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Gated community withdraws suit over WOW Trail plans

Union Leader Correspondent

October 16. 2017 10:25AM

LACONIA — Homeowners in the South Down Shores development on Paugus Bay have voluntarily withdrawn their lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation but are prepared to refile it if plans for a public recreational trail along the shorefront advance.

Residents of South Down and Long Bay, private, gated communities of more than 600 homes, sued to halt the extension of the trail in the state-owned railroad right-of-way that rims Paugus Bay and their property.

Homeowners fear they'll lose privacy if Phase III of the Winnisquam, Opechee, Winnipesaukee (WOW) Trail is extended across the shorefront.

They also are concerned some trail users might trespass or commit other crimes.

In response to the suit filed in Belknap County Superior Court, the state had moved to dismiss, asserting the issue is not yet "ripe for judicial determination."

Attorney Robert Carey of Orr & Reno in Concord, who is representing the homeowners, said the decision to drop the suit for now was made after it became apparent there are serious questions about the viability of Phase III of the trail plan.

The plan calls for the continuation of the 10-foot-wide, fenced, non-motorized pathway from where it now ends on Elm Street in the Lakeport section of the city to Weirs Beach, along the railroad right-of-way that runs through South Down and Long Bay.

When Carey deposed Gretchen Gandini, executive director of the WOW Trail group, he learned that no money has been raised or allocated, no construction plans prepared or submitted and there is no timetable to enact the plan.

"Given the uncertainty of Phase III, petitioners wish to non-suit this matter without prejudice. If Phase III moves ahead, the petitioners will refile their claim," Carey wrote in a motion Oct. 12.

The lawsuit had asked the court to permanently prohibit the DOT from allowing that stretch of railroad corridor to be used as a recreational trail and to grant the petitioners their costs, including attorney fees.

The plaintiffs were the South Down Recreation Association, Long Bay Homeowners Association II, South Down Condominium Association and the South Down Boat Club.

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