GILFORD — A church with its historical roots in Fort Worth, Texas is looking to officially relocate on 14 Curtis Road in the farmhouse owned for years by the Guild family.
According to Attorney Patrick Wood, the Arbo Ministries, operated by Barbara and Steven Arbo, is hoping to turn the 1793 farmhouse located at the corner of Cherry Valley and Curtis roads into a place where "small groups" of people can come for prayer, Bible study, and contemplation.
"They don't have any plans beyond this," said Wood when reached yesterday.
He said that there is an engineer who was working with the Arbos to open up the old driveway off Cherry Valley Road, but the primary driveway is off Curtis Road.
According to their own website posting, the Arbos are long-time friends of the late Vicki Jamison-Peterson who established the VJP(Ministries). The website also states, "For the past 16 years, Steve has given oversight to a 24 X 7 place of prayer in Ft. Worth, Texas, at Calvary Cathedral International."
The Arbos said they found the Gilford home in March 2013 when they came on a scouting mission to find a place to establish their "place of prayer." They began fund raising through their own ministry and were able to close on the property in the end of March.
They say they will continue to fund raise to pay off the $450,000 mortgage.
Along with the home the ministry was able to purchase a 6.8-acre parcel of land directly across the street. Both the house and the parcel at 400 Cherry Street were bought from the Katrina Carye Trust at the same time, said a representative of the Gilford Town Assessors Office.
Many of the residents of Curtis Road and Cherry Valley Road aren't thrilled to have what they fear could turn into a large church in their neighborhood and increased parking and traffic.
Most of the abutters have said they would be attending a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting that is now scheduled for June 24.
According to the Town Planning Office, a church is allowed in limited residential zones with a special exception. The meeting for the ZBA to decide whether or not to grant the special exception was scheduled for last night but, according to Wood, was postponed because of a mistake in abutter notifications.
The town assessing office said the Arbo Ministries has already come to the town for a charitable tax exemption but it was denied for this year because it was late. The combined properties pay $12,000 in taxes — $10,000 for the main house and $2,000 for the 6.8 acres across the street.
The house in one of the more storied homes in Gilford, said Larry Guild Jr. whose family owned it from 1948 until 2009 when it was sold to the Caryes.
Guild said his father bought it from a man named Wallace who used it as a bed a breakfast until the 1940s when Mr. Wallace joined the military during World War II.
He said his father farmed the area around it an had 28 dairy cows, over 1,000 turkeys, chickens and a few horses.
He said the house has seen a number of senators, business dignitaries, governors, and other people from history who came to visit, including presidential candidate George Romney and the members of the Marriott family.
When his mother, who lived there for 50 years, went to sell it, he said his sisters wanted him to buy it, but Guild said he didn't have the energy or money to modernize it. In his opinion, Katrina Carye did a wonderful job inside although he said she changed things considerably from the way his parents had it.
As to the old driveway to the south of the home, Guild said that was the driveway his family used. He explained that until the 1930s and the building of Gunstock Ski Area, Curtis Road was the main road and it went up over the hill and reconnected to Cherry Valley Road near where the old Gunstock Inn is located.
His family used the Cherry Valley Road driveway because the snow drifts along Curtis Road were so bad that most people couldn't get up there.
"The Curtises and Kellys used to come down on toboggans," he said.
When asked how he felt about it becoming a church, he said his sisters were furious, but he had hoped that the Carye's would continue to use it as a summer home.