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Petition asking Chester board to renew farm lease falls short

Sunday News Correspondent

October 28. 2017 9:03PM
Jay and Angela Sweet are looking to place their horses as they face eviction from the farm they care for in Chester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CHESTER — A petition with 124 signatures failed to convince selectmen to end eviction proceedings against a local family who’s renting the historic Spring Hill Farm.

Resident Brenda Galotti-Holland organized the petition and presented it to selectmen Thursday night.

The petition was aimed at getting the board to stop the eviction and renew the lease of Jay and Angela Sweet for the town-owned property.

Galotti-Holland launched the petition supporting the Sweets after learning that selectmen weren’t going to extend their lease. The family of four has lived on the farm for the past few years and were told in June that their lease wouldn’t be renewed.

Jay Sweet is related to Muriel Church, a schoolteacher who set up the Spring Hill Farm Trust in 1996 and donated the farm with 400 acres to the town. She also provided an endowment “with the understanding that the property will be preserved as open space in perpetuity, and to the extent possible, as a working farm.”

Selectmen decided earlier this year that farm trustees were mismanaging the farm and that they wanted to explore ways for the farm to be used for community events and other activities.

According to Galotti-Holland, 102 of the 124 petition signers are registered voters.

The petition didn’t specifically request a special Town Meeting for voters to decide whether to force selectmen to renew the lease, but Galotti-Holland said they asked for the meeting and were denied. She said she was told the request for the special meeting needed to be included in the petition.

Because the town’s annual meeting isn’t until May, any town vote on the dispute before then would require a special Town Meeting.

Galotti-Holland said Friday that she’s not sure whether she’ll continue the push for a new petition.

“At this point in time I just need to do some more research to figure out if getting another petition and requesting a special town meeting is going to be productive,” she said.

Galotti-Holland said it’s likely that the eviction proceedings will be resolved long before next May’s Town Meeting.

“No matter what the outcome, I hope the Sweet family knows that the community supported them,” she said.

Chester Local and County Government

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