, Derry, New Hampshire

August 1, 2013

Legal battle stalls work on parking lot

By Doug Ireland

---- — DERRY — It looks like an abandoned lot — filled with large stones and a huge grass-covered mound of dirt.

More than a year after the Planning Board approved a 15-space parking lot for Granite House sober living facility, the property remains undeveloped.

A bitter legal battle has halted all work at the West Broadway site after an abutter challenged the board’s approval in Rockingham Superior Court and then the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which is still considering the issue.

Granite House owner Eric Spofford said if not for the court case, the parking lot would have been completed.

“I would have had that parking lot finished last year,” he said.

A dilapidated home on the property at 33 West Broadway was demolished in July 2012, paving the way for the new lot.

But soon after the Planning Board granted the OK for the lot for the 31-resident home, Steve Trefethen of Summerview Real Estate filed a lawsuit in Superior Court. He claimed the parking lot should not have been approved.

When the court ruled in favor of the town, Trefethen then appealed to Supreme Court, according to Derry public works director Michael Fowler. The case has been at the state Supreme Court level for months, he said.

“That is what is holding up the redevelopment of the lot,” Fowler said.

This isn’t the first time Trefethen, whose office is across the street, has battled with Spofford and Granite House.

He fought the opening of the facility at 35 West Broadway two years ago — the former site of Mariniers Inn, a longtime boarding house. Trefethen said a home for people with substance abuse problems would be inappropriate for the neighborhood and would lower property values.

Granite House received approval from both the Planning and Zoning Boards. Other abutters supported Granite House and members of the community told town officials such a facility was needed in Derry.

There have been no problems since Granite House relocated from Union Street to West Broadway, Spofford said.

He said Trefethen, still bitter because Granite House was approved, is the only person responsible for the lot not being completed.

“He’s really doing everything he can to stop the creation of a parking lot and leaving an eyesore near the town of Derry’s downtown,” Spofford said.

Spofford said when the lot became the center of a legal battle, they thought it best to hold off on any work until the case was resolved. That’s why the stones and huge mound remain, he said.

“It goes to reveal the dust bowl it is,” Spofford said. “This hasn’t been what we intended.”

Trefethen did not return several calls seeking comment.