Hampstead to consider suit to test facilities law

September 15, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

If the Hampstead Town Council approves a resolution introduced Tuesday, the town will sue itself.

Councilman Wayne Thomas, concerned with crowded schools and congested roads, introduced the resolution to "engage the services of a qualified attorney to review the Hampstead code and, if warranted, file suit."

The suit would test the municipal adequate facilities law, which deters development without available schools, roads, water and sewers.

"If the court upholds the law, then we will know we have the authority to disapprove developments," said Mr. Thomas. "That law is on the books for a reason, and we are supposed to use it."

Hampstead's two elementary schools are crowded, with no new schools planned for several years. Another elementary school is planned in the Manchester area in several years, which could ease crowding of Hampstead schools.

The resolution also calls for an injunction to prevent further development until the issue is decided.

The council tabled action on the resolution until its October meeting to give members time for study.

"I don't take this action of filing a law suit lightly," Mr. Thomas said. "It is the only way to resolve if our adequate facilities law is worth the paper it's written on."

At a special session Aug. 12, the Town Council called for a 90-day moratorium on construction until members could review the adequate facilities. The council notified the town Planning and Zoning Commission by letter of its recommendation.

In Hampstead, the commission has zoning authority and can approve projects on its own.

The letter from the council was not included in the Aug. 29 commission agenda. None of the nearly 75 residents in attendance was allowed to comment before the commission approved nearly 500 more new homes in the town. Public comment was relegated to the end of the evening, after all action had been taken.

"If the council feels laws are not being followed according to the Hampstead code, it can file an injunction," Mr. Thomas said.

He said his resolution may be the only way to halt what he called the tragedy of unchecked growth.

"I hope the resolution gives us a speedy answer," he said. "We must find out if inadequate facilities are enough reason to deny a developer."

Mr. Thomas said he disagrees with Charles O. Fisher Sr., town attorney, who has said the town cannot use schools, which are not a town function, as a criterion to hold up development.

"Hampstead law states the town must have the ability to provide or receive facilities for its residents," Mr. Thomas said. "When you create a plan for a town, you provide facilities to meet that plan."

He said those facilities include schools, roads, water and sewers.

"Somebody put thought into that law," he said. "Let's test it."

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