Unusual agreement seals Odd Fellows building sale to local contractor

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – It took some creativity, but the town finally sold its historic Odd Fellows building to a local contractor who hopes to renovate and restore the structure.

On Aug. 1, the selectmen signed a purchase-and-sales agreement with Nate Burrington. The Warner native and the owner of Burlington Builders and Maintenance will purchase the 125-year-old wooden village building for $10. Burrington wants to convert the 72’-by-42’, three-story landmark into a combination workshop and office for his business, and rent space for office and/or residential apartments.

‘Selectboard Chairman John Dabuliewicz admitted that the town has lost some legal leverage in the agreement.’

 

Burrington first approached the selectmen about taking over the former fraternal meeting place more than six months ago. The town bought the building in 1999 for $50,000 with hopes that it could renovate it into commercial space, or repurpose it for elderly or workforce housing. After none of several such proposals worked out (and environmental issues were discovered on the property) residents were enthusiastic about Burrington’s unusual offer to take over the project and restore it at his own costs.

The idea was addressed at the annual town meeting in March and the selectmen indicated that they expected an agreement would be forthcoming.

Kimberley Edelmann, selectman, said negotiations became complicated. “Whenever you deal with a board, it takes a while because we can’t decide anything except when we’re in an (official) meeting,” she explained.

The selectman wanted some assurance that important restoration work, which includes structural and environmental remediation, would be done in a timely manner. They created a schedule of improvements with deadlines stretching out two years as part of the agreement. If Burrington didn’t comply, the town could retake the building – something it did not really want to do.

(The board was also interested in safeguarding the town’s investment in the property, which has grown to $80,000 as it handled various problems associated with the land since 1999.)

For his part, Burrington was hesitant to commit to a schedule, said Edelmann. If significant complications arose, from personal to international economic challenges, he would lose his initial investment when the town took the building back, she explained.

Finally, Edelmann suggested that the board change the schedule from one that was required to something Burrington would aspire to complete. In addition, a clause stipulates that if Burrington sells or passes on the landmark, the town will receive $80,000.

Edelmann said the agreement is somewhat unusual but seems to satisfy most of the concerns of both sides.

Chairman John Dabuliewicz admitted at a recent selectmen’s meeting that the town has lost some legal leverage in the agreement, but Edelmann pointed out that the Odd Fellows building would no longer be a municipal obligation.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Tuesday, August 15, 2017.

 

MadgeTech wins legal fight; firing range decision will be reviewed by ZBA

Some Hopkinton residents are concerned about having a firing range near the Hopkinton Middle High School. They may be able to address the Warner zoning board of adjustment about the issue next month. (Ray Carbone/photo)

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The founder and president of MadgeTech, Inc., the town’s largest high-tech employer, has won a significant legal victory in his efforts to derail the construction of a proposed indoor shooting range on land adjacent to his plant’s property in the Davisville area.

In a decision handed down last month, Judge Richard McNamara of the Merrimack Superior Court ruled that the town’s zoning board of adjustment acted improperly in March when it OK’ed a variance to its zoning regulations that would allow for the construction of the gun facility. The ruling, which was made in response to a legal request from Norman Carlson of MadgeTech, means that the approval is invalid and the ZBA will have to hold a new hearing to reconsider the proposal.

The ZBA’s next scheduled meeting is September 13. No agenda has yet been posted but Chairman Rick Davies has indicated that the plans for the $1.4-million shooting range and gun retail store will be reconsidered at that time.

The ruling does not mean that Hopkinton neighbors will be able to address the ZBA… (only) that the board must consider the question of whether (the project) has regional impact…

The court decision is a setback for both Eric Miller of Sutton, who hopes to build Dragonfly Ranges on a 2.9-acre lot adjacent to MadgeTech’s plant, and for the town, which opposes Carlson’s efforts to derail the plan. Carlson claims his employees have safety concerns about the facility, and said he’ll move his company out of town if the shooting range is built at the currently proposed site.

The court’s action came after Carlson’s lawyers argued that the ZBA should have considered whether Dragonfly’s project would have a regional impact, and therefore allowed both local Hopkinton residents and representatives of the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission to address their concerns before making its March decision.

In addition, the board should have notified all abutters – including the state’s Department of Transportation and its Division of Forests and Lands – before the hearing to allow representatives of the two organizations to express concerns to the board.

(In a separate action, a couple that rents a small home on the MadgeTech’s land argued that they also should have been notified about the March ZBA hearing and allowed to discuss their concerns about the project.)

The town objected, saying that while no official notification was given to the state agencies, they were aware of the building proposal and had offered no objections. In fact, when the town’s planning board considered Dragonfly’s proposal in June, it invited input from both agencies, and neither indicated that it had any concerns about the project.

The judge’s ruling does not mean that Hopkinton neighbors or the commission representatives will be able to address the ZBA. It simply means that the board must consider the question of whether the project is of regional interest and, if so, allow others to speak at a public hearing.

The decision will also require that the renters be notified in advance of the next hearing and that the two state agencies that own land next to the proposed gun range be notified beforehand.

It’s unclear how the court ruling impacts the planning board’s June approval. If the ZBA reaffirms its March decision on the same grounds, it’s likely that the planners’ decision would stand. But if the case moves in another direction – that is, if information about the possibility of excessive noise or potential pollution concerns are reviewed – then town officials may recommend that the planning board rehear Dragonfly’s application after a ZBA approval.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.

 

Construction begins on Warner shooting range project

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Eric Miller, the Sutton resident who wants to build a $1.4-million, 11,800 square-foot shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road attended a hearing in the Merrimack County Superior Court several weeks ago. Afterwards, he said he would wait until Judge Richard McNamara had ruled on several appeals from Miller’s abutters before moving ahead with any construction plans. But the entrepreneur had a change of heart.

Miller recently completed the purchase of the 2.9-acre property adjacent to MadgTech, Inc., near exit 7 off Interstate 89, and construction work has already begun on the land.

“If (town officials) are making that kind of commitment, then I need to make an equal amount of commitment to the project.”

– Eric Miller, owner of planed retail gun store/shooting range

 

“I spent a lot of time analyzing all the potential (legal) outcomes and realized that there isn’t really a scenario where I can’t hopefully be able to build,” he said late last week. “I’ve looked at this from every angleand decided that this is worth making this investment… So I pulled the trigger.”

The recent court actions involved appeals from Norman Carlson, the founder and CEO of MadgeTech, Inc., the town’s largest high-tech employer, to halt Miller’s project. Carlson says his employees feel the business will pose a danger to their safety, and he’s threatened to move his 50-plus-workers plant out of town if the project is constructed next to the company land. (In recent weeks, Carlson has been unavailable for comment.)

Earlier this year, both the planning board and the zoning board of adjustment approved Miller’s building proposal. Now, town officials are opposing Carlson’s efforts to have the judge toss out those decisions.

In the Concord superior court last month, Carlson and a couple that rents out a small house on his property asked the court to legally halt Miller’s project. Attorneys argued that the couple was not properly notified by the town about the two land boards’ hearings, and that other legal requirements had not been met. Both Miller’s attorney and the town’s refuted the claims.

However the town officials did ask the judge to order that the ZBA reconvene its public hearing, although only to specifically consider the question of whether the shooting range/gun store facility could be considered to have a regional impact. If it does, some Hopkinton residents who have expressed concerns about the location of the facility, just three miles from Hopkinton Middle High School, as well as representatives of the Central New Hampshire Planning Commission would be allowed to address the zoning board.

The Hopkinton residents (and other people with ties to the area) say they’re concerned about noise from the gallery and the possibility that lead from firearms and ammunition could somehow find its way into the local water supply. Representatives of the planning commission raised concerns about traffic in the neighborhood. Those concerns were discussed at the planning board hearing, but the board members decided that Miller’s plans were sufficient.

On Friday, Miller said that he completed his purchase of the 2.7-acre lot adjacent the Davisville State Forest on Monday, July 17, and that he hired a company to begin preparing the land for construction later that week. He had signed a purchase-and-sales agreement with Richard M. George of Webster earlier this year after Webster outbid Carlson for the land, which was formerly part of the forest.

Miller said that he was especially motivated to move forward with his construction plans after receiving a recent email from Warner officials indicating that they intended to continue their vigorous defense of the two land boards’ rulings.

“So, I thought, if they’re making that kind of commitment, then I needed to make an equal amount of commitment to the project,” Miller said.

Miller said that he’s spent more than $10,000 on legal fees related to the dispute so far, and he expects to spend more in the future.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017

 

The house sold, but more needs to be done before Warner gets a new firehouse

Above: The residence on the corner of Main Street and Split Rock Road will be moved in anticipation of a new stationhouse for the Warner Fire Department.

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The town’s Fire Station Building Review Committee has sold the house that currently sits on land where town officials hope to someday build a new stationhouse for the fire department.

Chairman Allen N. Brown announced at a meeting in the town hall last week that the board of selectmen recently agreed to sell the 50-year-old private residence on the corner of Main Street and Split Rock Road to area resident Bob Irving for $337. The property was purchased by the town last year and no one is living in the house at this time.

Selectman Kimberley Edelmann confirmed on Saturday that Irving’s tentative plans call the structure to be moved soon to another location in town. “We didn’t want to tear it down,” she said, noting that the building is in relatively good shape.

Community leaders have been studying the idea of building a new facility for the fire department and emergency management operations for some time now. Officials say that the current station on Main Street is too small and inadequate for modern use.

The committee has been working with Anthony Mento, a Warner resident and project manager with Sherr, McCrystal, Palson (SMP) Architecture, Inc., of Concord, and North Branch Construction of Concord, on the proposed project.

Tentative plans would call for constructing a brick building that would be approximately 11,00-square feet and include offices and meeting space for emergency management and training, as well as fire department purposes. At last year’s annual town meeting, voters approved a $100,000 request to move the project forward with the goal of presenting a complete building proposal to residents for consideration at the 2018 March town meeting. Early estimates pegged the final price of the project at more than $2.5-million.

But exactly when the old residence will be moved is not yet clear, according to Ed Mical, the town’s emergency management director.

On Saturday, Mical said he’s planning to apply for a Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) grant that could help pay for some equipment (including computers, telephones, desks and chairs) for the proposed building’s emergency management operations. But the grant application stipulates that before new construction begins, there must be an environmental and historical evaluation of the current property. A certified historic expert has reviewed the land and building, he said, and now state officials must consider the findings and forward a recommendation to FEMA.

“Until we get their (FEMA’s) okay, we can’t touch the property,” explained Edelman.

Meanwhile, the town is scheduled to begin test borings on the site on August 2.

At last week’s meeting, the building committee agreed on several other important aspects of the proposed building project, according to Edelmann. One is the basic room design in the one-story building. Another insures that the garage space will have clear span throughout. And, finally, environmental issues have led to the group’s choice of an exterior concrete wall system that will be somewhat thicker than earlier proposals.

The group did not agree on a proposal from the town’s energy committee to hire an outside consultant to review the building plans with an eye towards insuring energy effectiveness. Mento of SMP said that his company supported the idea and agreed with the energy group’s recommendation. Several committee members said they chose the company specifically because they understood that the firm was able to provide energy-related expertise.

Mento said that SMP does have a good body of energy-related knowledge but acknowledge more specific issues could be addressed by an outside consultant.

Chairman Brown noted that the committee is working from a “bare bones” budget provided by the selectmen, and that there wasn’t money to hire an outside energy consultant right now.

After some discussion, the group agreed to review a list of possible consultants that the energy committee would supply before making a final decision soon.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., Tuesday, July 18, 2017. NOTE: The print edition, and an earlier version published here, incorrectly listed the price of the home. It is $337; the earlier, much larger, figure  reflected information provided by a town official. We apologize for the error. 

 

 

A prize and new plans keep things happening in Warner

(Above:) Tentative plans for phase #3 of the development of the Jim Mitchell Community Park and Amphitheater in Warner calls for the creation of an educational “edible landscape” space.

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – In 2004, the nonprofit organization PlanNH came to town to hold a Community Planning and Design Charette. Katharine Nevins, the owner of Main Street BookEnds, recalled the free event as a special time where both community leaders and residents got together to discuss ways to make the town better.

“We talked about what we wanted to do with the exit 9 (off Interstate 89) area,” she recalled. “What did we see as our strengths? What did we want to do with the downtown, with access to the river, all those kinds of things.”

By that time, Nevins’ brother Jim Mitchell, who co-owned the store with his sister and her husband Neil Nevins, had already begun dreaming about a three-season community park adjacent to the store where the arts could be continually celebrated and advanced. “The charrette reinvigorated the idea, that this is what the town needed, what the community needed,” Nevins recalled. “It needed a focal point for things going on.”

Mitchell died suddenly in 2008, but his family and others associate with the MainStreet Warner nonprofit organization kept the idea alive. Today, the Jim Mitchell Community Park and Amphitheater is a local landmark, a spot for seasonal concerts, theatrical productions and various community events.

And now PlanNH has returned to the give a Merit Award for Excellence in Planning, Design, and Development to MainStreet Warner, Inc., for the creation of the park. The award also recognizes Pellettieri Associates of Warner for the design and construction of the project, which includes the post-and-beam stage designed and built by Peter Ladd, Robert Shoemaker and Charlie Betz.

‘It’s as if the late Jim Mitchell’s town slogan still hovers over the community: There’s something wonderful happening in Warner.’

“It means a great deal to us, to myself and the other (MainStreet Warner) board members to receive this award,” Nevins said. “PlanNH recognizes quality community development in towns and city in New Hampshire. It’s based on sustainability practices and giving back to the community, those kinds of things. For this group to come back and give us this award now, is very special.”

It’s been nine years since the park construction project began, converting an underutilized, slope-challenged, open space into a popular multi-use open park, she said.

And the work is still ongoing, Nevins explained.

“Where the (store’s) solar panels are there’s an asphalt driveway because the building used to be a bank and that was part of the drive-thru,” she said. “All of that asphalt – the plan is for that to come up this summer and that whole section next to the building, underneath the solar panels all the way out to Main Street, will be turned into an example of a living, edible landscape.”

When it’s finished, the area should include raised plant beds, rainwater irrigation, a composting area and educational resources. “Next year, we’ll involve the school and the whole community,” she added.

It’s as if the late Jim Mitchell’s town slogan still hovers over the community: “There’s something wonderful happening in Warner.”

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

 

Warner’s shooting range project now entangled in court actions

(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.

 

 

 

Warner planning board okays gun range, but court case will delay project

(Above: A stylistic illustration of the proposed gun shooting range/retail store in the area near the intersection of Route 103 and Warner Road.)

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The town planning board has unanimously approved a proposal to build a $1.4-million, 11,800 square-foot shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road, near exit 7 off Interstate 93.

But construction of the controversial project could still be sidetracked by a Merrimack County Superior Court case scheduled to begin this week.

The planning board held its sixth public meeting on the project proposed by Eric Miller of Sutton at the town hall on Monday, June 19. Miller wants to build a high-tech, 16-lane facility on a 2.9-acre lot adjacent to the Davisville State Forest.

Some area residents are in favor of the facility, but others say having a shooting range in the area is a bad idea. Several Hopkinton residents who live nearby as well as officials with the Hopkinton school district, are against the idea; Hopkinton Middle High School is located several miles from the land.

‘A shooting range is consistent with the zoning district. And, it would be inappropriate and illegal to chose winners and losers among (local business operations.)’ 

– Planning Board Chairman Ben Frost

The most prominent opposition has come from Norman Carlson, the founder and president of Madgetech, LLC, the town’s 20-year-old high tech company. Carlson’s plant is next to the proposed site and he’s said he will move the facility out of Warner if the shooting range is built. Some of his 50-plus employees have safety concerns about the nearness of the gun range, he’s said.

At the June 19 meeting, both Carlson and his attorney, Paul Alfano of Concord, displayed some displeasure with the planning board’s activities.

Vice-chairman Barbara Annis said that workers at the new shooting facility would be paid more than minimum wage, similar to Madgetech’s employees. A few moments later, Davis was answering a board member’s question about the ambient noise level at the proposed facility when Alfano asked if he could also respond.

Chairman Ben Frost turned the request aside, saying that the public hearing portion of the case had already been closed.

“I’d like to see the study (Mr. Davis mentioned),” the lawyer replied. “Our whole emphasis (in the court challenge) has been to provide information that’s specific to this site.”

Davis said it would be difficult to accurately measure noise from the shooting facility because of other ambient noise sources in the area.

“I could measure it,” Carlson retorted.

Earlier in the meeting, the board reviewed an environmental impact report that focused on how Davis’s facility with deal with hazardous materials, including lead. The members asked the prospective owner to agree to abide by recommendations in the report, and Davis did so.

The group also asked the new facility’s owner to specifically ban alcohol and illegal drugs from the premises, and to post a sign about the restriction. Again, he agreed.

Before the board’s final vote on the project, Alfano noted that Davis had submitted additional information about his project only days before.

“I think the public deserves the opportunity to meaningful review and comment (on the new materials),” the lawyer said.

The attorney also mentioned Frost’s remark regarding an email that Frost had sent to other board members earlier in the week that included a draft proposal of the final ruling. Alfano claimed the message violated the state’s right-to-know regulations.

Frost disagreed, saying the members couldn’t respond to his email and, therefore, the communications did not violate prohibitions against board members deliberating outside of a public meeting. “There was no deliberation,” the chairman said.

“Of course there was,” Alfano retorted.

“Your objections are noted,” Frost replied.

In its final deliberations, the board turned aside complaints related to possible off-site noise, as well as the possibility of increased traffic problems. The members said that the location, and Davis’s ambitious noise-control measures, made additional restrictions unnecessary.

The board’s final decision took note of objections that have been raised about the new business’s impact on the region, and regarding language in the town’s Master Plan directives related to supporting existing businesses.

“A shooting range is consistent with the zoning district,” Chairman Frost said in reply. “And, it would be inappropriate and illegal to chose winners and losers among (local business operations.)”

The chairman said the planning board is not the place to address public safety concerns. “Those concerns must be expressed in a different venue, such as in the New Hampshire Legislature or the United States Congress,” he said.

Carlson refused to make any public comment after the hearing. Davis said he was confident he would prevail in the upcoming court proceedings.

The pending court challenge was initiated by Carlson’s company. It claims that the Warner zoning board of adjustment violated town regulations when it held a public hearing on the shooting facility project in the spring without properly notifying abutters, including Madgetech and two state agencies (among them, the division of forests and lands). It requests that the court direct the ZBA to rehear the building proposal, allowing for input related to regional impact and other concerns.

Late last week, Davis said that attorneys representing his business, the town, and Madgetech had a telephone conference with the Merrimack Superior Court judge on Friday to review the upcoming legal challenge. The judge hopes to resolve several legal motions this week with an eye towards making a final decision on the ZBA issue at a later time.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Sutton, N.H., on June 27, 2017.

 

 

New Warner NH liquor store slated to open next month

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – State officials are expecting the new NH Liquor & Wine Outlet off Route 103 to open earlier than originally predicted.

J. Powers, who provides communication services for the NH Liquor Commission, said late last week that the 10,500-square-foot retail store is expected to open July, but not before the July Fourth weekend.

“Construction is proceeding along well, so we’ll have an announcement later this month,” Powers said. “In terms of a specific opening date, it’s right around the corner. We’re ahead of schedule.”

“With 2,200 wines, 1,400 spirits, (and)  iPad kiosks that will (let people) consider wine-food pairings.”

The new store, which is located in the same shopping center where McDonalds, CircleK/Dunkin Donuts, Aubuchon Hardware and the Market Basket supermarket are currently located. The commission will be leasing the building from the Market Basket company, which is based in Massachusetts.

Selectman Clyde Carson, who worked with the municipal group that helped locate the store, said town leaders are pleased with the result. “The project goes back a few years,” he explained. “The selectmen were aware that the state wanted to put a liquor store at that location. The state had a choice. They could have bought one of the adjoining lots (to the plaza), or they could have worked with Market Basket, to have them build the building to their specifications. And that’s what the town leaders wanted.

“From our perspective, that was the best. Market Basket owning it, that brings tax revenue to the town,” Carson added. “If the state bought its own property, then the lot would be off the tax roles, and the building and the property isn’t taxable.”

Joseph Mollica, chairman of the liquor commission, said the state will also benefit from the new store. “Strategically located in a busy plaza and easily accessible to the traveling public, particularly those visiting the Mount Sunapee region, we expect this store to drive considerable revenue for the state of New Hampshire and support critical services and programs, including education, health and social services, transportation and natural resource protection,” he said at the time of last year’s announcement. “We expect this new store to pay major dividends for New Hampshire.”

State Sen. Dan Feltes, who represents Warner, agreed, adding that the new store should also expand economic opportunities for town residents and increase tourism along the I-89 corridor.

The location, by exit 9 off Interstate 89, will be exposed to 28,500 motorists daily which is expected to result in $5.5 million in annual sales, Powers explained. Customers will be able to choose from a selection of about 2,200 wines and about 1,400 spirits in a state-of-the-art shopping environment that includes sections devoted to premium and ultra-premium spirits, high-end wines and temperature/humidity-controlled wine vaults, and iPad kiosks that will allow customers to review inventory and consider wine-food pairings.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on June 6, 2017.

Hopkinton school officials object to shooting range; planners keep moving application forward

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Officials with the Hopkinton School District say the construction of a proposed shooting range/retail gun store in this town, and nearby two of their town’s schools, would not be in the best interests of the teachers and students.

“The existence of a gun range in close proximity to Hopkinton Middle School and High School impacts the students’ and faculty’s sense of security,” Superintendent Steven Chamberlain wrote in a recent letter to the Hopkinton board of selectmen. “Members of the school community feeling safe is of paramount concern.”

The letter is part of a package of materials gathered by the Hopkinton selectmen in response to a request from the Warner planning board. The planners are currently considering a $1.4-million shooting facility application for a site on Warner Road, near exit 7 off I-89 and about three miles from the Maple Street location of the two Hopkinton schools. Due to its proximity to Contoocook village, the Warner board invited input from Hopkinton residents and officials, as well as the nonprofit Central New Hampshire Planning Commission.

The Warner planning board members decided to move forward with the suggestion of an environmental study (of the proposed shooting range site).

At the planning board’s meeting held in town hall on Monday, May 15, the members accepted the materials gathered by the Hopkinton selectmen, including approximately 80 messages from various members of the community.

The planners also reviewed a letter from the regional planning commission, according to vice-chairman Barbara Annis. The commission recommended that the applicant, Eric Miller of Sutton, hire a licensed traffic engineer to consider traffic issues around the planned site, off Route 103 near MadgeTech, Inc. The letter also suggested that an independent environmental engineering firm “review and make recommendations on the suitability of the range’s design to prevent nuisance noise impact,” as well as the possibility of toxic materials being released into the environment, Annis explained.

The traffic issue was also mentioned in the Hopkinton school district letter. “(The shooting range/store) will sit on a defined training route for the Hopkinton middle school and high school cross-country, Nordic skiing and track programs,” it reads. “Increased traffic increases risk.”

Late last week, Jim O’Brien, chairmen of the Hopkinton board of selectmen, said that his board mentioned the matter of “lead abatement” related to discharged firearms at the proposed facility in its own letter to the Warner planners. “We’re not lead experts, but we’ve heard a lot of concerns, so we asked them to pay special attention to that,” O’Brien said.

The possibility of pollution problems at the range is something that developer Miller had heard before, from both Warner and Hopkinton residents. On Friday, he said that lead from discharged ammunition at the range would primarily be captured by bullet traps near the target areas. In addition, lead particles released into the air by firearms would be gathered by a up-graded air filtration system, he explained. “The typical HVAC system for a building this size should cost about $25,000,” he said. “Ours will run in excess of $200,000…. The air leaving the building (will be) actually cleaner than the air that enters it.”

At a previous planning board meeting, Chairman Ben Frost explained that his group invited input from the regional planning commission and from Hopkinton officials because the proposed shooting range is close to Hopkinton and could be seen considered to have regional impact.

But neither of the two groups will have any legal standing regarding Miller’s application, he said, which the planning board will decide in a public vote.

The Warner board members decided to move forward with the planning commission’s suggestion of an environmental study at the conclusion of last week’s meeting. They asked Miller to give the town $2,500 to pay for the work. Miller said that he delivered the check the next day.

But the planning board rejected the traffic study proposal from the commission. At a previous meeting, the members indicated that Warner Road would be able to handle any additional traffic generated by the shooting range without any problem.

Annis said the members now have until their next meeting on June 1 to review all the materials that’s been submitted in recent weeks. That includes “multiple letters, both pro and con” on the shooting range project, she said, as well as all the correspondence and 20 pages of information that was provided last Monday night by attorney Paul Alfano of Concord.

Alfano represents Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech, in the resident’s efforts to derail Miller’s application. In March, Carlson announced his intention to move his high-tech company out of Warner if the shooting facility is allowed to move forward on the land adjacent to his plant. Approximately 60 people are currently employed at MadgeTech and Carlson is looking at expanding his operation.

Last month, Alfano asked the Merrimack Superior Court to overturn a ruling by the Warner Zoning Board of Adjustment that granted Miller an acceptable “amusement and recreation service” variance for his firearms project. Alfano’s court action claims that not all abutters to the site – including MadgeTech – were legally notified about the ZBA hearing and, therefore, the variance is invalid. A decision from the court is expected on June 26.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, NH, on May 23, 2017.

 

 

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