Conservation commission idea proposed


NEWRY — Selectmen at Tuesday night’s meeting listened to a proposal to create a Newry Conservation Commission, gave Code Enforcement Officer David G. Bonney a third job and OK’d a liquor license for a new business, Wilderness House.

Former longtime Selectman Steve Wight proposed that selectmen create the commission as an advisory group to the board. A conservation commission, Wight said, could handle such things as watershed habitat work and trees along roadsides, for starters.

“It gives landowners a place to go and talk,” Wight said.

Bonney said it was a good idea and the board agreed. Selectmen then asked Wight to start putting documentation together about the commission organization and its tasks.

In other business, Bonney, who is also Newry’s plumbing inspector, agreed to take on Selectman Gary Wight’s job as Newry Emergency Management Agency director.

Gary Wight, who was also Newry’s fire chief, had to relinquish both jobs on Monday after annual town meeting voters elected him to a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen.

Town Administrator Loretta Powers said the Newry Fire Department will hold an election at its monthly meeting Monday, March 15, to choose a new fire chief and officers.

Earlier, selectmen convened a public hearing to consider granting a liquor license to Wilderness House, which was represented by Justin Van Til and Kevin Thurston. Wilderness House is a four-season rental/retail outdoor recreation center housed in Steve and Peggy Wight’s former Sunday River Inn, which was built in 1965. The property continues to function as a Nordic ski center.

Van Til said they want to sell beer and wine from a cooler in the Wilderness House’s Wilderness Cafe, which offers espresso coffee, Panini sandwiches and specialty items provided by Cafe DiCocoa on Main Street in Bethel. Van Til said the liquor would be sold from 3 to 9 p.m. daily.

Planning Board Chairman Brooks Morton suggested that Van Til and Thurston also bring the matter to the Planning Board’s regular meeting on Wednesday, March 17.

Morton said that although beverages have been sold in the past at Sunday River Inn, they didn’t include alcohol. That, both Morton and Selectman Chairman Jim Largess said, could be construed as a change of use, which would require a new permit.

Additionally, Bonney said Wilderness House is considering possibly expanding seating on its deck and in the basement for the cafe. He suggested they be allowed to use the space as permitted for now until Wilderness House can get a new permit to add more deck space.

Morton updated selectmen on the Planning Board’s progress to create a new ordinance to regulate wind farms. Morton said he is currently creating a map of public lands and Mahoosuc Land Trust lands in Newry, and land on which the state’s Grafton Loop Trail is located to better identify possible areas where wind turbines might be proposed.

Largess acknowledged the work.

“We appreciate you guys getting out ahead of us on this,” he said.

Earlier, Administrator Powers asked Morton to send a letter similar to that of Bethel’s to businessman Rick Dunton, owner of Locke-Summit Estates, a large subdivision proposed on land in both Bethel and Newry.

Both Bethel and Newry have a law that requires subdivision owners to seek new permitting if they fail to have substantial infrastructure in place two years after planners first grant a subdivision permit.

Whereas Bethel substitute planning assistant Sarah Tucker notified Dunton by e-mail on Feb. 26 that his permit was about to expire, Powers and selectmen asked Morton and planners to follow Tucker’s lead and also notify Dunton.

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