Gas company’s lawsuit against town claims biasBy DAMIEN FISHER
Union Leader Correspondent
September 24. 2018 10:57PM
CHESTERFIELD — A lawsuit filed against the town of Chesterfield’s Zoning Board of Adjustment claims the board’s chairman and her husband, the town’s Board of Selectmen chairman, are keeping Xpress Natural Gas from using its property on Mill Road.
Michael Bentley, the attorney for Xpress Natural Gas (XNG) claims that zoning board chairman Kristin McKeon and her husband, Jon McKeon, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, violated open meeting rules when they talked privately earlier this year about the town hiring an attorney for the zoning board.
The company, which has previously sparred with the town over zoning rules, claims that the couple likely had a private conversation about hiring an attorney after XNG’s first zoning board meeting in January. Jon McKeon proposed hiring an attorney for the zoning board during the Board of Selectmen meeting held the day after the zoning board hearing chaired by his wife. Bentley claims this hire came after the couple talked outside of the eyes of the public.
“These communications regarding the public’s business between husband and wife, who, at the same time, were and continue to be public officials within the Town of Chesterfield was and are highly improper since they are concluded in private and out of purview of the public,” Bentley states in the lawsuit, filed in the Cheshire Superior Court.
Bentley’s lawsuit claims the McKeons, who own property across the border in Brattleboro, Vt., which gets used by trucks without their permission, showed bias against XNG using the Mill Road property as a truck terminal.
The company claims that property was used, legally, as a truck terminal by the prior tenants.
The zoning board denied the truck terminal use, partially on the grounds that the last use of the property as a truck terminal ended more than 12 months before XNG sought an exemption.
According to Bentley’s lawsuit, the zoning board additionally rewrote the definition of a truck terminal during a February meeting to exclude the proposal brought by XNG from qualifying. Bentley claims that John Zannotti, the zoning board member who proposed the change in definition, was likely given the definition during a closed door meeting with the zoning board’s attorney.
Bentley also claims that Kristin McKeon introduced information into meetings as evidence she had gathered on her own outside of the board meetings.
“All board members, including (chairman) McKeon, are to receive all evidence at public hearings and have no right to conduct independent investigations on their own,” Bentley wrote.
Bentley accuses the zoning board, and Kristin McKeon specifically, of “cherry picking” facts in order to get to the determination she wanted, which was to deny the company the use of the property as a trucking terminal.
The case is set to proceed in court.