WINDHAM — If a local company hadn’t started removing trees, town officials might not have known a town ordinance had been overlooked.
The town of Windham filed a lawsuit against MacThompson Realty Inc. for violating a zoning ordinance related to altering terrain near a local body of water. The suit, filed in Rockingham County Superior Court, asks the company to comply with a stop work notice issued on July 29.
Calls to MacThompson Realty were not returned.
MacThompson Realty owns a nine-acre lot of undeveloped land near Cobbett’s Pond, and has been clearing trees. It wasn’t until the town discovered the company removing the tree stumps that officials realized the development needed a watershed permit.
“If you are in (the watershed) district and start using heavy machinery… it requires an application to the town,” said Community Development Director Rex Norman.
The ordinance was put in place around 2010 to help protect the environment around Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake, Norman said.
Property owners within the watershed district, as defined by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, have to apply for permits when doing development that adds an impervious surface to a property.
Impervious surface is anything water can’t get through, like a deck, a driveway or rooftop.
A minor watershed permit is needed if there is less than 2,500 square feet of impervious surface on a property and a major permit is needed if there is more.
This creates some confusion and added expense for people, Norman said.
Small additions in watershed districts, like firepits, which are not normally regulated, need a permit under this ordinance, Norman said.
The MacThompson property would likely fall into the major permit category, according to Norman. The company needs to show the town engineering designs related to their plans for the property and those plans need to be approved by the Planning Board.
The ordinance has not been strictly enforced since it was enacted, and town officials are currently looking over development within the watershed area, Norman said.
Three years after purchasing the property in October 2018, the company submitted notice of intent to cut wood, according to court documents. In July the town was alerted that the company was removing the stumps and had not received the watershed permit, according to court documents.
Once the town asked the company to get a permit, it submitted an incomplete application, according to court documents.
The company also needs an Alteration of Terrain permit from the DES, which the town hasn’t received, according to court documents.
MacThompson Realty acquired the Sawyer Road property for $400,000 from BJT Holding LLC, according to land transfer records.
No publicly available records show what is planned for the parcel.