GILMANTON — The Meeting House Road man who had asked voters to have his property removed from the historic district around the Smith Meeting House on Tuesday night withdrew his request to serve on the district's board.
Craig Gardner of 533 Meetinghouse Road had petitioned to have his property removed during the March election after learning a fence he constructed was not suitable to the Historic District Commission.
"I've been on a lot of committees in my life," Gardner told the Selectboard. "The most dishonest thing a person can do is come on a committee with a cause."
Gardner said he wondered if he could ignore his cause (to remove his property from the district) and decided he could be more honest as a member of the community.
"I appreciate your honesty," said Selectboard Chair Don Guarino, who agreed that Gardner could be very active as a member of the community.
Gardner and Roland Huber, a second property owner in the district, both petitioned the town to have their properties removed from because of what they considered unreasonable restrictions. A slim majority of voters ultimately agreed with them but their petitions were challenged by abutters, including former Historic District Chairman George Roberts, who attended Tuesday's meeting, who filed "protest petitions" that meant, under state law, Gardner and Huber needed a two-third majority vote to prevail.
Although the town received the protest petitions in a timely fashion, when officials contacted the town attorney about what to do with them, administrators were told to ignore it, said Town Administrator Arthur Capello.
While one condition of the protest petition was satisfied according to RSA 675:5, a second condition requiring the town to post the protest petition and announce it at the beginning of town meeting, in this case, the deliberative session, was never met.
Town attorneys have brushed off the posting and announcing portion of the law as a "minor procedural error" but Gardner disagrees.
He said that had he known about two-thirds vote needed for him to succeed, he would have approached the matter differently and could have possible prevailed.
The posting matter is still being discussed within the town between administrators, town counsel and Gardner.
With Gardner's last-minute withdrawal for consideration for the Historic District Commission seat, selectmen nominated Betty-Ann Abbott to serve for a three year term.
In her application, Abbott said she had an interest in the area and would be mindful of residents rights while being holding true to the mission of the Historic District.
Under state law, the Planning Board can also have one of its members serve on a historic district. Selectman Steve McCormack, who is the board's representative to the Planning Board, said Roy Buttrick had volunteered.
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