Court orders mediation for Bishops, town of Gilmanton over winery

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A long-running legal dispute over permitting of the Gilmanton Winery will enter a court-ordered alternative dispute resolution process, according to an April 7 order from the Belknap County Superior Court. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)


GILMANTON — Based on a new court order, a settlement may precede any type of civil trial in the high-profile legal dispute of Marshall and Carol Bishop, owners of the Gilmanton Winery, and the town Planning Board.
The case, over site plan requirements for the historic winery and its associated restaurant, took on political overtones because of Marshall Bishop's role as a Gilmanton selectman. The legal fight even became a political issue in the recent town election, when Bishop's opponents complained about the thousands of dollars spent by the town on the litigation. Bishop won re-election despite the controversy.
Now, the Belknap County Superior Court has ordered alternative dispute resolution, a form of mediation that seeks to save time and money, forge agreements that are more mutually satisfactory and stave off the time and costs of trials, according to court rules.
On April 7, Judge James O'Neill ordered alternative dispute resolution, as part of a "case structuring" order that set out the potential calendar for the case.
By Aug. 31, the Bishops and a representative of the town must complete the form of mediation, according to the order.
Barring a quick mediation, Judge O'Neill scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, to receive an update on the parties' progress in the case of Marshall Bishop et al v Town of Gilmanton Planning Board. Without a resolution, the bench trial would take place Jan. 4 and 5, 2018.
If a settlement is reached, the public can't expect any of the details to become public. Civil rules of the superior courts in New Hampshire stipulate, "ADR proceedings and information relating to those proceedings shall be confidential unless otherwise agreed in writing by all parties and all counsel."
The legal dispute reaches back half a dozen years. According to a March 17 request for dismissal by the town, Marshall Bishop approached the Planning Board in January 2011 to propose developing a winery, restaurant and bed and breakfast at the historic home of "Peyton Place" author Grace Metalious.
The home's garage was to be converted into a winery and the downstairs area of the home into a dining and function area, according to the plans then unveiled. A third phase called for conversion of the upstairs and downstairs into a bed and breakfast, according to the court filing.
In spring 2011, the Bishops submitted a site plan application to the Planning Board, seeking approval for the winery and function hall. The Planning Board unanimously granted the final site plan approval on June 9, 2011, according to the filing.
"In January 2016, Mr. Bishop defeated his opponent, Brett Currier, and was elected to serve on the Town of Gilmanton Board of Selectmen," the filing notes.
The Bishops alleged a vendetta, a charge the town denied in its filing. In an Oct. 17, 2016, letter to the Bishops, attorney Paul Fitzgerald of Wescott Law of Laconia wrote that "currently pending issues" prompted the Planning Board to require a new site plan for the winery, according to the Bishops.
"Through legal counsel, the Bishops responded to Attorney Fitzgerald's letter on October 21, 2016," the filing continued. "The letter indicated the Bishops believed that the winery complied with all applicable laws, ordinances, and regulations, but would nonetheless like to address amicably any well-founded concerns of the Planning Board."
After more back-and-forth by the parties, the Bishops argued that the Planning Board waged a "public persecution" that damaged their reputations, especially to Marshall Bishop "because it raises the specter of impropriety given that he is an elected town official," the filing reports. The Bishops also received telephone calls from potential customers asking if the winery was still open, evidence that the legal wrangling harmed their business, the couple wrote in their lawsuit. The town denied these allegations in the March 17 filing by the town's legal counsel, Russell Hilliard of Upton and Hatfield of Portsmouth.
The Planning Board has asserted that the Gilmanton Winery has been operating "a full service restaurant with onsite food preparation without appropriate approvals from the Planning Board," according to a "respondent's answer and request for declaratory relief" at the Belknap County Superior Court.
The Bishops' suit argued that the Planning Board began questioning the lawfulness of the winery in 2016 "with the same information that it had in 2011 when it granted the Bishops final site plan approval, and the Bishops have not made any substantial changes to the winery since approval."
The Bishops are asking the court for attorneys' fees and costs.

Weirs parking fee may double


LACONIA — Parking fees in the Weirs Beach area will double to $1 an hour under a proposed ordinance change which will be the subject of a public hearing before the Laconia City Council when it meets on Monday, March 24.
The revised ordinance, proposed by Public Works Director Wes Anderson, notes that the 50 cents per hour fee is only one quarter of that charged at state-owned Seacoast area beaches, where the summer fee is $2 per hour. Portsmouth has fees of $1.75 an hour in high density areas, and Concord, which has a fee of 75 cents an hour, is increasing its fees.
The current ordinance also has different days of operation for the meters for different parking spaces. The revised ordinance would see all meters in operation from the Saturday preceding Memorial Day to the Monday after Columbus Day. It would also change operating hours for meters from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Parking kiosks will be installed at the Endicott Beach parking lot and the parking fee there will go from $10 a day to $2 an hour, which would mean that someone who parked at the beach for 10 hours would pay $20. It was noted that the change will enable the Parks Department to use the two seasonal positions that presently man the parking booth at the beach parking The city's new parking meter system will go into service on Saturday, May 27.

Substance-abuse crisis fuels demand for treatment beds

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The need for recovery-center beds remains a problem in the Lakes Region, according to Daisy Pierce, executive director, and Philip Spagnuolo and Valene Colby, recovery coaches at Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region in Laconia. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun) 



LACONIA — When it comes to alcohol and drug addiction recovery, the Lakes Region still suffers from a shortage of treatment centers with beds, advocates in the field report.
Tilton planning officials are debating whether to allow a substance abuse recovery center to open at the Tilton Sports Center. The Adult Recovery Center would provide a "curriculum" — typically a three- to five-week treatment program — at 100 Autumn Drive, home of the Tilton Sports Center, according to the application.
"We definitely need it," said Valene Colby, a participant in Belknap County Recovery Court who is active in the substance abuse recovery field. "People are homeless all the time here who are trying to get help."
Colby coaches other addicts through Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region, a grassroots, nonprofit, community organization "dedicated to helping people live a life of recovery from substance misuse."
Philip Spagnuolo, another recovery coach at Navigating Recovery, said, "As far as treatment in the state, right now most rehab facilities are on a wait, anywhere from three to six weeks. So when someone is looking for treatment it's usually they want treatment right then, and it's usually a small window of convincing them to do treatment. So it's really difficult. There aren't enough beds available in the state. Any more beds added would be a bonus."
Daisy Pierce, executive director at Navigating Recovery, said the program works to link people in need with the treatment options available.
"What we try to do is help people with those interim services before they can get into that treatment program because there is such a long wait and oftentimes it's a small window of opportunity to get somebody who's willing," she said. "So we try to meet with them however often they need to keep them on the right track until that bed is available."
The Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center constantly encounters the need for treatment facility openings, according to Joy Moody, volunteer coordinator and family support manager at the center.
"That's one of the hardest challenges we have is finding treatment centers with beds," she said.
Darryl Lennon, a recovery coach with the resource center, said, "We're flooded with people."
In Belknap County, from 2013 to 2014, officials reported a 32 percent increase in opioid-related emergency department visits and a 110 percent increase in opioid-related deaths, according to N.H. Emergency Medical Services and the Office of the Medical Examiner.
Lennon said painkillers have been the "gateway into this epidemic." A self-described "homeless heroin addict," Lennon said his problems escalated after he fell 40 feet off a roof. He took pain medications and developed a dependency.
Another recovery center in the Lakes Region would be welcome, Lennon said, noting, "We're not in competition, we're about saving lives."
Joy Moody, volunteer coordinator and family support manager for the Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center said trauma in her background from abuse formed the backdrop of her addiction. She started drinking at age 13 and taking drugs at age 18. "If someone had just reached out and given me a hand up, I probably would have stopped running a lot earlier," she said.
At Navigating Recovery, Spagnuolo — who reported an addiction to painkillers and then heroin — said "being able to give back" as a recovery coach strengthened his purpose and helped him stay on his recovery path.
Colby agreed, "It's part of my recovery. I'm trying to help other people in this area, especially, that have seen me at my worst, and now are seeing me doing great and know that they can do it, too."
Spagnuolo said people forget "that alcoholism hasn't gone away."
Colby described a progression as a 10-year-old child of "smoking weed and drinking and doing cocaine to eventually doing pills and heroin and then whatever else."

"I'm an addict of any substance," she said.

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Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region is located at 635 Main St., Suite 303, Laconia. For details, call 603-409-7228.

The Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center is located at 291 Main St Suite 3, Tilton. For details, call 603-286-4255.