2016-03-08 / Front Page

Group to protest justice center application

By Nancy A. Cavanaugh
ROCKINGHAM — Rockingham for Progress, a community activist group, has declared its intent to continue to fight against the construction of a proposed justice center following an application to the Planning and Zoning Office for a new location for the project.

“We’re happy the Liberty Mills project is no longer under consideration,” said Merritt Schipper, a member of the group, in a phone interview Friday. “We object to the new location. There will be very significant resistance.”

In late November 2015, Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark announced his intention to build a $23 million pre-trial detention facility and had a few locations chosen. One of them was the former Chemco building located along the riverfront in Bellows Falls, which became known as the Liberty Mills Justice Center.

Following a structural study of the building and public input, Clark announced early last week that he was no longer going to pursue a facility in that location.

Last Thursday afternoon, Clark submitted an application to the Planning and Zoning Office for an 11.7-acre piece of property located in Rockingham just north of Exit 6 on Route 5.

The application would be subject to the current zoning bylaws and would not be impacted by the zoning bylaw changes requested by a petition submitted by Rockingham for Progress that would inhibit the construction of an incarceration facility as large as the justice center.

“It is deeply concerning how [Clark] pulled a fast one on the community,” said Schnipper. “We have people who are going to be taking a closer look at the application and we’ll be objecting it.

“The real concern is his astounding disregard of the public,” he continued. “I am beyond shocked that he’ll shove a project down the throat of the public who doesn’t want it.”

Clark, however, doesn’t see how he “pulled a fast one.”

“I told them from the first group meeting that I was looking at other locations in Rockingham and Westminster,” Clark said Monday. “It is interesting that their concerns were focused on traffic, distance to schools, in a residential area, along the river and the lot being too small. I addressed all those concerns with the new location, but I’m still hearing the same things.

“Two hours before I submitted my application, they submitted a request for public records on the application. Who’s really pulling the fast one?” Clark continued.

The joint Rockingham Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustments will be doing a site plan review on the project at its March 23 meeting.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2016-03-08 digital edition