DERRY — Battle lines are drawn and legal action continues as neighbors of a downtown Derry restaurant say the business is not good for nearby residents.
Two Halligan Tavern abutters hoped to overturn a May 5 Planning Board decision to move forward with a rooftop seating plan at the 32 West Broadway restaurant.
Abutters Barbara Woodward of Wilton-based Property Portfolio Group and Steve Trefethen both submitted appeals to the Zoning Board, saying planning decisions violated town zoning ordinances. The Zoning Board denied both appeals.
Property Portfolio Group has now filed a lawsuit in Rockingham County against the town and the Planning Board. The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment over the Halligan issue. It also claims the town's past decisions granted "special privileges" to the restaurant's owners, causing "harm to innocent abutters" and lowering property values.
Woodward owns and manages an apartment complex at 7 Central St., directly behind the restaurant. She said the restaurant violates town ordinances in several areas, including the placement of the tavern's Dumpsters and buffer requirements. She added the restaurant is driving away tenants with noise and fumes.
Trefethen manages several residential apartment buildings on West Broadway and represented property owner Dom Vincent LLC in the appeal against the Planning Board's Halligan decision.
The rift between restaurant and neighborhood is nothing new.
Previous owners Bob and Bonnie Hall operated the FireHall Pub and Grille at the same site, a former fire station. The Halls fought legal battles with both Woodward and Trefethen. After less than a year in business, they put the business on the market. It was sold at foreclosure auction in 2008 to Halligan owners Timothy Moran, Ryan Tobin and Daniel Mancini, operating under MTM Realty LLC. Halligan Tavern opened in the former 1898 firehouse in January.
"It may be a very good restaurant, but it's not a very good neighbor," Property Portfolio Group attorney John Griffith said.
He said trucks making restaurant deliveries, odors and parking problems make life miserable for many of the Central Street tenants.
"When the summer gets hot, it will get even more offensive," Griffith said.
He said years of problems continue, with water draining off the Halligan building, causing damage to adjacent properties. The rooftop expansion plan, he said, would make matters worse.
Trefethen also wants to stop the outdoor seating plan, saying tenants at nearby 40 West Broadway would be subject to late night noise from the rooftop.
MTM Realty attorney Robert Moran said tavern owners are trying hard to be a good neighbor and comply with all town codes.
Moran, one of the owners, said the Halligan is a clean operation.
"We've done everything this town has asked," he said.
Many issues with abutters are code enforcement issues, Zoning Board member Cecile Cormier said.
"(It's a restaurant) and you will have fumes, unfortunately, for people living next door to it," she said. "That's the nature of the downtown in any downtown."
Woodward said she is tired of dealing with the restaurant and has tried to work things out with the owners.
"I don't want to be engaged in litigation," she said. "I have tried to appeal, but I am losing a fortune on my building."
She said it's not fair for a new business to come into town with privileges at the expense of the neighborhood.
Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse said legal action has gone for the past six years over the Halligan property and the town's decisions.
"My guess is that this is not the end of this," Stenhouse said. "It's been a long, ongoing thing."
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