(Above: Norman Carlson, the founder and CEO of MadgeTech, Inc., the local high-tech business that employs almost 60 people, is fighting an effort to build a combination shooting range-gun retail store adjacent to his property on Warner Road.)
By Ray Carbone
CONCORD – The legal dispute between the town and Norman Carlson, founder and CEO of MadgeTech, Inc., moved a step closer to resolution at a hearing in the Merrimack County Superior Court last week.
Carlson, who owns the local 20-year-old, $10-million-per-year high tech firm, wants the court to overturn the zoning board of adjustment’s decision to allow the construction of a $1.4-million, 11,800 square-foot shooting range and retail gun store on property next to MadgeTech’s plant on Warner Road, by exit 7 off Interstate 93. Carlson says some of his 50-plus employees are concerned about their safety if the proposed high tech, 16-lane facility is built on the 2.9-acre lot adjacent to the Davisville State Forest.
‘When you’re raising your children, and right next door to you is a vacant lot and, if it’s developed, it will become a firearms facility with training, that’s a dramatic change.’ – Attorney Amy Manzelli
At the superior court hearing on Monday, June 26, Judge Richard McNamara reviewed several appeals that are related to the case.
The first is from Justin Carroll and Sarah Lansil, who live with their two children in a small building on MadgeTech’s property. Speaking on behalf of the couple, attorney Amy Manzelli said the town should have notified the couple about public hearings regarding the project, so the pair could make the town aware of their safety concerns.
But Michael Courtney, the town’s attorney, said that since Carrol and Lansil are month-to-month renters, and not property owners, the town was not obligated to notify them about the ZBA hearings.
Manzelli said that state regulations require towns to notify anyone who lives close to land where a significant usage change is being considered, regardless of their rental status. ”When you’re raising your children, and next door to you is a vacant lot and, if it’s developed, it will become a firearms facility with training, that’s a dramatic change,” she said.
Courtney later suggested that the couple had waited too long before making their concerns known to town officials. “We’re somewhat troubled by the timing,” the attorney told the judge, noting that public hearings began in April but Carroll and Lansil filed their request to be heard by the court just a few weeks ago.
In addition, the town counsel noted that the lot where developer Eric Miller wants to build his shooting range is in a commercially-zone part of town, so the family should have expected that a business enterprise could be constructed near their rented home.
In another action, the town requests that the judge instruct the zoning board of adjustment to rehear the original project proposal, but only as it relates to the question of whether the shooting range/retail store should be been considered of “regional importance.” A regional-importance designation would have allowed Hopkinton residents who have expressed caution about the location of the shooting range, just three miles from Hopkinton Middle High School, as well as representatives of the Central New Hampshire Planning Commission to address the ZBA.
Meanwhile, Paul Alfano and John F. Hayes, the lawyers representing Carlson’s businesses, asked that more than 200 pages of additional information about the project and the proposed site be added to the town’s official planning records. The materials contain data that was not provided to the ZBA before the group approved the plan, the attorneys argued.
A second filing asks the judge to have the town abandon all its previous actions related to the firearms proposal, and that it restart the entire planning over from the beginning.
At the meeting’s conclusion, Judge McNamara said that he would consider all the requests together, and announce his decisions soon.
Afterwards, if necessary, McNamara said he would rule on the larger question of how the town boards should proceed with the shooting range/retail store application.
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on July 4, 2017.