.
Due to the selectmen’s lawsuit, we have had to hire an attorney: Jim Cowles of Walker & Varney, P.C., in Wolfeboro. We have received a tremendous amount of support from other residents in town, who have generously offered to help us defend ourselves — and defend the public’s Right to Know — in court. Some local residents are taking checks directly to our attorney (checks should be made out to “Walker & Varney, P.C.,” with “McWhirter/Ledoux” written on the check’s memo line). We have also set up a crowdfunding page at Indiegogo where people can contribute to the legal costs forced upon us by the selectmen.
The full cost of defending our right to inspect governmental records against the selectmen’s vindictive lawsuit could rise into the many thousands of dollars. And that’s not even counting our taxpayer money that is being spent on the selectmen’s attorney, Rick Sager, to persecute us.
The Union Leader published an editorial this week calling for the legislature to update the Right to Know law for the digital age, while referencing the selectmen’s abusive lawsuit against Bob and me:
Tuftonboro selectmen are the latest municipal officials asking for citizens to reimburse taxpayers for the time and expense of preparing public records for inspection. State law clearly provides that citizens can inspect public documents free of charge, but can be charged for actual copying costs.
Resident Robert McWhirter wants access to 11,000 town emails. Selectmen say it will cost up to $12,800 to prepare the documents, redacting any confidential information. They are asking Carroll County Superior Court for permission to charge $.25 per page, potentially thousands of dollars.
The law needs to be rewritten for the digital age. State and local governments need to create and archive electronic records, including official email accounts, knowing that the public will read them.
The only thing I would quibble with is the assertion by the selectmen (Carolyn Sundquist, Lloyd Wood, and Bill Marcussen) that it will cost up to $12,800 to comply with the law. Please keep in mind that our taxes already pay the salaries of the town office staff. Replying to Right to Know requests is part of the “normal work schedule,” according to none other than Carolyn Sundquist. There is no added cost.
The First Christian Church of Tuftonboro (across from the General Store on 109A) held its annual community Christmas service on Sunday evening. Around 75 people attended the service, which was led by Rev. Kent Schneider, who is the interim pastor of the First Congregational Church in Farmington, NH.
The congregants sang Christmas carols with the aid of Cecelia Ewing on keyboard, Patti Nisbet on flute, Betty Schneider on persuasion, and Jane Wilson on clarinet and recorder. Mike Lymburmer sang tenor. Natalie Hebden also played guitar and mandolin, as well as sang.
Rev. Schneider’s sermon was on patience. “What are you waiting for?” He asked. He said we live in a time when people expect instant gratification. But Mary, Joseph, and even Mary’s sister Elizabeth, were waiting, he said, and they were rewarded for their patience.
After the service, Tuftonboro residents stayed to mingle and talk with friends and neighbors.
The First Christian Church of Tuftonboro is 147 years old.
No decision was made at last night’s Zoning Board of Adjustment public hearing about the proposed self-storage unit project at 181 Middle Road next to the fire station. The board will reconvene on October 4th at 7PM at the Town House to hold a vote.
The board chairman, Mark Howard, began the public hearing by explaining that the petitioner — Paul Zimmerman, through his representative — was coming before the board asking for a special exception, not a variance. A variance is required when the current zoning specifically prohibits a proposed use for the property. However, Article 3.6.F13 of the Tuftonboro Zoning Ordinance allows the construction of “Storage Buildings” in medium density residential areas by special exception.
Therefore, the use is permitted if the property owner can demonstrate that the use will meet five specific criteria. Howard confirmed to me that if the use does meet the criteria, then the the law requires that the board must grant a special exception.
The criteria are:
Special Exceptions shall meet the following standards:
1. Standards provided by this Ordinance for the particular use permitted by special exception.
2. No hazard to the public or adjacent property on account of potential fire, explosion or release of toxic materials.
3. No detriment to property values in the vicinity or change in the essential characteristics of a residential neighborhood on account of the location or scale of Buildings and other structures, parking area, Access ways, odor, smoke, gas, dust, or other pollutant, noise, glare, heat, vibration, or unsightly outdoor storage of equipment, vehicles or other materials.
4. No creation of a traffic safety hazard or a substantial increase in the level of traffic congestion in the vicinity.
5. No excessive demand on municipal services, including, but not limited to, water, sewer, waste disposal, police and fire protection, and schools.
6. No significant increase of storm water runoff onto adjacent property or streets.
The board was short a member last night, and without an alternate, there were only four members present. Zimmerman therefore had the right to ask for a continuance, since he would require three yes votes to obtain a special exception. His representative opted to go forward with the presentation of the construction plans. However, the board voted at the end of the hearing to issue a continuance and reconvene on October 4th at 7PM in the Town House, in order to give Zimmerman’s team time to respond to several questions and concerns that were raised both by the board and members of the public.
Zimmerman constructed the self-storage units at Clark Plaza in Wolfeboro last year, and the proposed building at 181 Middle Road would closely resemble the Wolfeboro design.
Bob Theve, a member of the board, asked what would happen if someone renting a storage unit put hazardous material in their unit. He was specifically concerned that the town be indemnified in the event.
Zimmerman’s representative, an engineer with Allen & Major Associates, Inc, stated that there would be no office on site and no security gate. The rental agreement would prohibit storage of hazardous material. Several residents were concerned that there would be no enforcement of that clause, however. They pointed out that if there’s no one on site to manage the facility, and if renters can come at any time, including the middle of the night, then there would be no way to prevent someone from storing liquid propane canisters, as one resident suggested as an example. LP canisters are very common and are used for gas grills, for instance.
Faye Friedrich, of Middle Road, stated that she is a supporter of private property rights, which is why she supports the new gravel pit across from her own property. However, she read from the town’s Master Plan, put out by the Planned Board, which calls for maintaining the character of the town. It was Friedrich’s opinion that self-storage units, especially corrugated steel structures as proposed, would change the nature of the neighborhood significantly. “Do we want to be Route 16 in Ossipee?” She asked. Adding, “No offense to Ossipee.”
Keith Rogers, whose property is directly across Middle Road from the proposed project, stated his concerns in reference to criteria #2 in the above list that there would be “no control of what goes in and what comes out.” He also contended that Zimmerman would have to salt the driveway and surrounding areas in the winter to maintain a safe environment for the people coming and going, and that the salt would run off the property, which has a steep incline, across the road, and onto his property and into his and his neighbor’s well (see criteria #6 above). Zimmerman is proposing to use porous asphalt on the driveway, and Rogers stated he is experienced with that pacing material and that if you use sand on it then it will clog very quickly and no longer be porous, thus you must use salt. Rogers was also concerned about lighting, saying that the light from the fire station was already a nuisance.
Resident Sarah Matlock requested an artist’s rendition of the proposed buildings from the point of view of the street. Rogers was also concerned that the building, sitting on a hill, would be in plain view.
Zimmerman’s representative stated the belief of the development team that the project would not negatively affect property values (criteria #3 above) because the area is already a mixed use, with the fire station next door. The abutting property owners in attendance strongly disagreed. I gave my opinion that a self-storage facility would severely negatively affect property values, and shared with the board that my opinion was based on my experience as a residential real estate agent in New York City for nearly eight years.
A storage facility of the proposed size (more than 100 individual units) would be expected to receive on average 27 visits per week day by unit renters, or 54 “trips” to and from the site. Zimmerman’s representative stated this was low-traffic (see criteria #4, above).
Dr. Rick Van der Poll of Ecosystem Management Consultants addressed the annual meeting of the Tuftonboro Association Monday evening and gave a talk entitled Conservation of the Great Meadow. Van der Poll has been studying the Great Meadow off and on for the past 16 years, as well as consulting with the Conservation Committee on purchasing various property lots that cover the meadow in order to place them into conservation.
There were approximately 30 Tuftonboro residents in attendance.
Lang’s Pond Road will be closed to through-traffic beginning on September 26th, 2016, for road reconstruction by LA Drew. The project should take about a month.
The selectmen awarded the project to LA Drew even though their bid was not the lowest. At first the selectmen said that they had rejected the low bid, by Integrity Earthworks, because it had been improperly submitted without a performance bond. Integrity Earthworks had followed the instructions provided by the selectmen, which did not require a bond. However, that turned out to be incorrect because state law requires projects over $35,000 to include a bond.
LA Drew’s winning bid was $140,772 and Integrity Earthworks’ lower bid was $112,906. The Integrity Earthworks bid would have been higher if it included a bond, but would still have offered a considerable savings to the taxpayer of Tuftonboro had the selectmen not sent out wrong instructions.
Kelly Ayotte will debate challenger Jim Rubens tonight, September 7, at 7PM in a debate hosted by WMUR-TV 9. The debate will also be streamed live on WMUR.com and broadcast on WTPL 107.7FM The Pulse. Ayotte, the incumbent, is seeking her second term in the US Senate representing New Hampshire. She was previously the Attorney General. Jim Rubens is a businessman from Lebanon and previously served in the state Senate. Ayotte and Rubens are seeking the Republican nomination on September 13th. Very few polls have been taken of the GOP primary race, with pollsters’ main focus being the potential match up between Ayotte and Governor Maggie Hassan, who is running unopposed for the Democrat nomination for US Senate. The RealClearPolitics.com average of polls from May 25 to August 28 gives Hassan a 0.8% advantage over Ayotte.
Last week a local bicyclist notice a sink hole on Mountain Road (otherwise known as Route 171, a state road), very close to Canaan Road. There happened to be a Tuftonboro Police cruiser passing by at the moment and the bicyclist waved the officer over. Within a very short amount of time that same afternoon the sink hole was being patched while Chief Andy Shagoury and Officer Tom LaFavre directed traffic.
Here it is after being patched, looking in the opposite direction of the previous photo:
According to a resident who spoke to Officer LaFavre afterward, the visible hole in the roadway was just the tip of the iceberg, and there was a much larger hole underneath that could have caused the road to cave in.
The good news is that the hole was filled in immediately and also that the state had already informed the selectmen that all of Route 171 will be repaved this summer, from the Ossipee line to the Moultonborough line.
Thank you to the Tuftonboro PD for their prompt attention to this matter!