We have never seen a worse piece of reporting than this one from the Union Leader.
Three people with serious conflicts of interest are being paid outrageous salaries (from $63,494 to $88,387 a year!) out of your tax dollars to override your local vote. It’s not about moving things faster, it’s about overriding the wishes of the townspeople. Is this what the people of NH want?
When a case is heard in court, one is sworn in and legally bound to tell the truth. Since this is not the case at an HAB hearing, the HAB does not operate with the same transparency as the Superior Court. They make it difficult to obtain transcripts of HAB hearings and difficult to obtain records of HAB rulings in a timely manner.
Keep in mind this is not about your average homeowner who wants to expand his deck an extra foot or two but needs a variance due to wetlands restrictions. Those variances are easily and gladly given with much objection. This is about developers (as you can see from the discussion in the rest of the article) wanting to flood your town with high-density apartment units for which they can get tax breaks, or to put commercial entities in residential areas, or to build on property that was previously designated for preservation, which was determined by the vote of the townspeople.
Apparently, I cannot confirm that the Union Leader reporter checked with the Francestown BoS or planning board for the facts in the Shattuck case. This makes it appear that the UL is now cheerleading for the illegally created, unelected, unaccountable regional council known as the “Housing Appeals Board”. Previously the newspaper’s editorial board understood and supported the BRA’s stance against the idea that the HAB is able to override ANY local town board and that regional councils are undemocratic!
In Cousineau’s article about Francestown, he fails to mention that this part of Francestown is part of the National Historic Register and an area that the Master Plan designated for preservation.
Cousineau only focuses on ONE small factor, the trees, as if that were the only problem. The picture that accompanies the article has a caption that reads “Immature Christmas trees dot the field to Melissa Shattuck’s left on her family’s Francestown property. The town planning board wanted the Shattucks to “somehow restore the property” to its state before trees on it were legally cut down. The state housing appeals board, which upheld the Shattucks’ appeal of the town’s rejection, took issue with that position.”
Cousineau barely touches on the facts in the Shattuck case, one being that the Shattucks did a ‘bait and switch’ on the town. They wanted to build something they promised would be for their own use but was actually a commercial entity, smack in the middle of a residential zone. They even have a website that advertises their business as you can see from the t-shirt in the photo.
The facts are this: As for the trees, the Francestown planning board was not asking that ALL acreage be restored to prior condition before cutting, only that a visual BUFFER be planted to restore the rural character of the area (an “existing condition”) and viewshed that existed prior to the “legal cutting”. When the trees were being cleared no one knew there would be anything other than a meadow for their horses, a single home, and a riding arena for family use, as that was what the Shattuck’s had asked for. No one suspected that they were going to build a commercial building to operate a business and develop 4 house lots.
The HAB’s rejection of the Planning Board’s factual findings regarding the rural character of the town leads them to erroneously conclude the Planning Board, acting in accordance with its Master Plan, can not require a buffer. The HAB believes that if lots meet dimensional requirements of a town, the Planning Board is limited in its review. The HAB ignored Richmond Co. v. City of Concord (2003) which supports Francestown’s right to require developments, where appropriate, to reflect the rural character of a town.
The people in the town voted for what they want for their town. They should have the final say, NOT 3 appointed people who work in the realty/development industry and are thus prejudiced in favor the developer, as proven by the fact that three or more of the cases they have heard have gone in favor of the appellants. And while they claim they have no power to change or amend zoning ordinances or master plans, they can completely ignore those ordinances when making their decisions, which is the same thing, isn’t it?
And those homes for the Shattuck family? We read at the end of the article, it seems not one of them has moved into those houses. They are now simply tract homes for sale to the general public. That decision to not move in was not made after the project was rejected… so doesn’t it seem it was never intended those projects would be for his sons and daughters?
The facts in this matter are: More than 5 years ago, the Shattucks applied to the Francestown Planning Board for the creation of 3 additional lots from the Cross Road property on which they lived. They stated that the lots were for their sons and daughters. Mr. Shattuck spoke about the urgent need to start construction for a home for a newly married son. He stated that he would be building high end $400K+ houses for his children and adding to the tax base. After the application was approved, a house was constructed on one lot and sold, but was not occupied by his son. Another lot was sold to a local Land preservation group that sought to protect the South Branch of the Piscataquog River. This year, one of their sons built a wide driveway and placed a pre-fab house on the third lot. Although this son spoke at a Planning Board meeting regarding the Stevens Road subdivision stating that he loved historic New England architecture and the rural quality of the town, his house is not reflective of that sentiment. It is quite visible from the road, and devoid of any landscaping.
One developer claimed that ‘activists’ have objected to some growth because “it has to be on their terms”. No kidding! That is why people have a vote at town meeting, so they can have a say in how their town develops. Shame on him for blaming them for wanting that right and claiming it’s not ‘sustainable’? Who do these people think they are? Paying higher taxes resulting from high-density housing that developers are being urged to build, is the burden which is laid upon the single-family homeowner, and is what is not ‘sustainable’. Seniors will be taxed out of their homes and end up being candidates for such ‘low income’ housing. Seems they want us all to be poor.
The article states: “Cronin, a lawyer representing the property owner, said developers should be permitted to build more units per acre than standard density allows in order to make a project financially viable.” Really? Should the state subsidize me with your tax dollars and change the rules so that MY business can be more “financially viable”? It is ludicrous to think your tax dollars are selectively going to prop up one particular industry populated by wealthy developers, to help them override the rules that apply to everyone, at YOUR expense.
“Matthew Serge, the attorney representing the town of Goffstown, said discussions of a regional housing shortage should be held elsewhere.” He is right when he says the legislative process, meaning those who vote at town meeting, should be the ones to make the decisions.
Union Leader should get the facts before they allow a biased article to misrepresent what is really going on with this Bolshevik-style Housing Appeals Board that a so-called Republican Governor not only approved of, but asked for.