GILMANTON — It appears that even though a majority of Gilmanton voters agreed that two property owners in the Historic District could leave its jurisdiction, they will remain included — at least until issues surrounding a protest petition filed by three other residents is resolved.
George Roberts, who claims to own at least 20 percent of the property in the Gilmanton Meetinghouse Historic District and is a direct abutter of Craig Gardner, who wants to leave, filed what is called a protest petition with the town back in January.
Under the provisions of N.H. RSA 675:5, Roberts had the right to require a 2/3 majority vote because he owns more than 20 percent of the district.
Roland Huber's neighbors, Brenda Mosser and Karen Acton, also claim to own more than 20 percent of the land filed and have filed the same petition against him. His other neighbor, Mustafa El Sharif wrote a letter to selectmen supporting their protest.
The Gardner and Huber petitions were supported by a majority of the nearly 900 votes cast on Tuesday but, but neither reached anywhere near the 66.6 percent threshold.
It is unclear what happens next.
Gardner wanted his property out of the district because he built a fence made from vinyl off of the side of his garage that is 6-feet tall. His home was built in 1977 and has vinyl windows and doors. The Historic District Commission objected.
Huber wants to leave the district because he is trying to fix up a home that has been in his wife's family for 150 years and is using or trying to use materials, like vinyl, that the Historic District Commission says are inconsistent with the time period they are trying to preserve.
Huber, who lives on disability income, said he cannot afford to fix up his house using wooden materials that often cost two or three times as contemporary products. He also said newer products are more energy efficient.
Voters narrowly agreed with Gardner and Huber giving them each about 51 percent of the vote.
According to members of the Historic Commission and Roberts, one of the biggest issues is that neither homeowner came to them with their intentions beforehand and both knew their property was in the Historic District and the rules applied to all houses in it — including permission to do any construction on the outside of the home.
According to copies of the protest petitions sent to The Daily Sun yesterday, both were filed in a timely manner.
The law says any protest petitions must be filed within seven days of the "opening of town meeting".
While it appears RSA 675:5 has not been updated since the passage of SB-2 (the Official Ballot Act) the protest petitions were received 11 days before the Deliberative Session of Town Meeting that was held on January 31 and well before voting day last Tuesday.
The provisions of the law requires the town moderator to announce at the opening of town meeting and that the moderator post the protest petitions at the polling place.
Town Clerk Debra Cornett said she just learned about the petitions yesterday and that Moderator Mark Sisti didn't know about them when he opened both the deliberative session and the polls without any mention of them.
Two of three selectmen said the petitions were included in package presented to them at one of their late January meetings. Both confirmed Town Administrator Arthur Capello said in an open meeting that the petitions were forwarded to the town attorney, who advised not to do anything with them because the town was "all set".