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Proposed ordinance targeting 'nuisance' items sparks debate over property rights in Raymond

Union Leader Correspondent

May 23. 2018 1:07PM
Raymond selectmen are debating a proposed ordinance aimed at cleaning up certain properties. This image was included with the proposed health and maintenance ordinance. (COURTESY)

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RAYMOND — A battle over property rights is brewing as selectmen consider a town ordinance aimed at cracking down on properties that some residents believe are littered with junk that could attract rodents.

Town officials have been trying to address concerns initially raised by Pat Couturier, who lives on Regina Avenue in the Green Hills Estates manufactured housing community.

“There’s people that have been doing this stuff for 10 or 15 years and it’s just continuing. It’s just escalating,” she told selectmen at Monday’s meeting.

She insisted that New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto “doesn’t mean you can do everything that you want.”

The proposed ordinance is more stringent and defines nuisance as “any condition or use of property which unreasonably interferes with health, safety, peace, comfort or convenience of the general community and is detrimental to the property of others or which causes or tends to cause substantial diminution in the value of other property in the neighborhood in which such property is located.”

Some of the items that could be considered a nuisance are junk, trash, debris, disabled cars, trucks or boats, vehicle parts, waste, old lumber, abandoned furniture, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, appliances, containers, compost piles, and personal property of any kind that is no longer in use.

Anyone who fails to comply could face a fine of up to $1,000 if the nuisance is not addressed within 10 days after being notified.

The board plans to vote on the ordinance on June 11. Meanwhile, Health Officer David Hall is making a list of the properties that could be violating existing regulations and propose solutions.

Hall said existing regulations address junkyards, which are defined as two or more unregistered vehicles on the property.

“Unless I see rodents or anything, unless I see a sofa or whatever that I know has been wet and harboring rodents the health concerns are very hard for me to define what those would be,” he told selectmen Monday.

Selectman John “Jack” Barnes, the board’s chairman, suggested it might be better for supporters to put it to a town vote by submitting the proposed ordinance as a petitioned warrant article next year.

Barnes said that if the property is posing a health problem, then the town would address it, but selectmen are struggling with the definition of nuisance because something that one person finds to be a nuisance might not be considered a nuisance to someone else.

“If I want my grass to grow 12 inches high or if I want to have my son or my two sons bring their cars in the yard and park them so they can work on them, that’s not Live Free or Die. That’s my right. I own the property… I don’t need Big Brother telling me I can’t do this and I can’t do that,” he said.

Resident Jane Bailey said she felt the ordinance would open up a can of worms.

“The ordinance is taking the freedom out of the hands of all Raymond residents,” she said.

Resident June Dickerson brought a small America flag to the meeting as she spoke against the ordinance, saying it could prevent some people who collect cars to fix up or antique farm equipment for lawn decorations from enjoying their hobbies because someone could complain they’re a nuisance.

Raymond Local and County Government

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