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Sunday, December 13, 2009

N.H. sees increase in shoreland violations

From the Eagle Tribune;

N.H. sees increase in shoreland violations
By Eric Parry

ATKINSON — Maggie Osborn has had state inspectors at her Valcat Lane home three times since she started construction last year.

The Department of Environmental Services has come to make sure she didn't violate shoreland protection laws by cutting down too many trees and letting silt wash into Big Island Pond during construction.

"We've been targeted for everything," she said.

Osborn said she doesn't know who filed the complaints and so far she hasn't heard she's broken any laws.

But Osborn is in the minority.

Linda Magoon, supervisor of the Wetlands Bureau at DES, said the majority of the 300 to 400 complaints they receive each year result in a violation.

That number has remained consistent for at least the last five years, despite strengthened shoreland protection laws that went into effect in July 2008.

"It may have resulted in an increase in violations," Magoon said.

She said her office is driven by the number of complaints they receive from residents and municipal governments.

"We rely on the public to submit complaint forms if they see a violation," Magoon said.

With 859 shoreland permits issued in the last year and a half, and more than 2,000 wetland permits issued annually, Magoon said, it's impossible to get to every site.

Starting in July 2008, any construction and excavation work done within 250 feet of the shore needs a permit.

If DES receives a complaint, the department sends a letter to the responsible party. One of eight DES inspectors will follow up with a visit to the site of the alleged violation.

Severe violations that have long-term environmental effects, including those that would affect the water quality of a lake, are visited within days. Lesser violations can take a bit longer to clear up.

A complaint that someone moved a dock or resurfaced a retaining wall two years ago might not get a visit for a few weeks, Magoon said.

In October, a Salem man agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for structures built on his Arlington Pond property that violated shoreland protection laws.

Michael Pantaleo of 20 Glen Road was cited after an inspection of the property in October 2006, when DES officials found a retaining wall, dock, large stone patio, fire pit, stairway and other structures all within the zone protected by the act and built without authorization, according to court documents.

Penalties for violations vary. In serious cases, the state Attorney General's Office will take the homeowner to court. There, they might receive a fine of $10,000 per day per violation.

But it's more common that DES would work with the homeowner to correct the problem and send them notice of an administrative fine, Magoon said.

That's what happened to Atkinson homeowner John Mason, who built a deck on his home that violated state wetland protection laws. The town has been battling Mason in court, and DES sent him an administrative order in September demanding he tear the deck down.

Mason filed a letter last week indicating he would appear in court in response to the town's lawsuit against him.

DES is allowed under state law to administer a $2,000 fine for wetlands violations and $5,000 for shoreland violations.

Magoon said DES allows homeowners to negotiate fines with them based on the severity of the violation, how cooperative they are and the economic benefit the homeowner gains from the violation.

"The penalty and what our enforcement is depends on a variety of factors," Magoon said.

But it can take a while to get to the point of any fine or penalty.

Shoreland cases often involve a lot of background research and can take time to resolve. Calls to the town to review building plans, site visits, and interviews with witnesses and neighbors can take months to determine whether the violator should be punished.

Two inspectors are dedicated to shoreland protection violations and six dedicated to wetlands permitting violations. But all inspectors are trained to spot all types of violations.

The second shoreland protection inspector is a new position this year and Magoon said it was a desperately needed addition to her team.

The caseload for all investigators is between 800 and 1,000 violations, according to Magoon.

"Obviously, he wasn't getting to everything," Magoon said.


Anonymous said...

Previous posters adamantly claimed shoreland protection violations by the Osborns.

According to this article it doesn't look to me they've violated any.

Some people owe the Osborns an apology if that's the case.

tim dziechowski said...

Maggie apparently didn't bother to tell reporter Eric Parry about the three page letter of deficiency which DES sent the Osborns on 12/1.

The Osborns are required among other things to come up with a plan by the end of December to clean up all of the erosion into Big Island Pond caused by land clearing and building practices in violation of the shoreland protection act.

Fines and other enforcement actions are likely if they don't clean up their act. They were granted a shoreland permit to build a house, not a road.

Nobody owes the Osborns an apology. They created the mess they are in.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Jack

Anonymous said...

This isn't the first letter the Osborns have received from the DES with requirements attached. To date they haven't answered one of the DES's concerns. The longer they put it off, the worse it will get for them.

Why is it that some rich people think they can break all the regulations they want and get away with it?

Looks like the DES is going to real in the big Osborn fish sooner or later with BIG fines. Someone has to put them in their place.

Anonymous said...

Lets get something straight! The only reason Maggie has money is that that property and money was given to her. She was in the previous owners will and got most of his estate. If she had to use her own money she would be living in Lawrence.
They are nothing but manipulating people that want their way no matter how many laws they break or whose property they destroy.
It about time this town grows some balls and cleans up the mess that a dozen or more property owners have created not following our building codes and restrictions.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Osborns bought 8 Valcat lane at foreclosure. Heaven only knows where the money came from. The previous owner is still alive. The rest of your post is correct.

Anonymous said...

The Osborn's should be ashamed of themselves !!!!! Who do they think they are?

Anonymous said...

There are others that think they are beyond or building and wetland codes. Too many people just do what they want, knowing it is wrong!