In court, Governor's Island Club property use restrictions trump local zoning laws; foundation ordered removed

LACONIA — After nearly two years of litigation, a Belknap County judge has ordered a member of the Governor's Island Club to tear down the foundation of a detached garage within 30 days unless he provides a design considered acceptable by the association.

In his ordered issued December 18, Judge James O'Neill ordered that Richie Homsi must also pay the legal bills of the law firm hired by the GIC once they have been submitted and accepted to the court.

Homsi's battle against the GIC represented a war that saw deed restrictions and covenants trump planning and zoning laws, showing that for him the Governor's Island Club is much like the Eagles song "Hotel California" — you can check out but you can never leave.

The Homsi property, although it is on the Laconia (mainland) side of the bridge to the island, was included in the Governors Island Club by a previous owner and membership travels with the deed — regardless of whether or not the property owner wants to be a member or not.

His quest began in 2012 when one of his neighbors had a small cottage that was going to be torn down. Homsi liked the small cottage and wanted to build a garage and put the cottage on top of it so he could have additional living space for him and his extended family.

Homsi's plans were shattered when the GIC refused his plans, saying the concept violated the deed restriction that says no unattached buildings can be built on properties covered by club covenants.

Because the zoning ordinances in Laconia permitted his construction idea and he got all his building permits from the city, Homsi began excavating for the garage.
The GIC filed for an emergency injunction to stop to project, it was granted by the court, and the legal fight has continued.

With the covenants saying that any outbuildings must be attached and not for rental purposes, Homsi reworked his plan to connect the two buildings with a series of Gazebos and covered walkways, however the GIC governing board nixed those as well.

Homsi began his legal fight acting as his own attorney. About a year ago he retained a lawyer from a firm in Concord. The GIC is represented by Paul Fitzgerald.

In his ruling, O'Neill also ordered the Governor's Island Club to negotiate in good faith about any revisions Homsi may submit regarding the use of his property.