Planning Board Approves Change in Totem Pole Park Agreement

Freedom — August 23, 2007 — Freedom Planning Board voted to allow Totem Pole Park to change the 30-day period in which it is closed for the season from early spring to late fall. The decision was made at a planning board meeting without a public hearing, and that is why selectman Les Babb said the decision should be appealed.

The planning board voted on Thursday, Aug. 16, and Babb brought it to the board of selectmen’s attention Monday, Aug. 20, asking the board to consider appealing the planning board’s decision, which the other two selectmen agreed to do.

Currently, members of Totem Pole Park are allowed onto the property 365 days a year for a maximum of 12 hours a day. They are also allowed to live on their property overnight everyday of the year except a month-long period from March 1 to March 31. The change will restrict people from staying overnight between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.

Dennis Gould, a resident of the park, said the decision was made because with the lateness of the winter, March is better for snowmobilers and skiers. The weather is less conducive for snowmobilers in November and December.

Babb said his concern was that the proper procedure was not followed. He does not have a problem with changing the date, he said. “The change in use will have an impact on the surrounding areas,” he said at the planning board meeting.

Selectman Donna Cupka agreed, saying that earlier decisions on the closing period of Totem Pole were made after public hearings, setting a precedent. Board member Jim Brown agreed to the appeal, saying, “If they keep changing things, the agreement won’t look anything like the original one the town agreed to.”

At the planning board meeting, the board’s chairman Paul Dorian said he did not feel the date of the month-long period during which the park closes really matters. The town and the association agreed during the condominiumization process to a month-long period, nothing more specific. “It doesn’t matter when, just that it’s 30 days. They should get the best use of their property, just like anyone else in town,” Dorian said.

He said he consulted the town’s lawyer, Peter Malia, about the issue, and Malia did not have any issues with the idea of making the decision without a public hearing. The planning board meeting is a public meeting, Dorian said, and its agenda was posted.

Babb asked why town and planning board attorney Malia was consulted on the issue when the board has used another lawyer, John Radigan, in the past. Dorian said that Malia had consulted with Radigan.

Board member Ralph Kazanjian said he also spoke with Radigan and found that Radigan had a different opinion, “similar but different,” and Radigan has more knowledge of the case law involved in this issue.

Babb said Monday that he was upset the board used Malia for the consultation because now the board of selectmen cannot ask Malia to write up the appeal because the planning board consulted with Malia. Babb said he would contact the Local Government Center for help in writing the appeal.

Dorian allowed the change with one condition. He said the change can take place as long as Paul Corbin, president of the association, provides proof that members of the association are aware of the change.

Dorian said, “Anyone who lives here part-time has an equal hearing and process of judgment” as anyone else in town. “I don’t get [the concerns]. They have worked in good faith to fix things,” and others in town have not.

Babb said Monday that the board of directors of the association made the decision, not the residents of the park.

The decision made by the planning board, if it stands, would stand for another four years and could not be changed in that time.

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