dispute

PETERBOROUGH — The Monadnock Rod and Gun Club has not yet begun paying the nearly $650,000 that a court ruled it owes abutters to the club’s Jaffrey Road property, according to the abutters’ lawyer.

Judge David A. Anderson of Hillsborough County Superior Court’s northern branch in Manchester ordered the gun club last year to compensate Bridgette and Scott Perry, who own 49 acres northeast of the club, for having unlawfully encroached on a portion of their property.

That judgment, in March 2020, covers the costs, as estimated by consultants, of remediating soil contamination, restoring wetlands and removing soil from the site, which the gun club started using over a decade ago for part of its outdoor shooting range and archery trails. It followed a court ruling the previous year rejecting the club’s attempt to claim that portion of the Perrys’ property.

The gun club has yet to make payments toward the $648,402 it owes the Perrys, according to L. Phillips Runyon III, the Peterborough attorney representing the couple.

Runyon said Tuesday the club had not indicated how or when it intends to compensate the Perrys and that neither he nor his clients had heard from club officials since Anderson’s ruling last year. The couple may request a court hearing to arrange those payments, Runyon said, but will likely wait until the resumption of in-person hearings. Most hearings have been held remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’d like to be able to have a live hearing on that issue, which really isn’t feasible at this point,” he said.

Since the club did not participate in a hearing last year to determine compensation for the Perrys, when it had a chance to submit information about its finances, Runyon said he is unfamiliar with the club’s ability to make those payments. (With no testimony from the gun club, Anderson approved compensation worth the full cost of what three consultants estimated would be needed to address environmental damage caused by the club’s use of the Perrys’ property.)

Reached Wednesday, Monadnock Rod and Gun Club President Ken Caisse declined to confirm that the club has not yet paid the Perrys and hung up when asked about the organization’s financial situation.

Runyon said the club could consider selling its 21-acre property — which is appraised at $187,800, according to municipal records — if it cannot otherwise make the court-ordered payments to the Perrys.

The gun club, a nonprofit, did not pay property taxes in 2019 or 2020, according to Peterborough Tax Collector Beth Marsh.

Marsh said those obligations total more than $5,400, before calculating penalties and accrued interest. The town placed a lien on the club’s property last year after it failed to pay taxes in 2019, and the organization has until June 2022 to pay off the outstanding amount before Peterborough can seize its property, she said.

The Perrys were granted a separate lien on the gun club’s property, as part of Anderson’s ruling in March 2020. That means proceeds from a sale of the site would go toward satisfying the club’s obligation to the Perrys, if that issue has not yet been resolved and funds remain after reimbursing the town for any outstanding property taxes, according to Runyon.

Runyon added, however, that the couple has “not made any effort, at this point, to force a sale.”

The dispute dates to May 2018, when the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club sought a court ruling that it had acquired several acres of the Perrys’ property by “adverse possession.” Under certain circumstances, that doctrine allows someone to claim ownership of another’s land after using or occupying it in an obvious way for a long period of time.

Anderson ruled several months later, however, that the club failed to prove it had been using that land for the required duration to claim adverse possession.

In response, the Perrys filed counterclaims against the club seeking compensation for what they said was the impact of its use of the land, including lead and other soil contamination, wetland alterations and shell debris from the shooting range.

Scott Perry told The Sentinel last April that since Anderson had declined to order the gun club to pay the couple’s legal fees, they were still out a substantial sum.

“It’s not like we’re getting $650,000,” he said. “That’s to clean up the land.”

The gun club faced a separate lawsuit in 2018 in which Peterborough officials alleged that the club had expanded its outdoor shooting range, filled in wetlands and built a shooting pavilion without the required approvals. In a ruling last December, Anderson ordered the club to pay the town $3,575 for those violations.

The gun club has not yet made that payment, Town Administrator Nicole MacStay said Wednesday.

The N.H. Department of Environmental Services has also instructed the gun club to restore wetlands on the Perrys’ property, which regulators say the club altered without approval, violating state law.

However, the club has not yet submitted a restoration plan for agency review and claims it does not have permission to access that site to complete its proposal, according to DES spokesman Jim Martin, who said regulators are discussing what measures to take against the gun club if it continues to fail to comply with DES’ directive.

The club’s shooting range has not been in operation since 2018, when Peterborough issued a cease-and-desist letter to the organization after discovering the zoning violations, according to MacStay.

Saying legal fees had taken a “harsh toll,” the gun club launched an online fundraiser in August 2018 to help cover those costs. In a description on the GoFundMe page, the club rejected the town’s allegations that it violated municipal zoning regulations.

“We have encountered a situation where a group of people are using local government in an attempt to attack our club in efforts to close us down,” the description states.

Caisse, the club’s president, told The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript last week that the organization had not yet decided how to proceed with payments to the Perrys and the town. Members will discuss those payments at a club meeting April 12, he said.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.