N.H. Supreme Court Accepts Appeal In Fight Over Nottingham 'Community Rights' Ordinance | New Hampshire Public Radio

N.H. Supreme Court Accepts Appeal In Fight Over Nottingham 'Community Rights' Ordinance

Aug 26, 2020

Credit Dan Tuohy for NHPR

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear a community group’s appeal in a dispute over an environmental protection ordinance in Nottingham, temporarily halting a lower court lawsuit against the rule.

The case comes from a citizen group, the Nottingham Water Association, which wants to intervene in an ongoing Superior Court challenge to their town’s freedom from chemical trespass” ordinance.

Passed in 2019, it stems from a proposed state constitutional amendment which has failed in the state legislature in recent years. The ordinance seeks to block any business activity that would harm local natural resources.

It faces a suit from a local business owner who says it’s unconstitutional and unenforceable under current state law.

The citizens group argues Nottingham isn’t properly defending the ordinance in court. The judge in the case has denied the residents from intervening in the suit themselves.

Their attorney, Kira Kelley, says in a statement that this means the plaintiff and town have been able to “litigate ‘against’ each other to advocate in total agreement for a court ruling that excludes the people of a town and secures profits and commerce.”

“This appeal is ultimately about democracy, and whether members of the general public are allowed to make the choices that decide their health, safety, and welfare,” Kelley says in the statement, released by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

In accepting the appeal, the state Supreme Court granted a stay on the lower court case – blocking, at least temporarily, a ruling that could overturn the Nottingham ordinance and set a precedent against similar rules in other towns.

There’s no date yet for the Supreme Court to hold an oral argument or rule on the community group’s motion to intervene in the case.