Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Unhappy Trails: Another Lost Litigation Battle Extends a Disturbing Legal Losing Streak in Gorham

By: Rich Bergeron
   The town of Gorham, New Hampshire has officially lost another contentious legal battle. This one could be classified as a "nuisance" suit, but not in the traditional legal meaning of the term. The nuisance plaintiffs complained about in this case turned out to be a very valid concern that they will be rewarded for having to endure. It seems both the town and the State of New Hampshire will be on the hook for allowing a local OHRV trail to be established too close to a residential neighborhood. The homeowners sued, and their win might negatively impact tourism in an area that celebrates off-roading with themed festivals and rallies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           According to The Berlin Sun: "Grafton Superior Court Justice Lawrence MacLeod said the decision by the state and town to permit OHRV use in the town is “an unconstitutional taking of the plaintiffs’ properties by inverse condemnation” and ruled “each plaintiff homeowner is entitled to just compensation as damages.”"      Residents in the Route 2/Lancaster Road portion of the trail system frequently had to deal with the loud noise of revving engines, unruly riders relieving themselves in plain view, and pollution of the air by smoke, fumes and dust kicked up by the vehicles.     Chairman of the Gorham Board of Selectmen Mike Waddell, quoted in the Conway Daily Sun, considered the case to be a matter of valuation. Even as he stared defeat in the face, Waddell still questioned whether the plaintiffs really lost any value at all. He seemed convinced that abatements would be the answer as far as providing the plaintiffs the relief they are seeking.      If it was that easy to appease the neighbors who brought the suit, it seems highly irresponsible that the town spent in excess of $70,000 on the litigation to this point. However, it's not surprising considering the efforts of town leadership to avoid any accountability for a long list of past transgressions, much of them described in this very blog. Waddell's consistent denial of wrongdoing fits a pattern. Waddell's words also betray a willingness to lie to both himself and the taxpayers of his town about how much damage all this hopeless litigation is actually causing. Still, he tells the Berin Sun he's willing to sit down with the plaintiffs to work something out. What a guy!     The judge's ruling in the case made it clear that both the town and the state needed to provide compensation for their unconstitutional behavior that gave rise to this litigation stream. The ruling stated that the plaintiff property owners "should not be put in an unbearable living situation, including that they should not be forced to endure a surrounding environment of noise, dust and fumes without compensation."      The attorney for the plaintiffs also accused the defendants (the town of Gorham and the State of New Hampshire) of not acting in "good faith." He insisted that the defendants "unleashed a torrent of procedural filings calculated to wear the plaintiffs down financially and emotionally." One of the best freely accessible articles on the case gets much deeper into the objectionable behavior of the defendants. It happens to be written by one of my former editors from back in 2004 when I was a newspaper reporter for the Laconia Citizen. The stonewalling maneuvers executed by state officials in the case are very concerning. The fact that our current Attorney General John Formella is working on this case adds an interesting twist to the whole saga. This little case says a lot about how things really work in Gorham and how even the State's political apparatus is joining in on some of the covering up of impropriety there. We are finding more and more clues and evidence each day that will help us expose the main characters involved in this scandal. Please stay tuned as this story unfolds. The next few weeks will be crucial in the development of this site and the painting of the big picture behind the whole series. 
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