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July 4, 2013

Salem won't reimburse Belanger's fees

SALEM, N.H. — The Zoning of Board Adjustment rejected a longtime local official’s bid for reimbursement of impact fees for what the town claimed was an illegal apartment.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday against the request by Rep. Ronald Belanger, R-Salem, to refund approximately $4,100 he said he never should have been forced to pay.

Town officials contend the apartment at Belanger’s North Main Street home was built without a permit. The 24-year state representative and Salem Planning Board member told the zoning board that town inspectors gave him the approvals he needed.

“Everybody signed off on them,” Belanger said. “I didn’t hide anything.”

But town officials said they knew nothing about the 10-year-old apartment until earlier this year. Belanger obtained a building permit in April after questions arose while he was refinancing his property.

Belanger said in an interview before the vote he would consider taking legal action if his request were denied, including subpoenaing town officials.

But the state representative and Salem Planning Board member wasn’t sure what his next move would be when questioned yesterday.

“I have to talk to my attorney,” he said. “I am not going to comment right now.”

Belanger insisted he was granted a building permit more than a decade ago. But when Belanger went to Town Hall to check his file for the permit several months ago, he said he was shocked.

“My folder was empty,” he told the board.

Belanger approached selectmen this spring to seek reimbursement of the impact fees, saying he should be exempt because the project was built two years before they were mandated by the town. Impact fees are charged for projects that would have a potential effect on town services.

Belanger accused the town’s planning staff of losing or removing documents from his folder, leading to a heated debate with Community Development Director William Scott.

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