Selectmen vote to withdraw Wiggins appeal suit
June 11, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Following a lengthy nonpublic session last Wednesday evening, June 3, Board of Selectmen Chair Dave Senecal announced that the majority of selectmen had voted to end the town's appeal of a March 2008 decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) granting a building permit for a house on a Class VI road. Senecal added that board is instructing town counsel to withdraw the suit in Carroll County Superior Court.
When asked by resident Suzanne Ryan who voted for ending the suit, Senecal replied "the majority," which he then clarified as three out of five. Given the facts that Selectmen Linda Murray and Sarah Silk are the only two selectmen remaining from the board that denied the building permit to Mark and Carol Wiggins and that Senecal and Selectman Kristi Ginter are on record as favoring the permit, the third vote must have come from Selectman Marge Webster, who was elected last March.
The previous Monday evening, June 1, a three-member panel of the ZBA had voted to respond to Carroll County Superior Court Judge Steven M. Houran's request to provide in writing the reasons why the ZBA felt that the Wiggins' request had met the four tests for granting a building permit on a Class VI road required by RSA 674:41,II. ZBA counsel Laura Spector was asked to prepare a draft response, based on the written comments of the three members, for review by the ZBA at its next meeting on July 6.
Reached on Thursday, June 4, Spector said the selectmen's decision to withdraw the suit would make the ZBA response moot because the case would not go any further.
Spector also confirmed that the ZBA had met with counsel the week prior to the Monday meeting and did discuss the possibility that selectmen might withdraw the suit.
Mark Wiggins said he was "thrilled" by the decision and "very grateful" for the support he has received from many people in town who have written to selectmen and shown up at meetings to urge that the building permit be granted.
In the Public Comment section of the June 3 meeting, just before selectmen went into nonpublic session to discuss the Wiggins permit appeal suit, Ken Perry, President of the North Wolfeborough Area Association (NWAA) read a statement to selectmen that addressed newspaper reports of statements made during public input at selectmen's meetings about granting the Wiggins' a building permit on the Class VI portion of Trask Mountain Road.
Perry pointed out that while the 2006 Master Plan was not adopted until after the Wiggins applied for a building permit, "the MP 'clock' started when advertised Public Hearings on the 2006 MP were held in Nov & Dec of 2006, months before Mark Wiggins' initial application." The 2006 Master Plan states that building permits should not be issued on Class VI roads. The building permit application was filed in March 2007.
Perry's second point was that Wiggins paid only $1,600 an acre for the 67-acre lot in 2003 "when similar-sized Wolfeboro parcels, of lesser quality but on Class V roads, were selling for 2 & 3 times as much. He advertised his land for sale in 2006 for $330K to $199K. Unable to sell, he then asked the town to Add Value to his questionable investment. This all occurred before the NWAA made any public statements on the issue."
Perry added that selectmen "did not consider only what NWAA members supported" in deciding to appeal the ZBA decision to grant the permit to Carroll County Superior Court. The other factors included future Municipal Electric and emergency service costs and the results of the 2006 Community Survey, where more than 83 percent rated preserving open space, historic neighborhoods and Wolfeboro's rural character as "very important" or "somewhat important."
Finally he provided information on Class VI roads in town. There are 16 Class VI roads, of which "2/3 are within or border the Agricultural District (northern ½ of the town)" and "7 are in one or both of the Historic Districts."
"Will one home change our neighborhood? Absolutely not. However, what about the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. home on the Class VI road? Is it possible that nearby properties will lose some value if Trask Mountain Road is eventually open to through traffic? Absolutely."
"I respectfully ask the Board of Selectmen to continue to allow the Class VI road issue to be processed by the ZBA."
Selectmen listened attentively to Perry's remarks, but in the end reached the decision to withdraw the suit by a 3 to 2 margin.