Planning Board to Review Totem Pole Agreement

Freedom — May 31, 2005 — Will the selectmen and planning board act to revoke the town’s 2004 agreement with the residents of Totem Pole Park? If the agreement is revoked, the park would return to being open for only six months of the year. According to town attorney Peter Malia, who represents the selectmen, the boards can try and revoke the agreement if they believe residents of the campground have violated it in a substantial way.

But, in meeting with the planning board last Thursday, Malia said that even though voters at town meeting passed a warrant article advising such a move, the town does not have to revoke the agreement with the association.

The article asks selectmen to either enforce the part of the agreement that that does not allow people to declare residency, or revoke the agreement entirely because it expands the time the campground is open from six to 11 months. Residents who voted in favor of the article said they were concerned that if people who stay at the campground become residents of Freedom, the town will become responsible for providing costly municipal services, including education for children who live there.

Not Up to the Voters

“Voters can’t tell you or the selectmen” how to deal with the situation, Malia told the planning board. He said that if the town agreed there has been a breech in the agreement, there is still a procedure the town must follow.

The agreement between the residents of Totem Pole Park and the Town of Freedom stated the park could be open 11 months of the year but residents were not allowed to register to vote or to register their cars in town.

Malia said the state Attorney General informed the town last year that anyone who lives in town is allowed to register to vote there, as a Constitutional right. But, he added, the 14 vehicle registrations by members of the Totem Pole association are a clear violation of the agreement.

Malia said that based on the letter from the Attorney General, voting is a right, but vehicle registrations can be considered a violation of the agreement and could lead to its revocation, if the town considered 14 registered vehicles enough of a violation of the agreement. Revocation would have to come from the planning board, Malia said, based on RSA 676:4a.

The planning board must notify the applicant and give public notice, request and hold a public hearing, at which time people can present their arguments.

Paul Corbin, the president of the association, said that he wrote a letter to the attorney general about the issue of registering cars. The AG said the cars can be registered in the state in which they reside. Since the cars are only used in New Hampshire, as summer vehicles, the cars can be registered in town.

Ralph Kazanjian, the planning board chair, said he had received that letter but had not made copies for everyone on the board but would do so. Corbin continued saying that the town clerk did not object when people came to register their cars.

“The town clerk can deny [the registrations] and should do that — she has the authority,” but she didn’t, Corbin said.

A resident present at the planning board meeting asked the board what it had done once it realized there had been other violations, like the 25 wells on the lot that she said the board knew about before even granting Totem Pole the change to be open 11 months of the year.

“We would like you people not to make the same mistake twice,” she said. Selectman’s representative to the planning board, Les Babb, said the board needs to know specifically where the wells are located on the property before investigating any potential violations.

“We need a statement…which would provide probable cause to get a court order,” he said.

Emory Stokes asked if one illegal statement on an agreement (that Totem Pole residents could not register to vote) make the entire agreement illegal. Malia said the rest of the document, if found to be legal, is still binding. Before making any decisions, the board agreed to contact their attorney, John Radigan.

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