On May 14, 2019, the Sandwich Zoning Board of Appeals began a hearing for a special permit applied for by The Adventure Park at Heritage Museum and Gardens, LLC. The special permit was for “the purpose of operating a ropes course as a small-scale outdoor recreational facility.”

In the first page and first paragraph of the Heritage application, Heritage states as fact that they operated an aerial adventure park on their property being Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, Inc., for four seasons. In their first sentence of the second paragraph Heritage explains that the Aerial Adventure Park is a challenge course most akin to a ropes course. They have been operating under the Dover Amendment Zoning Protection, which allowed the Aerial Adventure Park to operate on a residential lot.

The neighbors objected to the traffic, the diminution of property values and the altering of the character of their historic neighborhood, and filed an appeal in Superior Court. Superior Court Judge Moriarty agreed with the neighbors and ordered detailed Counts I and II entered in favor of the neighbors. The court further annulled the building permit and removed the Dover Amendment protection. Finally, the court permanently enjoined Heritage Plantation from continued operation of said aerial park.

Heritage filed a new application for the purpose of operating that same Aerial Adventure Park only under a new zoning allowance being small-scale recreation. The owners, location, physical park, estimated customer level, traffic, neighbor’s diminution to real estate, alteration to the rural, scenic, historic neighborhood, had no reason whatsoever to change.

In other words, nothing but the zoning allowance description changed. Even though the law forbids re-litigating the same exact issues against the same exact neighbors based on a claim that changes only the zoning description, the Sandwich ZBA forbid the neighbors from arguing the court case results because this was a new zoning allowance application but for the same exact purpose: “to operate a ropes course.” The law is called “issue preclusion” meaning owners, location, physical park, estimated customer level, traffic, neighbors’ diminution to real estate, alteration to the rural, scenic, historic neighborhood, has been settled by a Superior Court judgment and may not be re-litigated.

In the May 14 first night of hearing, the neighbors were tolerated but disrupted by the ZBA whenever they referred to the court case. In the continued May 28 session, only Heritage and the ZBA were allowed to refer deep into the court case when quoting former building inspector Paul Spiro’s definition of a structure. This supported Heritage but “god forbid” the neighbors were allowed to quote the court case supporting their positions.

The neighbors were told that the final part of the hearing on June 25 would be an open meeting. When the meeting commenced, the chairman announced that people would only be allowed to respond to questions from the board. There were no questions to the neighbors.

Members of the board announced loud and clear that there were no nails fastening the platforms to the trees. That is absolutely false and could be easily proven. There are 54 trees with platforms nailed extensively to each. These trees will eventually die. There is an extreme risk that dead branches could spiral down from 60 to 70 feet and penetrate a child’s body. This is child endangerment. The zoning oard does not want to hear it but they are responsible for tolerating this risk.

Carlo M. DiPersio

Morgan Trail


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