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Journal Opinion
Bradford , Vermont
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March 13, 2019     Journal Opinion
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March 13, 2019
 

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oln Times Past (continued from I) These pitch holders, their claims now legitimized, were willing to set aside land for a school and a meetinghouse, but not for a town common. Why do many local communi- ties have beautiful “ornamental commons” framed by 'historic houses and public buildings? In those places the central common was generally satisfied by the generosity of large landowners from among the early settlers. The commons Corner provide an excellent ex- ample of this generosity. The North Common, adjacent to the brick church, originally belonged to those whose houses ringed the property. It was given to the town in 1788 by a group led by Col. CharlesJohnston. In 1807, it was expanded when a store on the southwest corner was relocated. The South Common was given to the town around 1800 by tavern keeper Asa Boynton. Over the years, these properties fencing and a bandstand‘improved the properties. Orford’ 5 west village has one of the grandest commons in the area. Beginning in 1773, several major landowners began to deed land on both sides of the road for the purposes of a training field, acad- emy, meetinghouse and burial ground. Known as the East and West Commons, these open spaces have been complimented by a mall that stretches along Orford’s Main Street. This mall, with both private and public ownership, at the center of the commons led one visitor in the mid—1 8005 to refer to Orford as “the most charming country village.” Framed by the West Cemetery and the grand houses of the Ridge on the east and private and public buildings on the west, the commons continue to be a centerpiece of the village. The community commons is at the center of Newbury Village. In 1 833, the New England Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased, with help from the town, a portion of the property, which until that time was private farmland. Newbury Seminary was built on the property. In 1868, the seminary moved to Montpelier. In 1888, the local school district purchased the prop- erty and ownership later passed to the Newbury town school district. In 1912, a monument to Revolutionary War Gen. Jacob Bayley was erected. The next year, a major fire destroyed a number of buildings on the common’ 5 periphery. Describedas one of“Newbury’ s fisaeredpossessions,” and called the “Village "C(Sr‘hmon,‘ it has hosted numerous festivals, school activi- ties, flea markets, concerts, wed- dings, and ball games. In June 1921, the Barre Daily Times described members of the Newbury High alumni reunion strolling across “the old common which holds many a story of happiness and grief, laughter and tears.” ' As is true of other town commons, the property’s use has been the subject of controversies over the years. Recently, the elementary school board voted to subdivide that portion of the commons under their control, setting off the land immediately surrounding the school building to remain property of the district and convey to the town the remaining portion. A substantial portion along the north side of the commons is owned by the Newbury Woman’s Club. Thetford Hill’s commons is in the center of the historic district. The original commons was much smaller and had the town’ 5 meeting- house at its southern end. The property was enlarged in 1795 and again in 1818. In 1830, the meetinghouse was moved to an adjacent property north of the commons. 'As the attached 1877 map shows, the commons was ringed by private homes, an acad- emy, and post office. Since 1913, the commons has been the site of a summer festival as well‘as other community gatherings. ' Veteran’s Park in Groton Vil- lage offers a gazebo along with opportunities for recreation and civic events. Puffer’s and Frost Ball Fields are also Groton town prop- erty. Dotting town commons in the area are civic structures and monu- ments. In Fairlee, the 1926 Soldiers Monument and flagpole stand oppo- site the recently refurbished 1924 bandstand. In Lyme, a granite soldier stands at parade rest atop a memorial to that community’s Civil War veterans. In Warren,lthe Redstone Missile was brought-to the town commons in 1971. Over the years, village commons have hosted animal pounds, commu- nal water boxes, cannons, whipping posts, flagpoles, burial tombs, jails, horse sheds, fountains, and com- memorative plantings. Pierrnont’s pocket-sized com- mon was eliminated in 2012 by the reconfiguration of the adjacent road. That year, after much discus- sion, the Veterans War Memorial that was the centerpiece of the tiny common was relocated to the new Veterans Memorial Garden in the in Haverhill ' South Lawn Cemetery. No local town common looks the same as it did 150 years ago. Buildings have been destroyed, moved, renovated, and replaced over the years. Structure fires have altered buildings facing local commons. Changing social and economic factors have significantly reduced the small businesses and district schools that once ringed these greens. Regular summer flea mar- kets held in Fairlee’s Samuel Morey Memorial Park are an example of the new uses for older pieces of property. . While Bradford does not have a commons, it does have common land owned by the town and school. In 1946, the Bradford school district acquired 65 acres of forest on Mount Tug from from Jessie Blaker Low. An additional 60 acres donated by Nina St. John were added in 1961. Known as the Low-St. John Forest, the property is used as an outdoor laboratory for school projects as well as public recre- ation. ‘ In 1946, the school district voted to obtain land behind the Bradford Academy building for a recreation field. Led by members of the Bradford Community Club, the largely unusable swamp land was rehabilitated into ballfields. Re- cently the ownership of what became known as Memorial Field was transferred to the town of Bradford. In 1994, Bradford began the acquisition of portions of Wright’s Mountain. Since then, the property has been expanded to over 500 acres with the creation of miles of hiking trails. Recently the site was honored by the National Park Service and included on its list of Nationa Recreation Trails. ‘ Additionally, common land in Bradford includes Elizabeth’ 5 Park on Fairground Road, Boch Memo- rial Park near Bradford Falls and Denny Park on North Main Street. What the town lacked in a central 'omamental common in its early decades has been more than com- pensated for by these pieces of common land. As with Bradford’s Wright’s Mountain and Low-St. John Forest, newer town common land is more likely a municipally-owned town forest. Acquiredwith public funds, grants, private donations, and with the help of groups .such as the Upper Valley Land Trust, these heavily. forested tracts are maintained for conservation, waterfihed prgtectigrg, and recreation. " ' One estimate places 67,000 acres of preserved land across 172 municipal forests in Vermont. Thetford owns four parcels of forested land of which the 26 1 -acre Hughes Forest and 171-acre Thetford Town Forest are the largest. As with properties in other communities, Thethrd has a con- servation commission to manage these forests. The Bushwood Community For- est combines public property be- longing to the towns of West Fairlee, Fairlee, and Bradford. Additionally, F airlee owns the F airlee Town Forest. That 770-acre property was acquired in the 19805 from the Lange family. In Corinth, the town forest, F.X. Shea Town Forest, was donated by Sue Shea and named for her late husband. Most recently, Newbury voters purchased 636 acres to create the Tucker Mountain Town Forest. This was accomplished with $25,000 in town fundsalong with the assistance of the Vermont Land Trust, the Leach family, and donations from numerous private parties. One of the municipal properties in Haverhill is the Kinder Forest, a 2 1 -acre parcel initially acquired by the town in the 19205 to settle back taxes. The Woodsville Community Field and Veterans Park on Central Street belong to the Woodsville Precinct. Nearby Railroad Park is owned by the town. Since the 19205, the field‘has been the site of .numerous community events. Hazen Park on f A Pro essional Corporation .of Certified Public Accountants ..§trainlng’z. Hazen Drive honors John Hazen, Haverhill’s founder. As with many municipal forests, Warren’s town forest offers hiking trails. In addition to this common property owned by local municipali- ties, state and federal agencies own large tracts of land in both states. It is estimated that over 13 percent of New Hampshire land is under federal ownership and 2.86 percent is under state ownership. Vermont’ 5 corresponding figures are 6.6 per- cent and 1.61 percent of land. Local property that falls under this category include Thetford Hill State Forest and Groton State Forest in Vermont. In New Hampshire, there are the Bedell Bridge State Park in Haverhill, the Black Moun— tain State Forest in Haverhill and Benton, the Tarleton State Park in Piermont, the Davis-White State Park in Warren, and the White Mountain National Forest as well as properties occupied by state and federal agencies. Additionally, Haverhill has several Grafton County properties. While this column deals with pieces of common land, there are many properties in each town that are common in the sense that they are owned by local governments for the public good. Those include municipal buildings, highway ga- rages, water and sewage facilities, school buildings, cemeteries, firehouses, libraries, beaches and boat launches and roads. Annually, in early March, the citizens of area towns are called together to vote on issues related to these common’ properties. Those topics include the pooling of their funds for the properties’ operation and maintenance as well as issues over their management. In doing so, we continue the tradition begun by the freemen of colonial New England almost four centuries ago. along with the Orford mall are centerpieces to what one mid- 1800s visitor called “the most charming country village.” They were established in the late 18'h century. house and burying ground. JO PHOTO BY LARRY COFFlN A — e common at Thetford Hill in 1877 reflected many of the characteris- tics of similar “spaces in local communities. This Beers’ “Orange County Atlas” illustration shows it ringed by private homes, an academy, businesses and the town’s church. r COURTESY PHOTO BY BRADFORD HISTORICAL SOCIETY WALK BACK IN TIME PlERMONT—The Piermont Historical . Society will present “A Walk Back in Time: The Secrets of Cellar Holds” with Adair Mulligan on March 17 at 2 pm. in the Old Church Building, Piermont. S'r. JOHNSBURY - BRADFORD - Dwight E. Lakey, CPA Robin C. Gauthier, CPA 800—516-CPAS we Gun Shep inc. . GOT BILLS? We Pay Cash! 103 Bank Street, Lebanon 603-448-3644 Hours: Tuesdays-Thursdays 105, Friday 10-6, Saturdays 10—4 68 Years in Business for,._,rthe purposes of a, academy’ meeting, I 0 that towr‘rmeeting’th’ere had been discussion 'at‘sel’ectboard meetings about the possibility‘ofPowder House Hill being put up for sale as it was believed to be a town-owned property. At that time the select board asked Lynn Wheeler a local .. attorney. The end result of them sending their concerns or questions off to the attorney most often results in attorney/ privately one hour before the public meeting. If you are‘ interested in his suggestions please show up Saturday and ask March 13, 2019—JOURNAL OPINION—Page 5 0Concert (continued from page 1) during an evening of classical music and improvisation performed by soprano Katharine DeBoer and pianist, James Winn. DeBoer, who lives in Bradford, is the former director of vocal studies at the University ofNevada- Reno and holds both Master and Doctoral degrees in vocal music. Winn is the piano and composition professor at the University of Nevada-Reno and made his profes- sional debut at 13 with the Denver Symphony. Both are critically acclaimed and award-winning musi- cians who have performed all over the world. ‘ According to West Newbury . resident and church clerk, Catherine Kidder, the concert was DeBoer’s suggestion. Kidder and DeBoer met .while members of North Country Chorus years ago and felt that, as Winn would be in the area to accompany DeBoer in another performance, they could use the opportunity to give the church’s new piano a warm welcome. Stevens and his team have been working hard to make sure the piano will sound its best for the concert, giving it numerous tunings to get it to concert pitch. Matt Sargent, who works with Stevens, tuned the piano just last week and will give it an additional touch—up tuning to make sure it’s in peak condition just before the concert. ‘ DeBoer, Winn, and the Baldwin grand piano will perform an evening of Haydn, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, and improvisation by Winn at the West Newbury Church on March 2 1 at 7:30 pm. Admission is by donation and refreshments will be served following the concert. OSearch (continued from page The district is now beginning its search for two principals for the Samuel Morey and Westshire e1- ementary schools, abandoning this year’ 3 configuration of one elemen- tary school principal and one assistant principal who were to work alternately and together in the two schools. Email: crichards0n@j0news.com. GRAND PIANO SET TO GO—dudy Vaughan is shown playing the Baldwin grand piano bequeathed to West Newbury Congregational Church by longtime residents Win and Phyllis Ellis. JO PHOTO BY REBECCA MALLAFtY Blake Memorial Library EAST CORINTH—Blake MemOrial Library and the East Corinth Congregation Church are sponsoring a potluck dinner followed by an evening of secular community singing on March 15 at 5:30 pm. at the church. Children and families are welcome. Contact event coordinator Wendy Heidenreich at 439-6 1 70 with any song requests prior to the event, and she’ll do her best to provide lyrics. Play an instrument or have a favorite songbook? Feel free to bring them along. No musical experience necessary to enjoy this event. Free tax preparation/filing assistance for families is being offered again this year at the Blake Memorial Library On Thursdays from 4- 7 pm. through April 1 1 . Appointments can be drop-in or scheduled ahead. For more information about the program, see the library website. Tenney Memorial Library NEWBURY—Free books are availble forNewbury children ages birth to five years old thanks to Dolly Patton’ s Imagination Library and Library Trustee Carol Cottrell, who wrote the grant. Anyone who has a child in this age range or knows of one, should go to the Tenney Memorial Library and give them the child’ 5 address. This will start children on the road to receiving a flee book every month until they are five, mailed to their home. Wells River children are also eligible for this program. Free books are available for adults, too. Thanks to the Vermont Hurnanities‘Council, Tenney has again received a grant for the 2019 Vermont Reads books. There are copies of Senator John Lewis’s graphic novel March at the library. The library will also be planning in conjunction with with Baldwin Memorial Library, and the Newbury Woman’ 5 Club, events around this book that tells the story of the Civil RightsMarch on Selma, Alabama in which John Lewis participated, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. W PAID ADVERTISEMENT ' A REQUEST TO THE TAXPAYERS OF HAVERHILL, NH Dear Taxpayers: . Perhaps you have never heard of Powder House Hill or possibly you’ve heard too much about Powder House Hill. For those of you who don’t know about Powder House Hill it is located in Haverhill Corner, NH. It is right beyond the road that will take you to Bedell Bridge Park. You probably wouldn’t even notice it if you have not heard about it. ' As you drive by it on Dartmouth College Highway you would only see a very steep, overgrown bank. The acreage of Powder House Hill is approximately 5.2 acres. We own land and a house on the south west side of Powder House Hill and some land on the north side of the hill.‘Attown meeting in 2017 there Was a petitioned article on the warrant asking fir; Powder HouseHill to go up for sale. That article, was tableddue‘to a question about the wording of the article. Prior a» title abstractor to do research on Powder House Hill. She reported her findings to the board of selectmen in October 2016. A condensed version of her report is as follows: “First at the Registry of Deeds, 1 granteed the Town of Haverhill to determine if that specific property was ever conveyed to the town. While I could identify some land that was in the general area of Powder Hill, I did not clearly identify the lot in question.” “I also tried to run back the former Hal Leigh Family irrevocable Trust property.” (Hal Leigh Was the former owner of the house and 1/3 acre of land that we own that abuts Powder House Hill). She explains that she was not able to clearly identify the property in the early 1900’s but goes on to say “However, I was able to skip back 'and' found a deed that defines the right of way on that property to Powder Hill” she provided a copy of that deed. Mrs. Wheeler also reported to the board that two parcels had been deeded to the Haverhill Cemetery Corporation that made up the 5.2 acres of that property. It is important to note that back in 2016 the question was raised if the deeds to Powder House Hill had ever been transferred to the town of Haverhill. Fast forward to the fall of 2017 the Haverhill Heritage Commission hired a surveyor by the name of Roy Saboum to do preliminary deeds research on Powder House Hill. They paid Mr. Sabourn approximately $1200 for this research which is ultimately taxpayer money as they are fimded by the town. His report dated January 4, 2018 questioned if there may be boundary line discrepancies. He felt the piece of land deeded to the Haverhill Cemetery Corporation which is referred to as a “tail” which runs parallel to our property was most definitely the access to the cemetery. He felt that there were many unanswered questions and that he would suggest a full blown survey. His estimate for that survey was $8000. In this report it was also confirmed that the deeds to Powder House Hill were made out to the Haverhill Cemetery Corporation. The report from Lynn Wheeler and from Mr. Sabourn should have raised a red flag to the town that the land known as Powder House Hill may not be legally owned by the Town of Haverhill. At the January 8, 2018 Selectboard meeting Mr. Fortier, chair of the Selectboard asked the board to put an article in the warrant asking the taxpayers to approve $8000 to have a town owned piece of property known as Powder House Hill to be surveyed. January 20, 2018 Mr. F ortier went to the Budget Advisory Committee to explain to them why the board would be asking the tax payers for $8000 for a survey. He was questioned by a member of the committee as to why so much money for a survey. ‘He explained to the committee that the Heritage Commission had hired a surveyor to do preliminary work on the‘deeds to see who owns what and when the deeds were transferred. He reported that the surveyor was very confident that there is a right of way to Powder House Hill that was given to the town. (The Heritage Commission received a report from the surveyor on January 4, 2018. There was nothing in that report indicating that he felt confident there was a right of way to Powder House Hill. There was also do report as to who owns what and when or if the deeds had been transferred) He went on to justify the $8000 by saying “I think he (Mr. Saboum) is a cut above your regular-type surveyor. He was questioned why it was not included in the Heritage or Historical Society budget. His reply “well it is town-owned land and the Heritage Commission has little to no money and the Historical Society has agreed verbally to help us out but 1 think that really that is town-owned land and should come out of the town budget. A member asked; if the properties around Powder House Hill have been surveyed than it should be pretty easy to establish if there is a right of way. If you are surveyed all the way around than that should be quick and easy. To that Mr. F ortier responded “The one part that is a little undecided is the Hal Leigh propertygwhich 1 think Mike Lavoie owns now. It appears that the original right of way perhaps went right through there”. From the beginning of the discussion of Powder House Hill there have been many misleading statements made. It has been clear from the very beginning that a very small, but vocal group had an agenda. The deed in Mrs. Wheeler’s report did not describe a right of way to Powder Hill through our property perhaps even through our house or garage. (There was a lot of time, money and energy spent on our part to prove this statement to be inaccurate) Mr. Sabourn did not indicate to the Heritage Commission that he was confident that a right of way went through our property. But despite this, a small group of people spread the rumors and speculation. They reported that for years it was felt that there has been a right of way up through our property. They wrote articles in the papers supporting these speculations and they continued to tell the taxpayers that this was town~owned land. At town meeting last year, a speaker in support of not selling Powder House Hill suggested that we were land developers and would only want the property for personal financial gain. Again speculation and hearsay. Our name and our property has been slandered by articles published in newspapers with information that was not true. a « * We have spent a lot of time in researching deeds, transcribing audio from board meetings and just showing up at the Selectboard meetings to stay on top of the discussions surrounding Powder House Hill. The board has been able to shield themselves from making decisions or giving answers by making motions to send the questions off to the town’s Client privilege so we are not able to know the results of our concerns and queStions. This is very frustrating as there have been many mistakes and alleged improprieties throughout this process and no one is held accountable. At last year’s town meeting, there was a ballot vote on an article asking for Powder House Hill to go up for sale. The vote failed. There was also an article asking the taxpayers to spend $8000 on a town-owned property known as Powder House Hill for a survey. It was a voice vote and it passed. There has been much discussion throughout this past year at Selectboard meetings. There was trouble around the bidding process for the survey that the taxpayers approved. (Because the survey was over $5000 it had to be put out to bid) There Were many mistakes made in that process and it delayed the bid proceSs. We were told time and time again that the purpose of this survey was to prove or disprove that a right of way existed across or through our property and that if it was proven that a right of way existed that the town would negotiate to take land from us for an easier access to Powder House Hill. The piece of our property in question is a one-third acre parcel. There was no where on that parcel that could be given for an easier access to Powder House Hill. This meant that the access would have to be given on our surrounding property. This town used fear and intimidation through misleading information to try and take land from us for an easier access to Powder House Hill. Because of the mistakes made in the bidding process and the length of time it took we lost the sale of our house and property. The title on our property was flawed due to the accusations that a right of way possibly went through our property or our buildings and that a survey would need to be done in order to clear those questions up. The taxpayers of the Town of Haverhill deserve to know the facts and you deserve transparency from the board of selectmen. This issue may not directly affect you as it has us but it is your money being spent and the longer it goes unsettled the more of the tax payers money will be spent and to what end. Please show up this Saturday, March 16‘h at 9:00am. We have been told the town‘s attorney will be there to answer questions as there is another article on the warrant concerning Powder House Hill. The attorney attended the March 4m selectboard meeting. He met with the board questions. . Sincerely, Dawn & Mike Lavoie