Stand With Stephen Forster & Forster’s Christmas Tree Farm (Again!) [Updated][Bumped]

by Steve MacDonald

Forsters christmas tree farm Henniker NH

(Originally posted yesterday morning 2-6-2013- but it’s important, and the meeting is tonight.)

The next Henniker zoning board meeting (Noooo-body expects the Spanish Inquisition) is this Thursday (tonight) at 7pm, and Steve Forster will once more be brought before the local arsitocray on the matter of the proper use of his property.

Forster’s Christams Tree Farm was cited by the town for engaging in activities defined as legal by the state (agro-tourism).

We’d like you to make the effort to get there, cameras and recorders in hand, to capture the event, and if you have the knowledge and the will to lend your support, not just to Steve, but for the right to the legal use of your property, please make the time to do that.

See this link as well for more details on how the Henniker ZBA (and committee fiefdoms all over the state) think they own your property.

[Update] Here is the address of the meeting, (Henniker Zoning Board of Adjustment, Thursday, February 7, 2013 7 pm Henniker Community School Cafetorium 51 Western Avenue), a message from Steve Forster follows, with some additional, relevant documents provided to me by our good friend Ken Eyring after that.

Message from Steve Forster:

Enclosed is the invite to my farms next hearing.. All are welcomed! All can speak or say something pro or con on this matter. A negative outcome could effect all farmers and landowners. Please read the State RSA that I am defending,RSA 21:34a. The town wants to negate this RSA and what the town has adopted. This is so important for farmers to make a living on their land in order to survive and pay our high property taxes. We need farmers, land owners your Reps. to attend and voice their opinion.  


Enclosed also is the definition as the Commissioner of Ag. NH sees it. The town does not want to recognize her position on this.. If not her, then who’s definition will they? The town wants to rewrite the definition without having a warrant article being brought to the people for a vote. They want to impose restrictions that do not apply to this issue.. Site Plan Review, etc.. I have done nothing that warrants any of these to be explored. I have not built or changed anything that’s warrants me to go to the town to ask them for permission to do what I have been doing for the past 35/40years..

All I ask is to continue to do what I have been doing in the past and them to honor the laws as they are written..Thanks for listening, thanks for your support..


S.Forster
Forsters Christmas Tree Farm
Henniker, NH

Next, a letter from Kathleen A. LaBonte to the Town of Henniker (recipients noted in the text of the letter) regarding some…well, irregularities.

KATHLEEN A. LaBONTE

722 Gulf Road, Henniker, NH 03242

Tel. (603) 428-6135; Email: klalo@tds.net

 

TO:                  Mr. Yennerell, Henniker Town Administrator

Selectboard: Kris Blomback, Chair; Leo Audoin, Vice Chair; Robert French, John Prieto, and  Ron Taylor

RE:                  ZBA Meeting – Forster Christmas Tree Farm Rehearing

DATE:             January 23, 2013

Dear Mr. Yennerell and Selectboard:

Regarding the above matter, I am in receipt of Planning Consultant Fougere’s January 17th email to Attorneys Donovan and Miller scheduling a ZBA meeting for 2/7/13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Community School cafeteria.   Our ZBA meetings are designated by the town calendar for any cases for the 3rd Wednesday of the month, which would be Feb. 20th.   From the Henniker website I have taken the following description:

Description

The Zoning Board is scheduled to meet the 3rd Wednesday of every month IF there is a case to be heard.  Should a case be scheduled, an Agenda or Public Hearing Notice will be attached to this notice under “More Details” a few days beforehand.  Any questions call (603) 428-3221 ext. 1.

There should be no reason for the Forster rehearing to receive any special scheduled date. The public has a right and expects adherence to our meeting calendar unless there is some emergency, which there isn’t.

With respect to Mr. Forster’s issue, I am increasingly concerned that there is intent by Board members/staff to keep the public confused as to where and when meetings are held because the calendar is not kept current daily, and agenda times and places do not match the website info for meetings.  I am further concerned for the public’s safety and comfort while in attendance at meetings that are of great concern to the community because of effort by the town not to move a meeting venue from town hall to a larger facility.  I give the following examples for all of the above.

  • 10/17 ZBA meeting was past room capacity with many standing, and the hallway crammed to capacity.  On 10/19, I spoke with Town Administrator Connell to request the 11/15 meeting be scheduled for the Community Center for public safety, and gave all the reasons.  Instead of being decided by the town administrator, as in past standard office procedure, Mr. Connell left the decision to Mark Fougere and Doreen Connor who denied this request, thus showing their lack of sensibility and responsibility for public safety and the right for public attendance.   Further, I was not given a courtesy call to inform me of this decision, and only found out when the agenda was posted on 10/26.  When I went to the office to inquire why, Ms. Gage had no explanation.  She did comment she was also desirous of moving the meeting to a larger location stating that even an abutter to Mr. Forster complained of not being able to get into the meeting room.  On 10/26, I contacted Fire Chief Gilbert, Police Department, and Selectboard Chair Blomback to correct this situation.  Mr. Blomback had a budget review meeting 10/27 and conferred with Selectboard members about this.  By Mon. 10/29 a.m., Mr. Blomback confirmed to me the meeting was moved to the Community Center.  By late afternoon the agenda location was still listed as Town Hall, the website listing “unknown.”  On 10/30 website location corrected, but agenda location was not corrected until I emailed again.
  • 2010 – all ZBA meetings held on 3rd Wed. of Month (there were 4)
  • 2011 – all ZBA meetings held on 3rd Wed. of Month (there were 5)
  • 2012 – all ZBA meetings held on 3rd Wed of Month (there were 7) except the last meeting, which pertained to Forster.  This meeting was held Thurs., 11/15 instead of Wed. 11/21.
  • Jan. 2013 – ZBA meeting held Tues. 1/3 instead of Wed. 1/16.  On 1/15, I received many calls from interested citizens and news outlets if this meeting was being held, and if Forster issue was on the agenda.   I contacted Ms. Gage, but she was out for the day so Mr. Roy was kind enough to contact me that he reached Ms. Gage to confirm the meeting was cancelled. It seems that the ZBA Board/Planning Consultant and office staff are intentionally causing chaos and confusion because the 1/3 meeting was never posted, which explains the low attendance, and the 1/16 meeting was never unlisted from the website so folks were contacting me for update and agenda.
  • Feb. 2013  – ZBA meeting scheduled for Thurs. 2/7 instead of Wed. 2/20 at the Henniker Community School instead of the Community Center by Mark Fougere in his 1/16 email to Forster and Bennett attorneys, which I happened to obtain a copy of.  What about the public??  We are now 7 days later, and the website does not reflect this meeting.  To add further confusion, there is the regular Wed. 2/20 meeting posted on the website.

With respect to Minutes, it should also concern the Selectboard that at the January 3rd meeting the Board Chair had to be reminded by Dr. Trivellini and Mr. Pagano that Minutes had not been approved going back to August through November!  To not approve minutes for this length of time gave the appearance to the public that the Board was using lapse of memory as a reason to adjust and manipulate minutes to reflect something different than what was said the time of the meeting:

  • 10/17 Minutes.  With respect to the Cease and Desist order against Mr. Forster by Mr. Fougere, Dr. Trivellini raised a point of order regarding Article XIII, Section 133-51 that gives this authority to the Selectboard only, and that can’t be tasked out to a town consultant.  On 1/3, Dr. Trivellini questioned he never remembered hearing Chair Connor state “the planning board was acting under proper authorization” and “Mr. Fougere is a representative of the Town and was acting as an administrator of the Town Planning Board.”  Chair Connor has now shown a correction in the 1/3/13 minutes that she meant the ZBA.  In review of the attorney court stenographer’s minutes from 10/17, of which the ZBA has a copy of and part of the record now, the Planning Board was never mentioned in that discussion.  Chair Connor refers to the Zoning Board and even references 674:33 “Zoning Board of Adjustment and Building Code Board of Appeals.”  This truly leaves the public to wonder how the 10/17 minutes have a half paragraph discussing the Planning Board and their authority and no mention of the ZBA or 674:33.
  • 10/17 Minutes.  Dr. Trivellini further went on to say as the minutes were being reviewed “it’s to the point now where it’s difficult to recall what was actually being said here…”

It is disturbing to me, and should be to you, that I am now a regular and constant source for accuracy of town meeting dates, times, places, and Minute …not only for the public, but the town office too!!  It is at this time I am requesting the following:

  1. That the ZBA adhere to the town calendar of “third Wednesday of the month” for any cases to be heard, as stated in above “description.”
  2. That the February 7th ZBA meeting be cancelled (which is not posted), and schedule the rehearing of the Forster Christmas Tree Farm on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, which is February 20th, where it belongs and is already posted.
  3. That the Town Administrator facilitate final decisions of any meeting changes and venue based on your experience of community interest in matters, public safety, and adherence to town calendar where a board meeting date change is an exception not the rule.  This will also eliminate the public’s perception that meetings are being manipulated by Boards to cause intentional confusion and inconvenience for the public.
  4. That the town website of meetings, dates, and times be posted timely.  When a meeting is scheduled or changed, by the next business day the website should be diligently updated or corrected.
  5. That Minutes from the previous month be reviewed and approved before the meeting adjourns.

Thank you in advance for your review, and response.

Sincerely,

Kathleen (LaBonte)

Finally, a letter of clarification from the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, regarding the law which the Henniker ZBA appears to be ignoring in pursuit of their action against Forsters.  (PDF) Dept of Ag. 2nd letter

If you’d like the short version, Forster’s is not violating the law.

 

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