Thursday, July 18, 2013

Winchester property dispute involves town officials

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff

WINCHESTER — A dispute over how a property can be used has pitted town officials against one another.
Gustave A. Ruth and Kenneth Harvey say they didn’t know leasing property they own at 50 Rabbit Hollow Road to an auto mechanic in November was wrong, until they heard from the town and were issued a cease-and-desist order.
Ruth is a planning board member and former selectman; Harvey is town moderator and a planning board alternate.
The two bought the property, which had been seized by the town, at auction for $25,000 in April 2012, and said they believed they were purchasing a commercial property. It is actually in the rural residential zoning district, town officials say.
Since receiving a cease-and-desist order from Code Enforcement Officer Margaret A. Sharra in February to close down the repair shop, Ruth and Harvey have come before Winchester’s zoning board multiple times to plead their case.
On June 27, the zoning board unanimously voted down Ruth and Harvey’s appeal of the cease-and-desist order. The duo then sought a variance to allow the repair shop to continue operating on the property. That variance was denied by the zoning board, 3-2, on July 11.
Harvey said Tuesday that he and Ruth have yet to decide if they will request a rehearing on the zoning board’s decisions. They have 30 days from each vote to do so, according to state law.
“I’m certainly dissatisfied with the board’s decision,” Harvey said.
When the town auctioned off the property, it was advertised as commercial and industrial, he said.
A check of property tax cards showed the property had been assessed as commercial and industrial for many years before the auction, Ruth said.
“The zoning board didn’t do its due diligence in researching why it was assessed the way it was,” he said.
The property was previously owned by Terrance P. Qualters, who had constructed a sheet metal building on the site with the intention of storing equipment in it.
The property was taken by the town for unpaid taxes in November 2011 and auctioned off in April 2012. At the time, Ruth was a member of the board of selectmen. His term expired in March.
Neighbors of 50 Rabbit Hollow Road have also become involved in the matter, saying the property shouldn’t be used for commercial activities.
One of those neighbors, Christine Hadley, said while she and other neighbors feel gratified by the zoning board’s decision to deny the appeal and variance, they understand that Ruth and Harvey can request a rehearing.
On June 13, Attorney Kelly E. Dowd of Keene, who represented Hadley and her husband, John, told the zoning board an illegal activity on a property has no right to continue under a new owner, according to minutes from that meeting.
While there are errors in the property’s tax cards, those cards aren’t legal documents, he said.
“The property being used commercially was never a lawful use.”


Anonymous said...

It looks like Gustavo Ruth with all the screwing you did with Terry Qualters and taking Terry’s other pit for one of your friends for profit and with all the screwing over the years of Terry that now the chickens have come home to roost. It also looks like the fact that now you're no longer a selectmen Maggie Sharra doesn’t need you any longer and has pried her lips off your butt. I heard your dog ran away too, because he can no longer stand you. Maybe you can move to Stoddard with Leroy Austin with the both of you with your lack of dignity, bad-mannered and undignified attitude you will make a big splash

Anonymous said...

Sometimes what goes around, comes around ...

insider trading said...

You think about insider trading as being a Washington problem, NOT SO. Maybe when the Dec. tax bills arrive some people will wake up, but then again it is Winchester.

VanRiperandNies said...

What a contentious issue!