Silver Scone Teas in New Ipswich heads back to court, Housing Appeals Board

Nancy Clark, who has been representing a group of neighbors appealing decisions that would allow the operation of Silver Scone Teas.

Nancy Clark, who has been representing a group of neighbors appealing decisions that would allow the operation of Silver Scone Teas. —STAFF FILE PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 03-07-2024 8:31 AM

The Town of New Ipswich will be back before the state’s Housing Appeals Board next week for another round related to the approval of the Silver Scone Teas tea party business in the town’s Village District.

A group of neighbors who oppose the approval have filed an appeal of the variance issued to Silver Scone Teas, and a pre-trial hearing in front of the HAB has been set for March 11.  The final hearing on the issue is scheduled for March 25.

At the same time, neighbors have also filed an amended appeal with Superior Court after exhausting the town approval process regarding the Planning Board’s issuance of site plan approval for the business.

Both processes will cover many of the same issues.

According to an amended petition for appeal filed at the Hillsborough Superior Court, South, on March 3, neighbors allege that the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment “acted unlawfully and unreasonably” by denying the group’s motion for a rehearing on the matter.

The motion for rehearing was related to the Planning Board’s decision to grant a site plan approval to the owner of Silver Scone Teas, Jane Elwell, in June. The group of neighbors, along with their lawyer, Nancy Clark, who also lives in the neighborhood, filed an appeal of the Planning Board’s decision with the ZBA, which was denied, as was the subsequent motion for a rehearing.

The complaint alleges that multiple members of the Zoning Board were not eligible to sit on the case for a variety of reasons. It claims ZBA members David Lage and Walker Farrey, who sat on the case, have not regularly been reappointed to their positions on the board by the Select Board at the end of their terms, as required.

The complaint also alleges that both Lage and Farrey showed bias during proceedings. During a conversation following Clark making a motion for members to recuse themselves, Farrey allegedly said, “If there’s bias and it gets remanded back down, we redo this all over again,” which Clark claims showed Farrey already knew the ZBA was going to approve the application.

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The complaint also claims that ZBA members Jay Hopkins and Brett Kivela showed bias during the proceedings by having conversations with real estate agents outside of a public meeting about the potential impact to property values a business like Silver Scone might have.

The amended complaint alleges that the Planning Board approved the site plan with a parking lot surface and grading, handicapped parking space, stormwater drainage structure, walkway and septic plan that violate the town’s zoning ordinance. The complaint also alleges that the Planning Board found the application complete when it was not.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.