M'borough officials propose steep hikes in fines for violating construction protocols

MOULTONBOROUGH — At a workshop last week, the Board of Selectmen considered a proposal prepared by Code Enforcement Office Don Cahoon and Planning Director Bruce Woodruff that would stiffen the penalties on those who build without the requisite permits and approvals.

The proposal follows on the heels of the construction of an observation tower on Red Hill, which was approved after the fact by the Planning Board in a controversial decision that prompted the selectmen to initiate removal proceedings against two members of the Planning Board.

Earlier this year Bob and Cathy Williams, doing business as Bear's Nest Trail, LLC. built the 900-square foot lookout tower, with an average height of 27 feet, around 1,200 feet up the east flank of Red Hill without obtaining a building permit, variance from the Zoning board of Adjustment (ZBA) and conditional use permit from the Planning Board.

Cahoon told the selectmen that along with two decks, it was the third case of its kind this year, compared to four or five during his first 14 years on the job.
Cahoon and Woodruff proposed a schedule of escalating fines. The current penalty for building without a permit is a fine equal to twice the permit fee plus the fee. The draft would raise the fine to five times the permit fee plus the fee itself. In addition, the fine would double for each subsequent violation of the zoning ordinance.
For example, the 30-foot by 30-foot observation tower would be liable for a fine of $2,970, calculated as follows. At 11 cents per-square-foot for an unheated structure of that size, the building permit fee would by $99 and the fine $495 for a total of $594. The fine would double for each further violation. Thus, the failure to obtain a variance and a conditional use permit would each result in fines of $1,188. Altogether the three violations would incur a total fine of $2,970. Moreover, the application fee would be tripled for violators seeking approvals for project after they were constructed.
Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said that the selectmen asked Cahoon and Woodruff to draft a formal ordinance which would be presented to the Selectboard along with the ZBA and Planning Board. The selectmen will meet with the land use boards in workshop, perhaps as early as next month, to agree on a proposal that would be presented to a public hearing. Terenzini said that the Selectboard can adopt an ordinance by majority vote.
Meanwhile, despite the controversy aroused by the decision of the selectmen to hold a public hearing to determine of there is cause to remove there Josh Bartlett and Judy Ryerson from the Planning Board for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office," there is no indication that they intend to halt the proceedings. The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 9, beginning at 1 p.m.