Owner of the “Driving Range, Mason, NH” Martin Ruggiero, and 5 supporters appeared before a special selectmen’s meeting to request information on the status of their petition article to allow continued “outdoor concerts” at the Driving Range. Word apparently got out on Marty’s facebook page which possibly accounts for the large turnout.
At issue is that the selectmen have deemed the petition to be a change in Mason’s Zoning Ordinances and subject to the following NH state statutes:
“II. No zoning ordinance, historic district ordinance, or building code shall be established or amended at a town or village district meeting until after the planning board holds at least one public hearing on the proposed ordinance, code or amendment. Notice for the time and place of each public hearing shall be the same as that provided in RSA 675:7″
The petition was not submitted in time for this to occur for the March 2016 Town meeting, so the selectmen felt that their hands were tied and denied the petition. An alternative discussed was to “re-petition” for a “special town meeting” at some later date. That unfortunately runs into yet another statute:
“Petitioned amendments shall be voted only at the annual town or village district meeting. A petition to amend a zoning ordinance, historic district ordinance, or a building code shall be submitted to the board of selectmen or the village district commissioners during the period between 120 and 90 days prior to the annual town or village district meeting.”
So unless the planning board or the selectmen themselves initiate the zoning change, such a thing could occur only at an annual meeting.
Mr. Ruggiero was less than pleased with this decision and wanted to know how he could cooperate “to get this done”. “Put it on the ballot, it’s easy if you want it to be”.
Mr. Ruggiero also claimed that he was on time and had submitted said petition to the town clerk back last summer after the ZBA denied his variance to hold outdoor concerts. He stated that he “was there, petitions in hand, and was sent on my way”. Furthermore that his daughter was told “not until February”.
Selectman Moser’s comment was that his mistake was to have taken “no for an answer”. Several other complaints that the clerk provided incorrect advice were rebuffed by “it is not up to the town to provide legal service”. He further stated that “no one intentially gave you bad advice.”
The compromise arrived at during the meeting is that the zoning change should be re-drafted. According to Chairman O’Grady, the current wording was far too open. He stated that “if someone is willing to do that, I’d be willing to listen”.
The change might be as simple as listing “outdoor concerts” to the list of businesses allowed by special exception, which would make it easier for the ZBA to allow it under the existing guidelines for special exceptions (however, read their prior denial).
Mr. Ruggiero indicated that he’s “been going through this since last summer [and if the issue is not resolved] the range is closing and more than likely to be something else”.