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Townfolks Recommend Letting Modern House Stand In Historic District

August 31, 1988

CANTERBURY, N.H. (AP) _ Residents voted at an emotional town meeting to recommend that a modern- style house erroneously constructed in the town’s historic district be allowed to stand.

A crowd of more than 300 spilled out of the Canterbury Elementary School into the parking lot Tuesday night in the town meeting called to try to resolve the dispute.

″It’s not just an issue of technicalities,″ said Winofred Wingate, one of the community’s 1,500 residents. ″It’s an issue of the quality and the spirit of how we deal with these issues.″

Fred and Janet Sallah were granted a building permit for a round, two-story redwood house, because the map used by town officials erroneously indicated their lot was outside the historic district. Within the district, new buildings are supposed to follow traditional New England style.

A second house was also approved erroneously, but its architecture is not so unconventional. Town officials propose that the house, a ranch-style building, would fit in if it is covered in wood shingles.

Residents approved one proposal Tuesday by a voice vote to have the Sallahs ask the town zoning board for a variance, with the board taking note that public sentiment favors approval. Sallah said later he would be willing to make such a request. But the zoning board has already turned down the couple’s request for an exemption.

By a vote of 177-114, residents also voted Tuesday to recommend a referendum on the November ballot to redraw the boundaries of the historic district to exclude the Sallahs’ house, the ranch-style house and one other nearby house.

But many residents argued that changing the historic district would set a bad precedent.

″I am unwilling to pay the price of scrapping our zoning ordinance, which we have protected for 18 years, as a solution to Mr. Sallah’s problem,″ said Sabin Guertin, a Canterbury resident for 65 years.

The Sallahs have taken the issue to Merrimack County Superior Court and have stopped work on the house, which is enclosed but not finished inside. The owners of the ranch-style home also are appealing the zoning board’s requirement that they put shingles on the house.

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