THOMPSON & MESERVE PURCHASE — The Coos County Planning Board for the Unincorporated Places voted unanimously at its June 17 virtual meeting to approve minor lot-line adjustments near the Mt. Washington Cog Railway’s Marshfield Base Station, where passengers get on and off tourist trains.
The board’s action, which required no public hearing, allowed the 5-parcel land swap to go forward between the White Mountain National Forest and the Cog Railway Co. in three Unincorporated Places: Thompson & Meserve Purchase, Chandler Purchase and Sargent’s Purchase.
On-and-off negotiations between the White Mountain National Forest and the Cog were started five years ago in an effort to resolve some longstanding ownership issues and to reduce the complexity of their relationship, including the need to engage in time-consuming negotiations regarding special permit applications.
Land surveyor James Detzel of the Department of Agriculture-U.S. Forest Service in Durham and attorney Earl Duval of Duval, Klasnick & Thompson LLC of Lynnfield, Mass., who represented Cog Railway President Wayne Presby and the family-owned company, were able to agree on an equal-value land swap.
At an earlier meeting, the planning board had made completion of the land swap a condition of the Cog being permitted to build a $3 million, 26,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art maintenance building that it plans to operate year-round.
In other action, community planning consultant Tara Bamford of East Thetford, Vt., brought to the board’s attention that state Fire Marshal Sean Toomey has raised some concerns about the proposed width of an observation platform that the Cog plans to erect near the three recently permitted lean-tos that the Cog built near the Waumbek Tank.
These 10-by-20-foot, earth-anchored structures, spaced 10-feet apart, were designed primarily for winter use or for those times — like the present — when the Sherman Adams Building on the Mount Washington summit is not open to the public. The project also includes some porta-potties.
The open-to-the-public lean-tos not only can provide protection for Cog passengers but also hikers, skiers and snowboarders. The planning board reviewed and approved an after-the-fact site plan on a unanimous vote at its in-person meeting on Jan. 22 in Lancaster.
Since then, however, the state fire marshal has raised the concern that the 20-by-90-foot wood observation deck the Cog plans to add to what will be a final destination stop at certain times of the year would be not be optimal for safety if it were not 25 feet wide and did not include railings.
Adding 5 feet to the platform’s width would result in the structure no longer meeting the 25-foot setback requirement detailed in the Coos’ zoning ordinance for the Unincorporated Places. The strip of land the Cog owns in fee up Mount Washington is only 99-feet wide — 49½ feet on both sides of the track center line.
Although board members did not believe that its previous vote to approve the site plan would need amendment, they did agree that the setback shortfall must go before the county’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Former Gorham Police Chief P.J. Cyr is listed as the ZBA’s chair on the county’s website.
Asked the next day whether he would seek ZBA approval for an adjustment to the setback requirement, Presby replied that he was “likely” to do so.