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Jul 21, 2015 2:25 PM

Neighbors file lawsuit against Exeter zoning board to fight potential homeless day center


EXETER - The debate rages on between the town, angry neighbors - and a homeless center.

The homeowners’ association and angry neighbors are now suing the Exeter zoning board in their fight against turning the property at 27 Hampton Road into a homeless day center.

It’s been vacant for months and property records show it has played host to more than just a residential space.

Family Promise has been looking for a new, larger location. The size of their current space often forcing them to turn homeless people away.

However, neighbors have fought about the space and - for some - the biggest issue is not that the group wants to move in, but that they said the zoning board is not playing by the rules.

Now, a lawsuit has been brought against the board.

The property is a residential R-2 zone, but the board could allow it to be used for other purposes, like it has in the past as the home of The Learning Tree, a daycare center.

This decision has neighbors concerned over the zoning board's authority and the possible business that could move in next door.

Linda Allen is one of the neighbors of 27 Hampton Road.

"Play by the zoning rules," Allen said. "The zoning board is chipping away at residential zoning. We're really concerned more about that then the people who would be there."

Under the list of special exceptions the possibilities for the property could include essential services, libraries, museums, and community buildings.

The board ruled it a community building which they define as, “a building or structure or group of buildings or structures owned and operated by the town of Exeter, or by a nonprofit organization, the primary purpose of which is to provide social and recreational services to the citizens of the community, focused on promoting their health and general welfare.”

However, neighbor Margaret Hamman disagrees.

“All I know is that we’re doing an appeal based on the fact that it’s zoned residential,” Hamman said.

Neighbors are not only worried about the zoning board's decision but also what a vacant building could mean for Exeter.

“There is a lot of addiction that is involved with homelessness,” Hamman said.

Ian Clifford, a father of a two-year-old, is also concerned.

“The heroin epidemic is a big deal here in the Seacoast and that obviously with vagrancy and homelessness can bring drug problems and that is a concern,” said Clifford.

Family Promise did not return our calls for comment.


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