Decision looming on fate of Canton zipline park

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A contentious legal battle over the future of TreeTop Adventures — Canton’s popular new outdoor zipline park located on property owned by the Irish Cultural Centre — could be decided as soon as the middle of next month after the town’s zoning board heard arguments from both sides of the issue at an appeal hearing on October 26.

A young climber traverses a course at TreeTop Adventures. (Michelle Stark photo)

A young climber traverses a course at TreeTop Adventures. (Michelle Stark photo)

While the park itself is set to close for the season in a few days, the ZBA is due to continue its hearing on December 14 and the bigger question now focuses on whether it can reopen at all at its current location — a parcel that, contrary to all of TreeTop’s original permit filings, has been identified as 0 Ward Well Road and appears to be zoned as residential (not limited industrial as previously believed). Several neighbors, led by nearest abutter Edward Tasi, have argued that this fact, coupled with the negative impacts to their quality of life and the fact that they were never notified about the project in advance, should preclude TreeTop Adventures from operating on the site, and the town’s Building Commissioner apparently agreed, issuing a cease-and-desist order in July.

However, according to TreeTop’s attorney Susan Murphy, the only issue of immediate relevance to the ZBA was one of legal jurisdiction, and the town, she insisted, does not have it in the case of the enforcement order or the subsequent appeal. Specifically, she argued that the order was initiated at the request of Tasi, who had previously attempted to fight the permit in court and therefore does not get a “second bite at the apple,” according to case law.

Murphy further argued that Tasi, although not given actual notice of the project, had what amounted to “constructive notice” and effectively chose to “[sit] on his rights.”

“[Tasi] knew what was going on,” she told the ZBA members at last month’s hearing. “He didn’t do it while [owners Topher and Molly Kerr] went through paying for the work, which was very loud with cutting of trees and banging of nails going on for months. He didn’t do it when he saw all that happening while they hired employees, residents of Canton, and paid them, while they paid rent to the Irish Cultural Centre, while they paid for advertising, while they incurred all of this expense and he sat at the edge of his property and watched it happen.”

Yet Tasi’s attorney, Matthew Watsky, refuted Murphy’s claims, noting that Tasi had heard chainsaws in the woods behind his home but had “absolutely no idea” what was being built until TreeTop opened for business in July 2016 and he heard the sounds of children screaming with delight on the ziplines.

Additionally, Watsky said the case Murphy offered as a precedent was entirely different and was “not applicable” to the TreeTop matter, as it involved a circumstance where the plaintiff saw the project being built in plain sight. Regarding Tasi’s original lawsuit, which was filed by a previous attorney, Watsky said he advised his client to drop it after he determined that he was appealing an invalid permit.

“I concluded it did not make sense to fight against a permit that very clearly was issued solely under [limited industrial] rules for an activity to take place within that district,” Watsky said.

While the zoning board ultimately agreed to seek the advice of town counsel and resolve the jurisdictional issue before proceeding any further, at least two of the three acting members, John McCourt and Gary Vinciguerra, seemed inclined to side with the neighbors, with Vinciguerra indicating that he was prepared to make a motion that night to “revoke” TreeTop’s permit.

“Back in March 2016, this board approved a plan that was presented as a limited industrial district at 200 New Boston Drive and it’s obvious that’s not correct,” he said.

McCourt also expressed grave concerns with the approval process and voiced his belief …

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