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OSG Paintball wins planning board's approval

ORANGE CLAD OSG SUPPORTERS fill the town hall at last Thursday’s planning board meeting in Barnstead. Weston Sager. (click for larger version)
September 07, 2010
BARNSTEAD — Forty orange-jersey wearing OSG Paintball supporters packed the Barnstead Town Hall at last Thursday's planning board meeting to support owner Dave Preston's revised OSG site plan. So numerous were the orange jerseys it looked as though the town hall was painted orange.

And after the board unanimously approved their application, the OSG faithful can now paint the rest of the town red.

Preston successfully defended his business against allegations from neighbor Rich Cherne. Cherne, a Barnstead resident, complained that OSG Paintball was a routine domestic disturbance and possessed several structures in violation of the building code.

The plan's review began in a civil manner. Preston sat at the front of the room and responded to a series of questions about the park's parking lots, parking lot overflow, sanitary management and hours of operation.

Preston presented hand-drawn sketches of the proposed parking lots and parking overflow areas to the board. He said that he had in excess of 268 overflow spaces on his 34-acre lot.

For sanitary management, Preston said he had ample portable toilets for employees and visitors.

"We have them serviced every week," he said.

Preston estimated he had at most 300 guests on the property at any one time and between 50 and 85 guests on average. He said that his busiest season was in the summer months, with business slowing after the school year starts.

Preston handed the board members sheets printed with his regular hours of operation. He also said the park's hours were posted at the entrance to OSG.

He closed by describing the upcoming OSG-sponsored Halloween haunted house for children. He said that all proceeds from the event go towards charity.

After the board opened public input, Cherne, an abutter to OSG, read a 15-minute prepared statement opposing the park and exhuming prior complaints from neighbors and town officials against OSG.

Cherne described the park as a chaotic business where people "run wild." He complained of "noise, traffic and disruption" caused by visitors to OSG Paintball.

Cherne went through a meticulously-researched history about OSG's previous dealings with the town. He read excerpts from old letters and meeting minutes that criticized OSG's previous expansion efforts.

At one point, Cherne claimed the paintball park grossed over one million dollars annually. This statement was met by laughter from OSG supporters in the room who thought the figure to be greatly exaggerated.

After waiting for the laughter to die down, Cherne returned to his speech, and closed by saying the park had "just plain outgrown the neighborhood."

After a brief response by Preston, three abutters in the audience spoke in support of Preston and against Cherne. They did, however, complain of the increased traffic levels on Cooke Road due to the business's increased popularity.

State Representative Elaine Swinford then addressed Cherne directly during public input, saying his complaint was misdirected.

"You should be fighting with the real estate agent who sold you the place," she said.

Cherne moved across the street from OSG about one year ago.

Swinford's argument was then repeated by many people in the room, including members of the planning board.

Selectman's representative Andy Houle asked Cherne if he had done any research about the property before purchasing it.

Cherne said he had been misled during the buying process, but that OSG was still in the wrong.

Planning Board member Clarke Goodrich took issue with Cherne's claim that abutters opposed OSG's operations. He asked Cherne whether any dissenters were present at the meeting.

Cherne said there were none in attendance at the meeting, but that there were indeed people, who, like him, disapproved of OSG's operations past and present.

Houle defended Preston's expansion efforts. He said that Preston's controversial paintball structures, which include a "Wild West"-themed house and 25,000-square-foot castle, met building code. Houle said he discussed the structures with Barnstead Fire Chief Mark Tetreault, who reportedly found the OSG Paintball structures to be "props" and not residential dwellings.

Props, unlike most structures, do not have to meet strict building code requirements.

Still, Houle warned Preston to be more careful in the future. Houle strongly advised him to seek the board's approval before proceeding with any future construction.

"You owe it to this town," he told Preston.

The board approved the structure unanimously. OSG supporters applauded the ruling shortly after it was made and left the meeting.

Other business

A three-year plus subdivision process finally drew to a close Thursday. Lester Huckins originally proposed a major 11-lot subdivision on Gray Road and Province Road several years ago, but repeatedly failed to satisfy the planning board's requirements.

This time, however, Huckins got approval, albeit with several important conditions tacked on.

Board member Mike Kowalski requested that each house has a sprinkler system to prevent a fire from spreading within the development.

The board agreed that each of the houses needed to have a self-supporting sprinkler system.

Huckins almost failed to get his plan passed over an emergency water cistern.

Regulations passed in the last couple years require major developments to have a concrete cistern for fire departments to draw water from. However, Huckins' plans reflected the old regulations that allowed the cistern to be made of fiberglass.

The board asked Huckins to reconfigure his plans to reflect the change in cistern material.

Finally, the board required the plan to get the approval of the fire chief.

Huckins will have to meet the conditions in order for the board's approval to stand.

A minor subdivision at 485 Garland Road was approved.

Dean Clark, an agent for the Susan M. Fortier Trust and Robert Tennihan Trustee, described recent alterations to the plan. Specifically, he said he redrew the leftmost boundary after discovering what he thought was an errant fencepost was actually the true boundary line. Citing a deed written in 1859, Clark proved that the property was properly marked with the specifications. As a result, he said it was fit for the proposed three-lot subdivision.

Kowalski motioned to approve the subdivision. It was passed unanimously.

The final piece of business at the meeting concerned the recently approved cellular phone tower in Barnstead.

Abutters sent a letter to the board requesting that there be no light at the top of the tower for aesthetic reasons. They wrote it was unnecessary because the FAA did not require a light on a tower of that size. They also wrote that air traffic over Barnstead was minimal because there was no airport nearby and the only landing strip in town was being converted to farmland.

The board rescinded the request for the cell tower to have a light at the top.

This last piece of business caused a stir in Kowalski, who asked the townspeople to discuss issues with the board at public hearings instead of sending in letters after approval.

"We depend on the public," he said.

Next meeting

The Barnstead Planning Board has a scheduled work session on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Barnstead Town Hall.

Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or wsager@salmonpress.com

Martin Lord & Osman
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