Derry board walks line between zoning enforcement, resident’s need

Derry board member Bob Forbes express concern over a resident tearing down a house by himself. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Londonderry Select Board member Bob Forbes on June 3 kicked off a 40-minute discussion on how to handle zoning enforcement at 213 Middletown Road. At the May 20 meeting, the board had given owner James Twitchell two weeks to take the burned-out house down and remove all the materials.

Forbes repeatedly said it was sad that a 78-year-old man was attempting to dismantle the house on his own, without any assistance. Board chair Jim Ameden said the building is dangerous and Twitchell may be risking his life in trying to tear it down.

Forbes added that the oil tank, which is in the basement, must be removed before anyone can come in with an excavator to tear down the building. He said Twitchell told him an environmental company had promised to remove the tank, and presumably the oil, by the first of June.

Rather than send zoning enforcement to the town attorney for prosecution and the imposition of fines, the board voted to postpone that step until the next meeting. Ameden and Forbes will work with Twitchell and his son Melvin, who holds Twitchell’s Power of Attorney, to move forward with the tank removal and house demolition. Board member Tom Cavanagh agreed, though he had argued that the board had given Twitchell many chances in the past year to remove the house.

35 mph signs to be erected; alcohol at farm event raises concern

Board chair Jim Ameden discusses adding speed limit signs.

The board agreed to purchase speed limit signs from the state Correctional Facility for  up to the $1,000 Treasurer Tina Labeau said was in the budget for road signs for next year. Priority will be given to Thompsonburg Road and Main Street, according to Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe. Road Foreman Mathew Rawson said he will also purchase hardware needed for setting posts and mounting signs. Ameden said the rest of the fund will go toward purchasing the signs to be posted on either side of gravel roads. The new Traffic and Parking Ordinance sets a speed limit of 35 mph on all unpaved town highways.

The board continued to work on a draft policy for use of the Transfer Station, which had been introduced at the May 20 meeting.  In the policy, parking for users is limited to no more than 15 minutes. After some discussion, the board agreed with member George Mora’s summary that parking be limited to 15 minutes, visits limited to one per day and then two punches on the punch card will be required for any subsequent visits. The board also agreed with Cavanagh that an annual use sticker be required of all users. Another concern was the use of the “Take-it-or-Leave-it.” O’Keefe said that anyone using the shed more than twice a day was taking items to sell.

Resident Marie Porreca voiced concern over alcohol being served at events of a nearby farm and the proliferation of overnight residential rentals.

Town Clerk Kelly Pajala said that Magic Mountain would be catering drinks for the Friday night pizza events at Taylor Farm. She said she approved the request for the first event, but will leave it up to the board to approve any requests after that.  But Marie Porreca, who lives near Taylor Farm, asked the board to reconsider allowing alcohol at the pizza nights.  “It is dangerous already,” she said, especially given the lack of parking on the farm.

Porreca also asked how she could engage the Select Board in opposing Airbnb activity in town. She said she knows of a house that sold in a residential area on Route 11 for $600,000. Porreca said the listing on Zillow said there was $75,000 of Airbnb booking, which to her indicated commercial activity. Porreca also said there is a lot of activity near her house due to Airbnb guests.

O’Keefe, who is also the Zoning Administrator, suggested that Porreca attend Planning Commission meetings as they begin to rewrite the town’s zoning regulations. O’Keefe said he was not sure if Airbnb-type rentals meet the standards for commercial use of property.

Porreca said she is also concerned about the effect of Airbnb activity on local inns and the local economy.

The board gave Rawson permission to rent a wood chipper for a week at a cost of $1,000. Rawson said the chipper can handle up to 12-inch diameter branches and will be used to expedite brush removal from the sides of town roads. The chips will either be blown into the woods or into a truck, then dumped at the Transfer Station.

Board member George Mora will act as a liaison to work with staff on computer file structure.

The board voted to sign an agreement with Sullivan, Powers & Co, certified public accountants, to perform a full audit from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. Labeau said that the next full audit will be in three years. O’Keefe suggested that the board put out bids next time an audit is needed to see if it can be done for a lower price.

Board member Mora will act as a liaison to work with the staff on computer file structure. Pete Smith, the town’s IT consultant, will be designing a system of shared files for the office staff and board. Some files —  such as draft minutes and financials — can be seen by anyone, but others such as personnel information and executive session minutes must be more limited.

Pajala said that the vault will be closed June 22 through 24 for floor sanding, but that the office will remain open.

Pajala also said Music Mondays would be starting up again on the Monday after the July 4 weekend (July 8) and will run every other week through Labor Day weekend. She said some will fall on nights when the Select Board meets.

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