In New Boston, there is a longstanding issue of a so-called junkyard. The property is located on River Rd. and has been a grandfathered repair garage since at least 1970. It is documented as such in a request by the Town to provide liability insurance in 1971.
The Town took the “Duke’s Garage,” owned by the Winslow family, to Goffstown District Court in 1978 for having more unregistered cars than allowed – and the Town lost. A grandfathered repair garage is allowed under the New Boston Ordinance. The owner has an established right to continue.
In 1991 the Town sent Duke’s Garage a form all pre-existing non-conforming uses had to fill out showing what their businesses entailed. Duke’s Garage gave them a detailed list of activity and did not include a junkyard as part of the business. The owner, John Winslow, has never asked for a junkyard license although he would have been grandfathered for that use since he was in operation since 1965.
Between 1996 – 1997 the property fell to Town ownership for back taxes and the Town had the opportunity to clean it up to their own satisfaction – a process that had been started. The Town accepted the back taxes and Duke’s Garage continued to repair vehicles and tow vehicles, along with metal fabrication, etc.
Fifteen years went by with no action by Town officials. The code enforcement officer made no comments regarding a limitation of operations or any junk removal claim.
Then, in 2015 the Town began requesting Duke’s Garage remove all junk from the property which had expanded in size and quantity on the 1.5-acre lot – but still not operating as a junkyard under the definition the Town cited, RSA 236:114 (and sometimes RSA 236:96?). Nor had New Boston admitted in court or pleadings that the business was a pre-existing non-conforming use under their ZBA Regulations. Duke’s was fixing riding mowers and snow blowers as he had always done, just more of them. Junk, unregistered vehicles were not the primary complaint. The Town sought court approval to remove junk from the property and even started to claim property inside a licensed registered trailer body and from inside his two-bay garage. Mrs. Winslow filed for an injunction in Hillsborough Superior Court to stop the clearly unconstitutional taking. A hearing was set for last Wednesday, Jan. 9.
That is when I got a call from Rep. Keith Ammon of the New Boston Taxpayers Association asking for help. I had not seen any paperwork or met the Winslow’s
I drafted a Motion to Appear on behalf of Duke’s Garage owners and gave it to Judge Messer, John and Mona Winslow, and Judge Amy Messer. Judge Messer let me sit with and advise John Winslow at the hearing.
We asked New Boston what zoning ordinance allowed them to take property from inside a registered, licensed, trailer or garage. They had no answer.
We asked New Boston where the required inventory of what was to be removed was. They did not have one with them but promised they would get one.
We asked the Court if an inventory of valuables already taken would be accepted and the Judge agreed to look at it.
New Boston agreed to file an answer to the Court in 20 days, and we have 10 to respond.
More to come.