Gun range project could land in Concord or another NH town

By Ray Carbone

SUTTON – Since his efforts to build a retail gun store/indoor shooting range in Warner were defeated last month, resident Eric Miller says he’s heard from numerous local communities that are anxious to see if his new business can be established in their towns.

Speaking by phone from his home here late last week, the owner of Dragonfly Ranges said that he’s seriously considering several potential locations, including two in Concord. “There are two (spaces there), and one is large enough for indoor skeet/trap shooting,” Miller explained. “So, I’m seriously considering doing two ranges. One for skeet/trap shooting and the other the more traditional range,” like the was proposed in Warner, he explained.

The two locations are “within four or five miles of each other,” Miller noted.

‘What I’m looking at right now is speed-to-market. It took a year for this to play out in Warner and I’m not spending another six months (delayed).’

  • Eric Miller, owner of Dragonfly Ranges

 

Miller said he’s decided against appealing the Warner zoning board of adjustment’s recent decision to deny a variance that would have allowed his $1.4-million firearms facility to be constructed on Warner Road, despite the urgings of his attorney. “My lawyer has said in no uncertain terms that the zoning board violated state law (by rejecting the variance request), and he has written me a very detailed analysis, even though I’ve told him I’m not looking to appeal this,” the business owner said.

“What it comes down to, quite simply, is that if I appeal then the judge would likely send (the case) back to the another zoning hearing,” Miller said. “And since its their (members) intend to violate state law, the only thing I could expect is that they would try to conceal their preconceived opinions and hide their real biases better than they did this go-around… It’s not a good investment of time.”

“What I’m looking at right now is speed-to-market,” he said. “It took a year for this to play out in Warner and I’m not spending another six months (delayed).”

Planning officials in Concord have assured Miller that there are numerous locations around the city – including some on Main Street – where he would have no problem opening up his retail gun store/shooting range operations. “We’d need no more than a building permit,” he said.

In Warner, Miller was unable to convince the five-member ZBA that his proposal was allowable under the town’s legal definition of a “permitted use” for a zoning variance. During the last year, a significant number of area residents said that they did not feel the facility was a good addition to the community because of concerns about noise, pollution and safety. Last month, the ZBA voted 3-2 to turn aside Dragonfly’s variance request.

Miller said that since the group’s decision, he’s received invitations from officials or private citizens in Hillsboro, Newport, Grantham, Springfield and Hopkinton, as well as City of Concord and his Sutton hometown, offering to discuss the possibility of locating his facility in their towns. Some involved procuring land and constructing a new building, something he’s not interested in at this time. Miller wants to rent space in an industrial-style building to speed his opening, he explained.

The business owner said he hasn’t yet developed any plans for the 2.9-acre Warner property he bought last year in hopes of constructing his facility.

“So far I’ve had three offers (to buy it),” he said. “One of them, of course, being from Norm (Carlson).”

Carlson is the founder and president of MadgeTech, Inc., the high-tech firm located adjacent to Miller’s property. He led the legal fight to defeat the firearms facility proposal, so the Miller admitted to having some reservations about his offer. “I’m not the emotional type but, it (selling to Carlson) certainly wouldn’t be my first choice.”

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

 

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Sportsmen Club, others, can move forward with Wild Goose appeal

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – The fight to develop a public boat launch site for Lake Sunapee on the Wild Goose property is moving forward.

The long-delayed Department of Environmental Services (DES) project suffered a major setback last year when Gov. Chris Sununu urged the executive council to remove it from its list of proposed 2018 projects in favor of finding and developing a new site. He appointed a commission that’s considering other possible locations, including the Sunapee State Beach, while the DES refused to apply for an five-year extension for the project’s wetland construction permit.

But the chairman of the DES’ wetlands council has given new life to supporters of the Wild Goose site. He’s rejected the state’s formal request to dismiss an effort by the Sullivan County Sportsmen and others that would have required the DES to reverse course and apply for the permit extension. The Sportsmen’s group, which includes the New Hampshire Bass Federation, the Mountain View Gun Club, and several other nonprofit organizations and individuals, says the DES should have followed its usual protocol by seeking to extend the permit as its done previously since it’s already approved the construction project, rather than acquiescing to Sununu.

The Sportsmen’s group says the DES should have followed its usual protocol by seeking to extend the permit… since it’s already approved the construction project.

 

In a decision handed down January 11, George W. Kimball, chairman of the council, addresses the state’s two main arguments for dismissing the Sportsmen’s appeal.

One is that the organizations don’t have any legal standing in the case because they are neither abutters nor one of the original groups involved in the long-running legal dispute. Kimball wrote that the groups – which include fisherman and others with recreational interest in Sunapee – should be considered as a part of the general public that has a stake in the use of the project, just as the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA) has been allowed a voice in opposing the Wild Goose development.

The second argument states that extending the construction permit does not guarantee that the Wild Goose project will be developed. Kimball wrote that the group is only asking that the construction permit be extended to keep that option open, rather than follow Sununu’s lead. “(They) merely request that the permit be granted the five-year extension, an extension they assert was unlawfully and unreasonably denied,” he writes. “The appeal may be futile as an attempt to construct the project but the (group) states that it might save the state money and time later.”

Whether or not the effort turns out to futile is not a factor in request, he concludes.

The state purchased the 3.3-acre Wild Goose property off Route 103 in 1990 with plans to develop it into a public boat launch that would meet the state’s requirement to provide access to the general public.

But Newbury town official joined with the LSPA and others in opposing the idea, saying the facility would create significant traffic and environmental problems.

Supporters say that the property has already been approved by the DES and that current access is inadequate.

The dispute has faced years of litigation and Sununu said he hoped to move public access issue forward by abandoning a “flawed and controversial idea that has not gone anywhere in 20 years.” The 15-member Lake Sunapee Access Commission that he appointed has been holding a series of public meetings and is planning to make a recommendation next month.

Attorney W. Howard Dunn of Claremont, who is representing the Sportsmen’s group, said he’s encouraged by the recent decision because the language that Kimball used in his ruling may indicate that he’s favorably disposed to the concerns raised by the Wild Goose supporters.

But he acknowledged that the question is not entirely resolved. Since Kimball’s ruling, he said, the state has filed an appeal of his decision, and Dunn has filed a response to the appeal.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

 

Warner gun range case still unsettled

Above – Attorney Paul Alfano, representing Norman Carlson of Warner, testifies before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment  in the Christmas-themed Town Hall last week. – RC

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – For the third time this year, the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted last week to continue its public hearing on a special exception that would allow a Sutton man to build a $1.4-million indoor gun firing range and retail store on Warner Road nearby exit 7 off I-89.

At its regular town hall monthly meeting Wednesday night, the board primarily heard from attorney Mark Puffer of Concord, who is representing Eric Miller and his company, Dragonfly Ranges of Sutton. The lawyer responded to comments made at the November meeting by Paul Alfano, the Concord lawyer who represents Norman Carlson. Carlson, who is the founder and president of Madgetech, a 60-employee high-tech firm that sits next to the 2.9-acre lot where the proposed firearms facility would be built, has said he may move his operations out of Warner if Dragonfly’s range is constructed adjacent to his plant.

Early in the meeting, Alfano reviewed Carlson’s objections to the gun range site. He said a town zoning regulation that would allow “recreational and other amusements” in the zone where Dragonfly wants to build wouldn’t apply to its plans. “If you look at a common sense reading (of those terms),” he said, “it does not include this.”

Alfano also said that the gun facility would not meet a requirement that it be “desirable” in the neighborhood, based on the large number of area residents who have voice opposition to the project. And there are still unanswered questions related to its possible impact on nearby property values, ambient noise, and environmental issues, the attorney added.

‘This is not a referendum on firearms, and it’s not a popularity contest. This is a zoning case.’

– Attorney Mark Puffer, representing Dragonfly Ranges

 

“If you vote against this, it doesn’t mean your anti-gun,” Alfano told the board. “It means the application didn’t meet the special exception criteria.”

But Puffer said that Alfano was being somewhat disingenuous about the gun-rights issue. “Remember at the (original) October hearing, the very first thing he said was that ‘Eric Miller did not talk about the elephant in the room, which was that guns kill people,” he recalled, classifying the statement as “incendiary.”

“This is not a referendum on firearms, and it’s not a popularity contest,” Puffer said. “This is a zoning case.”

He noted that proposed Walmart stores are frequently opposed by various members of a community, but the company is allowed to build because its stores meet the zoning requirements.

Puffer also argued that the firing range is allowed as a “recreational” special exception under the town’s zoning regulations. “It’s akin to an indoor tennis facility, a roller-skating rink or an ice skating facility,” he said.

The attorney then disputed Alfano’s claim that noise, pollution and property values issues had not be refuted, stating that Miller had responded to each in paperwork that submitted to the board. And he said that while Miller was at all public hearings, several experts who had filed reports in favor of Carlson’s objections were not. “None of them came here to be questioned,” Puffer told the board.

The ZBA will continue the gun range hearing at its next meeting on Wednesday, January 10 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. 

 

 

Opponents, supporters of Wild Goose plan have their say at public hearing

NOTE: The NH’s new Lake Sunapee Public Access Commission will hold a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Concord this Thursday, Dec. 14, at 9:00 am. At its recent meeting in Newbury, the commission announced that it would soon begin seeking input from state officials about the issue. – RC

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – At a recent public meeting of the new Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission, the ongoing debate was renewed between those who favor developing the state’s long-planned plan to build a boat access facility on the Wild Goose property and those who claim the site is unsuitable.

Approximately 70 people attended the two-hour gathering of the state’s new 15-member board at the town offices on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 30.

The issues have been “fought over for more than 25 years,” said Chairman Neil Lavesque.

Neil Lavesque, the group’s chairman, told the crowd that Gov. Chris Sununu had formed the commission several months ago in the hope that it would find a “New Hampshire solution” to the unresolved problems related to granting greater public boat access to the state’s sixth largest lake.

The issues have been “fought over for more than 25 years,” Lavesque reminded the group. People will need to work together to come up with a solution, even if “everyone is not going to be happy” with the outcome.

During the meeting, the commission members mostly listened as people outlined their opinions.

Dick Smith of Hancock, who called himself a lifelong angler and a member of the state’s public access water advisory board, said that he “knows a little about boat access, fishing and so forth.” “I feel like I’m here to represent the one-quarter million people who fish in New Hampshire every year,” he said. “It’s apparent that public access should be expanded on Sunapee. The question is where would be the best site for that.

“The citizens of New Hampshire own that lake, all of us equally,” he added, affirming the state’s legal authority over the waterway. “It’s held in a public trust. We also own the Wild Goose property, and its intent when it was bought was for it to be for provide public access to the general public, and it still is.”

Smith said the state has already invested about $450,000 into a plan to develop a Wild Goose facility, and that when it’s completed the federal government will pay for three-quarters of the total costs. The plan has been approved by the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the NH Supreme Court has twice turned down legal challenges to the site’s development.

“There’s an awful lot of support for Wild Goose,” he concluded.

But Ed Thorson, the chairman of the Newbury board of selectmen, said there are problems with the location. “It’s dangerous. There are already many accident on that stretch of road,” he said. “The speed limit on Rte. 103 is 50 mph, but in reality many of the motoring public is going much faster. The site distance at either end of Birch Grove Road is not adequate to safely have boats and trailers pulling out onto a very busy Route 103. “

June Fichter, the executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA), agreed with Thorson, arguing that Wild Goose was a bad choice. “Although purchased purely for conservation purposes, along with another 100 acres on Mount Sunapee, Wild Goose is much better suited for car-tope access, for canoes and kayaks,” she said.

Fichter asked the commission members to encourage relevant state agencies to work together to develop the Sunapee State Beach recreational area to increase parking and develop the launch facility there.

State Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury) supported Fichter’s stance. “The state beach works,” he said, adding that the costs of renovating that facility would be much more economical than the proposed Wild Goose development. “There are plans drawn up,” Wolf added, referring to the state beach parking challenge. “There’s a way to do it.”

Attorney Howard Dunn of Claremont, who is representing several organizations and individuals that are suing the DES for not moving forward with the Wild Goose development, said that the idea of developing the state beach site was flawed.

“It’s been degraded a little bit by the snowmaking equipment there but it’s still a terrific place to swim,” he said of the public beach. “But it needs protection from having this kind of boat access there.” Dunn said that if the state doesn’t use the Wild Goose site, he doubted that there would ever be a state-owned public access facility on Sunapee.

State Rep. Peter Hanson (R-Amherst) reported that he’d recently introduced a bill in the legislature that would restore funding for the development of the Wild Goose site, adding that problematic traffic issues could be resolved by reducing the speed limit on Rte. 103 and taking other precautionary measures.

At the hearing’s conclusion, Chairman Lavesque said the commission would meet again on Thursday, December 14, at 9 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Concord, and the public is again invited to attend.

The group plans to soon start speaking with public officials about the Sunapee public access issue, then move into a deliberative session in advance of a final decision. Gov. Sununu has asked the commission to issue its recommendation by March 2018.

This story first appeared in the Inter-Town Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

Charges dropped in alleged Sunapee election fraud incident

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s efforts to prosecute two men who were allegedly involved in an election fraud scheme in 2016 has fallen short.

Last month, the NH attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with two charges of illegally altering an email in order to influence the outcome of an election, and one charge of forgery against Adam Gaw of Manchester.

The decision followed an October ruling handed down by Newport district judge Gregory E. Michael that dismissed the same charges against a Sunapee resident, Joseph Furlong.

The woman told police that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the Sunapee school board… Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message…

The two men were charged with the misdemeanor crimes after Sunapee police investigated a report from a resident that was made in March 2016. The woman told David Cahill, Sunapee’s police chief, that she’d written an email that referenced some people associated with the town’s school board, and sent it to several town acquaintances. Later, she discovered that someone had altered her message with the apparent aim of tilting the election in favor of Heather Furlong, Joseph’s wife, and sent it out to a larger group of citizens just days before a school board election. (Heather Furlong won a seat on the school board but resigned one year later after her husband was arrested.)

Cahill said he immediately notified the attorney general of a possible election fraud crime. With the AG’s support, he then began an investigation that led him to Joseph Furlong.

Furlong denied playing a role in the doctored message. Instead, he pointed to Gaw, an independent building contractor who may have been working on the Furlong house the night of the alleged crime.

Cahill initially doubted Gaw’s existence, saying he thought Furlong had invented a “straw man” to escape responsibility for his actions. Gaw sent an email to the Sunapee police claiming full responsibility for the altered email.

It was not until the early 2017 that the attorney general’s office filed formal charges against Furlong and Gaw. Shortly thereafter, it withdrew the original charges and filed new ones that it believed were more likely to lead to convictions.

But when Furlong’s case came to trial earlier this fall, his lawyer asked Judge Michael to dismiss the charges because the newer ones were filed too late – just days after the legal statute of limitations had run out.

The judge agreed and, when the AG’s office appealed his decision, he affirmed it, saying that authorities had “failed to properly investigate the facts.”

When Gaw’s case came to court on November 14, James Vera of the attorney general’s office decided not to move forward with the Manchester man’s prosecution.

Last week, Vera said that Gaw’s lawyer “would have made the same argument” that caused Judge Michael to drop the charges against Furlong.

Vera refused to blame anyone on the prosecution’s team for the outcome.

“I’m not going to say that anyone dropped the ball,” he said. “There was a decision that was made and it was incorrect.”

Vera said the state is not planning any further action related to the incident.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on November 28, 2017.

Sunapee Lake access group to host public meeting

By Ray Carbone

SUNAPEE – The state’s new Lake Sunapee Public Boat Access Development Commission will be holding a public meeting in the Newbury town office Thursday, Nov. 30, from 3 to 5 p.m.

The meeting is the latest in a series of pubic hearings the group is using to gather input from various stakeholders about plans to develop a public boat launch site on Sunapee. The public is invited to attend.

The commission was formed earlier this fall after Gov. Chris Sununu announced his intention to abandon the long-delayed plan to create a boat launch at the Wild Goose property in Newbury. The commission is charged with identifying a new site and with developing alternate plans for the 3.3-acre Wild Goose land, which the state purchased 1990.

The attorney general recently filed an appeal, asking the court to dismiss the wildlife group’s suit. The attorney representing the group said that he is preparing a legal response to the AG’s request.

While that process is moving forward, a group of New Hampshire residents who have fishing and other interests on Sunapee has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Sununu’s actions. The group, which includes the New Hampshire Bass Federation and the Sullivan County Sportsmen and the Mountain View Gun club, as well as Gary Clark of Merrimack, the author of the popular “Clark’s New Hampshire Fishing Guide,” charges that the state Department of Environmental Services violated its own procedures when it agreed to abandon its Wild Goose plans at the governor’s request.

The state’s attorney general recently filed an appeal, asking the Sullivan County Superior Court to dismiss the wildlife group’s suit. The attorney representing the group, William Howard Dunn of Claremont, said last week that he is preparing a legal response to the AG’s request.

The recently appointed 15-member commission includes two state representatives, as well as representatives from the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board, the NH Fish and Game Department, the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES), the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and residents of New London, Newbury and Sunapee.

Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury) supports the DES’s decision to abandon the Wild Goose plan. He said the proposed project would create major traffic problems in Newbury, the construction costs are unreasonable – estimated to be over $100,000 – and that there are environmental concerns. “In my opinion it’s not the right site to put a boat launch,” he said.

A better option would be to establish a boat launch at the Sunapee State Beach in Newbury, Wolf suggested. “There’s an opportunity there to create parking space on the access road going in, and to refurbish the boat ramps at the beach,” he said. The project would be cost-effective and safe, he added.

But Dunn said that adding a state-owned-and-operated boat launch on the state beach would be the “ruination” of the recreational area.

“Endangerment of the state beach is an important aspect of this,” the attorney said. “There can be up to 50 kids there (on a summer day).” Ten towns use the state beach for organized community recreation, he added.

In addition, some of the beach area has already been shrunk by snowmaking equipment, Dunn said, so taking more space is impossible. “It would make it smaller yet; it would reduce parking in the area and it would possibly reduce that very expensive play area there.”

State law requires that there must be public access to any waterway that’s larger than 10 acres, according to Dunn. His clients have to buy boating licenses and purchase relevant equipment that is taxed, and part of those collected funds are supposed to go towards paying for boating access, he added. In addition, a federal grant is available that would pay for more than one-half of a launch site on the Wild Goose land, the lawyer concluded.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. Wolf and Rep. Karen Ebel (D-New London) are part of the commission. We regret the error.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 28, 2017.

 

Adjoining towns, regional planning commission, will be heard about proposed gun facility

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The zoning board of adjustment has decided to invite residents and officials of Hopkinton and Webster, as well as representatives of the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission, to its next public meeting so they can offer input into a proposed $1.4-million, 11,800 square-foot shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road.

The ZBA approved the idea at its town hall meeting last Wednesday, October 11, after the members began their second review of a zoning variance request from Eric Miller, the Sutton resident who wants to build the facility. The request for the allowable variance was originally approved back by the ZBA in March but a court ruled in July that the board erred when it did not notify several abutters about its original hearing, nor did it consider whether the project could be considered to have “regional impact.” (The latter designation obligates town boards to notify neighboring communities and the planning commission about a proposed project and public hearings about it.)

‘Twenty years ago there was a shooting range right across from the high school and nobody said anything about it.’

– Howard Kirchner,  ZBA member 

The gun store/shooting range proposal has been controversial ever since Miller announced his intentions nearly 10 months ago. Some area residents like the idea, saying there are many gun enthusiasts in the region and the facility will give them a safe place to learn how to improve their skills. Opponents say that the location, roughly three miles from Hopkinton Middle High School, is a poor choice, and that noise and environmental issues could make the operation problematic for the neighborhood.

Most of the legal opposition has come from Norman Carlson, who is founder and CEO of the town’s largest high-tech employer, MadgeTech, Inc.. He has threatened to move his 60-employee plant, adjacent to the Miller’s land, out of town if the project is completed and his Carlson’s business entities have legally challenged almost every aspect of the project, including approvals Miller has won from the ZBA and the planning board. State officials say that Carlson missed out an opportunity to purchase the property, which is adjacent to his plant, during a public bid earlier in the year, and that he inadvertently created the 2.9-acre lot when he mistakenly okayed a tree clearance on the electric company for the land when it was still part of the Davisville State Forest.

At last week’s hearing, Rick Davies, chairman of the ZBA, asked the board’s voting members the question they did not consider at their original hearing in March: Does the proposed facility have a “regional impact?”

Barbara Marty said that it was probably a good idea to let the other communities comment on the project. “I think, being good neighbors, we owe them that,” she said.

“I’m torn,” countered member Howard Kirchner. While he understood people’s concerns, he said that “20 years ago there was a shooting range right across from the high school and nobody said anything about it. This is much safer and much farther away than that.”

Davies pointed out that the question before the board was not on the overall merits of the project but simply whether it could be seen to have regional impact, and therefore trigger invitations to the neighboring towns and the planning commission.

After a brief discussion, the members voted unanimously to support the idea. (The two towns and the commission will have no legal authority at the upcoming meeting to approve or disapprove Warner’s planning decisions.)

The members then adjourned the public hearing with the intention of reconvening it at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 8, at 7 pm in the town hall. The ZBA will also hold a site review of the Warner Road property this Thursday (Oct. 19) at 5:30 p.m. but no pubic input will be taken at that time.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

Newbury, NH, needs a new police chief

photo image from the Newbury Police Department’s Facebook page.

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – Robert Lee, who has served as the town’s police for more than a decade, has left his position.

In a “severance agreement and release” document signed by Lee and the board of selectmen in late August, the former chief and the town agreed that he would begin an immediate leave of absence and begin seeking other employment. Town officials agreed to pay Lee $49,000, or about 55-percent of his approximate annual salary of $90,000, which includes 485½ hours of compensation. At a recent selectmen’s meeting, Town Administrator Dennis Pavlicek said that the payment includes some paid vacation time that Lee is owed.

‘Once we look at all the options, we’ll move forward. I think we’ll take action within a month… We’re not going to linger over this or make a knee jerk reaction.’

— Selectman Ed Thorson

Late last week, Ed Thorson, chairman of the board, described Lee’s recent departure as routine” for a small town.

But at a recent board of selectmen’s meeting, more than 20 resident came to express their concerns about Lee and how the town is handling his sudden departure. Afterwards, Thorson said that some people had became agitated by rumors that “got things totally out of proportion,” including the idea that the board was “going to have (all police work) done by New London, that we were throwing up our hands and saying, it’s more trouble than it’s worth (to manage the four-person local police department.)”

At the September 18 meeting, the selectmen laid out their thoughts more accurately.

They said they were planning to meet with New London Police Chief Ed Andersen the next day to discuss a possible intermunicipal agreement that would provide additional coverage for Newbury on a temporary basis, until a replacement for Lee was in place. The tentative deal would cost $20,000 and last until the end of the year, although a clause would allow the town to opt out at a lower cost if the chief’s position is filled sooner.

At the meeting, resident Joanne Lord said that Lee “got paid off” to leave the police department. She later said that Lee and another prominent town employee had frequent disagreements over the years and that the selectmen wanted to resolve the tension by releasing Lee.

Thorson laughed and denied the idea when asked about the rumored conflict.

The selectmen did have a problem with Lee in 2014. At that time, the former chief was suspended for a week by the board. Lee took legal action against the town, claiming in part that his constitutional rights had been violated. In late July 2014, the selectmen agreed to rescind the suspension and replaced it with a written letter of warning in his personnel file. They also paid him for his lost wages as well as $3,500 and his attorney’s fee of $6,712.40.

Town officials cannot comment on either the circumstances surrounding Lee’s sudden departure or the 2014 incident because they are personal issues that are required to be kept confidential.

At the recent board meeting, several people asked the selectmen if they had considered Police Sgt. Brad Wheeler, a Newbury native, to fill the now-vacant chief’s position.

The board indicated that Wheeler, who has been acting chief since Lee’s departure, could be considered.

“We’ve made no decision yet,” Thorson said late last week. “We’re trying to keep all our options open, not excluding or including anybody from consideration.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board decided to postpone its planned meeting with Chief Andersen.

“Once we look at all the options, we’ll move forward,” Thorson said. “I think we’ll take action within a month. We’re not going to linger over this or make a knee jerk reaction.”

The chairman said that he does not believe that the town is not required to make a public job posting for the chief’s position if the selectmen decide to appoint a current police officer, like Wheeler, to the job.

For his part, Wheeler said he’d welcome the opportunity to become Newbury’s new police chief.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on Tuesday, October 11, 2017.

Gov. Sununu appoints new Sunapee boat access group; locals want court to overturn his decision to ditch Wild Goose plan

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY – Several local sportsmen associations and at least two residents have mounted a legal challenge to Gov. Chris Sununu’s plan to ditch a long-delayed proposal for building a public access boat launch on Lake Sunapee’s southeast shore.

The governor is moving forward with seeking an alternative to the local site.

Sununu signed an executive order recently that establishes the Lake Sunapee Public Access Development Commission. The group will research and evaluate “alternative opportunities for expansion of boat access at Lakes Sunapee,” according to a press statement issued by his office. It will also consider other uses for the three-acre Wild Goose site that the state purchased for a possible boat ramp in 1990.

The new executive order says that the state’s original plan to build a boat ramp on the 3.3-acre land off Birth Grove Road has “met with significant public opposition, including extensive litigation involving multiple appeals to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.” At a result, according to the order, “it is necessary to assemble a variety of perspectives” before moving forward with both a new lake access plan that will be supported by a majority of the public as well as a new development goal for the Wild Goose property.

“The (F&G) letter charged that ‘a few wealthy individuals’… want to keep the lake ‘as their own private domain.’

The 15-member commission will include two members of the state legislature as well as representatives from the NH Public Water Access Advisory Board, the NH Fish and Game Department, the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES), the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and residents of New London, Newbury and Sunapee (appointed by those town’s boards of selectmen). Residents and/or shoreline property owners from the same three towns would be chosen by the governor.

On Friday, Ben Vihstadt, the Sununu’s press representative, said the governor has not yet announced members of the commission, but that the group will meet at least once a month with the goal of issuing a report by March 2018.

The idea of developing the Wild Goose site has been debated for decades.

While the state is legally obligated to provide pubic access to Sunapee, many area residents, including both Newbury town officials and the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, have long opposed the local project. The opponents argue that there already is adequate public (although not state-owned/operated) access to the lake, and that the local site off Rte. 103 could create significant traffic and environmental issues.

Supporters of the Wild Goose plan say state officials have already approved the Wild Goose site and that the current ramp access points are inadequate.

The state’s courts have twice sided with the supporters, defeating legal challenges to the proposed ramp. However, Sununu may handed the opponents a victory when he decided last month to not seek an annual renewal of the DES wetland permit needed to build a ramp on the site.

“Trying to salvage a flawed and controversial idea that has not gone anywhere in over 20 years and that was left without funding by the legislature is not a viable plan to increase public access on Lake Sunapee,” Sununu said. “My priority remains bringing forward a real proposal that will actually allow Granite Staters greater access to our Lake Sunapee.”

Shortly after the announcement, the fish and game commission took the unusual step of publically asking Sununu to reconsider his decision. The letter charged that the Newbury project was delayed because it’s opposed by “a few wealthy individuals” who own shoreline property near the Wild Goose land and want to keep the lake “as their own private domain.”

Now, the Sullivan County Sportsman Club, the NH Bass Federation and others have petitioned the Sullivan County Superior Court to reverse Sununu’s decision, saying that only the DES has the authority to decide on the status of a wetlands permit.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017.

 

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