Abutters submit legal objection to farmers' market in Clark Park
Historical Society president responds
October 15, 2009
WOLFEBORO — At their Oct. 7 meeting Wolfeboro selectmen were asked to consider a legal issue that might prevent the Wolfeboro Farmers' Market from using Clark Park in 2010.
Attorney Jennifer Haskell of Sager Law, representing abutters to Clark Park, appeared before the board to elaborate on a July 30 letter she wrote objecting to the use of the park for the Wolfeboro Farmers' Market. "We believe the use of the park for a farmers market is contrary to the grant to the town as set forth in the will for the Estate of Greenleaf B. Clark."
Haskell pointed out that the Clark grant specified that "this described land shall be ever used and kept for a Park or Garden…Said land not to be used for ballgames or any kind of athletic sports."
She then reviewed two opinions on the use of the park by Town Counsel Mark Puffer. The first, on Dec. 5, 2001, gave the opinion that the park could not be used for a multi-day craft and antique show. The second, on April 1, 2009, gave the opinion that a farmers' market could be allowed because "the farmers' market would at least offer for sale products that are typical grown in a 'garden,'" and that "A local farmers' market is a public event often allowed on public property such as a park."
In her July 30 letter Haskell disagreed, writing, "It his highly unlikely Mr. Clark contemplated 'garden' to include what today we commonly refer to as a vegetable garden, as Attorney Puffer suggests. If Mr. Clark meant to allow vegetable gardens, or farmers' markets for that matter, he could have specifically allowed for such uses in his grant. But he didn't."
At the selectmen's meeting Haskell further pointed out that Clark also gave nine other acres for agricultural use, donating the land behind the library now being developed as a Town Garden. She argued that Clark's intent was to keep the park as open space.
In conclusion she said that the objection of the abutters was not to farmers' markets but to holding one in Clark Park against the intentions of the original grant when there are other more suitable locations in town. Among other potential sites she mentioned Cate Park, the green in Durgin Stables, and The Nick.
Before allowing public comment, Selectman Chair Dave Senecal informed the audience that the board of selectmen was not going to make a decision that night about the continued use of Clark Park by the Wolfeboro Farmers' Market in 2010. He pointed out that the current license was only for 2009 and that the board has not yet received a request for renewal in 2010.
Selectman Linda Murray elaborated that the 2009 license ran from May through October and specified that if any problems arose the board could terminate it at any time. She added that if the board did receive a request for a 2010 license, it would hold a public hearing on the request.
Haskell confessed she was not aware that the license was seasonal but asked the board to consider her legal argument when and if a 2010 license was requested.
First to speak was Wolfeboro Historical Society president Jim Rogers. He read the two warrant articles from 1926 that raised $2,000 to improve the land granted as Clark Park and then gave the Wolfeboro Historical Society a 99-year lease on a portion of the park. Earlier in the year G.A.L.A., which manages the Wolfeboro Farmers' Market, received written permission from the Historical Society to hold the market in Clark Park.
Rogers pointed out that Clark made the Clark Park grant "inter vivos" – that is, while he was still alive. Clark went on to serve as vice president of the newly-formed Wolfeboro Historical Society, so the interpretation of his wishes should not be limited to the wording of the grant. He said Clark was interested in preserving the early culture of Wolfeboro and using the park to demonstrate tools used in early life, so he would approve of the farmers' market, which has held a number of agricultural demonstrations over the summer.
Clark was also interested in education and went so far as to exhume an aunt and bring her body into Clark House to study the skeletal remains: he had to be told that this was improper and that the body had to be reburied.
Cindy Corcoran spoke in favor of the market staying in the park. She said she went to the farmers' market every week and never saw a problem. There was plenty of parking and it was not noisy. "If we don't support local farmers," she asked, "who will?"
Nancy Hirshberg spoke as a resident of Clark Road, saying she was "ecstatic" to have it there. It was very educational and she loves to bring her daughter there.
Josh Arnold, executive director of G.A.L.A. and manager of the Wolfeboro Farmers' Market, told an anecdote about buying cabbages at Hunters IGA for a workshop on making sauerkraut – one of the most successful demonstration workshops at the Farmers' Market this past summer – and being asked at the checkout what so many cabbages were being used for. He said to make sauerkraut and the young checkout person said he thought sauerkraut was a separate plant from cabbages. Arnold said the market maintained the focus in Clark Park on being a park or garden, and said that G.A.L.A. intends to ask for a license in 2010, once the market finished up on Oct. 8 and he had gathered comments from the vendors. He added that he had a list of 42 towns who have farmers' markets.
Michael Hodder said he was a member of the Conservation Commission, which is helping develop the Town Garden. He pointed out that the grant was to the town and its citizens, not any one group and asked everyone to consider the greater good in keeping the farmers' market there.
Ramona Bradley and Carol Holyoake also spoke in favor of keeping the market in Clark Park. Bradley says she goes regularly, that the market does not disrupt anything and takes up little space. Holyoake said she regrets how people go back and forth on legal points and interpreting past intentions, instead of looking at the good results in the present.
John Burt, an abutter, granted that Clark Park was a town park and did not belong to the neighbors. He said he had no problem with farmers' markets, just holding one in that park. He said it was unfair to characterize the abutters as "crybabies."
Another abutter, Dorothy West, also complained about the abutters being labeled as crybabies. She said every year 400 children come into the neighborhood for Halloween and no one says thanks to the homeowners for hosting them.
Rogers had the last word, speaking for the Historical Society. He said emphatically that the abutters to Clark Park were "damned good neighbors, except for a couple."
Senecal thanked the speakers for their comments. Murray also thanked the residents around Clark Park for being such good hosts on Halloween.
Also at their Oct. 7 meeting the board voted 3-1 to appoint Christopher J. Britt and Geordy Hutchinson as alternates to the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Selectman Sarah Silk had moved to postpone the appointments because neither candidate had showed up for the meeting. She objected to appointing people she does not know and who have little or no experience with zoning. Senecal, a former ZBA member himself, pointed out that alternates have the opportunity to learn zoning while hearing cases as alternates. Selectman Kristi Ginter moved to appoint, Selectman Marge Webster seconded.
Selectmen had already decided to impose a no through trucking restriction on Pleasant Street, which has seen an increase in trucks lining up to unload at the Wolfeboro Inn on Sewall Road. Town Planner Rob Houseman, who was sitting in for Town Manager Dave Owen, said he had researched the site plan approvals for the Inn and found no mention of or approvals for using Pleasant Street for loading or unloading.
The board also approved a requested from Murray to cancel the Oct. 13 work session due to her being in New Jersey that day. The budget review schedule had allowed up to two extra days later in October if needed.
Terry Tavares was given permission to proceed with planning holiday decorations for the windows of town hall again this year.
Murray brought to the board's attention that new laws allow the vote tallies of selectmen and the budget committee to be printed with articles on warrants and for towns to enter into multi-year leases, up to five year, for municipal properties. She also pointed out that the state's workforce housing law goes into full effect on Jan. 1, 2010.
Webster reported that the library trustees have issued requests for proposals on a new library building to 19 architects.
Senecal reported that Carroll County Transit routes have had timed bus runs. The three routes being planned run from West Ossipee to Conway, Laconia and Wolfeboro. Service is scheduled to begin June 1, 2010.
Senecal also reported that a county meeting on H1N1 planning went very well. Vaccines will not be available until the end of the month and there will be two "pods" for giving shots, one in Ossipee and one in Tuftonboro.
Murray reported that the Lake Wentworth Association met on Sept. 24 and proposed drawing up a comprehensive watershed management plan for both Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake.
The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Oct. 21 at the Wolfeboro Public Library at 6:30 p.m.