Barnstead selectmen re-visit Young case
July 21, 2009
BARNSTEAD — Resident Bob Young found himself before Barnstead's Board of Selectmen for the second time during the board's July 14 meeting, accused of violating a cease and desist order issued by the town's code enforcement officer.
Young, who owns a 70-foot-wide non-conforming parcel of land on North Barnstead Road where he and his fiancée want to build a house, was first asked to appear before the board several months ago in response to a cease and desist order issued after disgruntled neighbors reported him for pouring a concrete slab on the property that he claimed was for a large storage shed.
The board advised him at that time to apply for a building permit, have the lot surveyed, and seek relief from the zoning board on the setback requirements that currently restrict what he can build on the property.
The seemingly bewildered Young was summoned by the board again last week to answer charges from neighbors that he recently put down a second concrete slab in defiance of the cease and desist order.
Reminding Young that the order was still in effect after his last appearance, even though he and the board had reached an understanding on how to proceed, Selectman Andy Houle said he had been called back for ignoring it.
Young said that after contacting Laconia District Court and learning from them that the case against him had been closed, he assumed that the cease and desist order had been lifted.
Asked by board Vice Chair Jim Barnard whether the court had the authority to revoke a cease and desist, selectmen's secretary Karen Montgomery explained that the court does, in fact, close case files after a certain period of time.
The board could, however, ask to have Young's file re-opened at any time, she said.
Barnard, who said that he had told Young to come before the board, advised him to "follow the rules," and take the board's initial advice by applying for a building permit and seeking a variance from the zoning board.
Explaining that Young had already applied for a permit, which was denied, Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer Paul Richardson asked Young to keep him informed in the meantime on anything he plans to do with the property.
With that information in hand, Richardson said he would be better equipped to respond to any complaints from neighbors.
Stressing to Young that he cannot so much as hammer a nail into a board while the cease and desist order is in effect, Barnard advised him that it will remain in effect "until you hear from us that it's been removed."
Barnard also suggested that Young (who said he and his fiancée have differing opinions on what the house should look like) not apply for a permit until the building plans have been finalized.
"You need to stick to what you say on paper," he said.
"We have to know the exact dimensions," Richardson added.
Selectman Gordon Preston stated that he was skeptical of Young's story, and felt that Young knew exactly what he was doing when he poured the second slab.
"I don't think these are storage sheds," he remarked.
Offering Young some advice on how to map out the house, Selectman Phil Grillo noted that the further the building is situated from neighbors' property lines, the greater the likelihood that the zoning board will grant the necessary variance.
Right now, "you're giving us nothing to help you," Grillo said. "You have to start doing it right."
Following its appointment with Young, the board asked Health Officer Bill Evans for an update on the status of a failed septic system at a property on Beauty Hill Road that they fear is on the verge of becoming a health hazard.
Evans informed the board that the property owner recently called him and said that in his opinion, the system was not in failure, and was pumped out as recently as April.
Explaining that the state Department of Environmental Services (DES) defines a septic system failure as "bubbling up above ground" (exactly what has been happening at the Beauty Hill site), Evans said he recently spoke with a local septic company, which told him that with an estimated eight people currently occupying the property, the system will fill up in a week at most, and will have to be pumped out on a regular basis (a financial burden that Evans said the property owner, who currently faces foreclosure, cannot afford to take on).
In view of the impending foreclosure, Evans suggested that the board issue a cease and desist order against the property owner as soon as possible, giving the town grounds for placing a lien on the property before the mortgage holder can take possession of it.
Grillo agreed with Evans, commenting that the board would be more apt to get the mortgage holder to pay for repairs with a lien in place.
Asked by Kerr whether there was any way to resolve the situation short of taking the matter to court, Evans replied that the board could issue a notice for the property owner and all tenants to vacate the premises by a certain date and hope they comply.
Short of that, he said, there is no immediate solution unless the selectmen are willing to commit to the cost of pumping out the system on a weekly basis.
Barnard said he would vote against any proposal to pump the system out at taxpayers' expense because he felt it would only prolong an unacceptable situation.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board authorized beach attendants at the town recreation area on White Oak Road to create a designated smoking area in response to concerns about people littering the town beach with cigarette butts.
The board also received an estimate for the cost of repairing the joists in the basement of Town Hall; agreed to send a memo to Road Agent Chris Carazzo asking him to make sure that his employees sign gas slips after filling up at the Country Store; and approved a request from resident Kelly Fan to host a birthday party for her daughter at Town Hall.
The board meets every Tuesday evening beginning at 6:30 p.m. in its office at Town Hall.
Its next meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 28.
Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org