Housing Appeals Board dismisses latest Silver Scone appeal

Jane Elwell, owner of Silver Scone Teas, speaks with one of her representatives during a court hearing.

Jane Elwell, owner of Silver Scone Teas, speaks with one of her representatives during a court hearing. —STAFF FILE PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-25-2024 12:02 PM

Modified: 06-25-2024 12:18 PM


The state’s Housing Appeals Board canceled a scheduled preliminary hearing on an appeal of New Ipswich’s approval of a variance for Silver Scone Teas, instead granting a motion to dismiss the case.

Silver Scone Teas is a business run by Jane Elwell out of her historic home on River Road in New Ipswich. Elwell initially began running the business, holding themed tea parties and bridal showers, without the proper town approvals. After shutting down in response to a cease-and-desist order from the town, Elwell has since been granted the variance and site plan review approvals needed to run the business in the residential area, with multiple conditions around the frequency and timing of the events.

Neighbors of the tea party business have objected to both zoning and planning board approvals allowing the business to operate up to four times a month in the town’s Village District, citing traffic and disruption to the rural, residential neighborhood. The group has appealed multiple decisions made in favor of Silver Scone Teas, including to Town Board, the Superior Court and the Housing Appeals Board, which has already once overturned the approval of a variance for the business. The variance has since gone through a rehearing, and was reissued

The most-recent appeal was regarding a decision of the town’s Zoning Board, which upheld the Planning Board’s approval of Silver Scones’ site plan application. It was set to go before the Housing Appeals Board on Thursday for another appeal, but the preliminary hearing was canceled. Instead, the board issued an order granting a motion to dismiss the case, which had previously been filed by Elwell’s attorney on the grounds that it missed the appeal timeframe.

In its order, the Housing Board found that the appeal was filed on March 22, and that it was appealing a decision made by the Zoning Board on Feb. 1. New Hampshire law allows the appeal of a municipal decison to a superior court within 30 days.

“As argued by the Intervenor in its Motion to Dismiss, the relevant time frames in this matter were clearly not met by the Appellants when they filed their appeal with the HAB,” the Housing Appeals Board wrote in its order. “The Appellants’ failure to properly appeal is fatal to the appeal’s standing before this board. Specifically, because the Appellants’ appeal was not filed with the HAB until March 22, 2024, their appeal is untimely under the statutory requirements of New Hampshire law.”

Nancy Clark, who represents neighbors Richard Craig and Sharin Smeeth, Robert and Annmarie Fournier, Stan Zabierek and Louise Delpapa, Gregory and SoyooCaltabiano, Christopher O’Leary, Elizabeth Freeman and Colin Carroll, has already filed a motion for reconsideration with the board. In her motion, Clark argued that the neighbor group had filed a timely appeal on March 3 with the Superior Court, initially attempting to attach it to an ongoing appeal of a Planning Board decision, and were directed by Judge Charles Temple to file the new appeal as a separate action.

Clark requested that the board issue a stay on its order to dismiss the matter and schedule a hearing on her motion to reconsider, or to reverse their order to dismiss and reschedule the case for a hearing on its merits.

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The Housing Appeals Board is a three-member panel established by the state in 2020, which accepts appeals of planning and zoning decisions made at the town level. It can adjudicate appeals of site plan and subdivision decisions, decisions on variances, special exceptions, waivers, administrative appeals and ordinance controls, among other issues. Decisions made by the Housing Appeals Board can be appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.