Contract for GYRL? - Gilmanton considers funding Gilford Year-Round Library for three years

GILMANTON — Selectmen Rachel Hatch and Mike Jean have agreed that the town should enter into an three-year contract with the private library for $50,000 for annual funding. The contract would have a 30-day escape clause, meaning that either party could terminate it at any time.

The agreement came at a meeting held at the Gilmanton Year-Round Library on Nov. 23 and was attended by a quorum of the SelectBoard, a quorum of the Budget Committee and a quorum of the School Board.

According to Hatch, the selectman's meeting were posted and minutes were made available by the town administrator under the title Town Funding Joint Meeting.

During Monday's meeting of the SelectBoard, which was attended by about 10 people, Selectman Don Guarino said he was disappointed that not only did the two members of the board seemingly make the decision, but they chose not to share it with him or the general public until three weeks after doing so.

According to minutes of the session, Hatch said, "If we wait until the meeting on the 14th (of December) it won't appear as if it is being pushed through ... Do not do this at next Monday's (Dec. 7) meeting. Give us a couple of weeks to solidify the language and get an attorney to review." Hatch was responding to a suggestion by Town Administrator Paul Branscombe that the contract be presented at the Dec. 7 meeting to give the Budget Committee enough time to review it.

The minutes reflect that Hatch's and Jean's intent was to present it at Monday's meeting, however Brasncombe was unable to be at the meeting.

A local municipal attorney who is not involved in any way with the town of Gilmanton and spoke on background said that if there is a clause that allows both sides to discontinue the contract, it should be legal to enact. The attorney also said the proposed contract should be placed by the selectmen on the annual SB2 ballot as a warrant article that needs 50 percent plus one vote to pass. Should it pass, the attorney said voters always have the right in future years to attend the SB2 public meeting and change the amount of money or to submit a petitioned warrant article to discontinue the contract as long as the 30-day notice provisions are observed.

For years, townspeople have been at odds over funding the Gilmanton Year-Round Library, which is not a town library but a not-for-profit entity that provides library and meeting services to area residents. Every year, a special petitioned warrant article asking for operations money has appeared on the town warrant, and for the past two years it has passed, albeit very narrowly. In 2013, the first year Gilmanton adopted the SB2 form of Town Meeting, the request failed by a very narrow margin.

Hatch noted on Monday that the divisiveness surrounding the battle for library funding has got to stop and she thinks this is the best way to stop it.

"I've seen friendships torn apart by this," she said.

When Guarino continued to object to the way the two selectmen held this development from him, Hatch said that Guarino knew about the Nov. 23 meeting and chose not to go.

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Slow ski start - Warm weather means no skiing at Gunstock until after Christmas

GILFORD — The machines are at the ready to make snow at a moment's notice, but for now the trails at Gunstock Mountain Resort are quiet – and will be through Christmas Day. Due to the unusually warm temperatures, the resort's trails are closed through Dec. 25.
"We originally closed for the week," said General Manager Greg Goddard, "but the weather continues to warm up as every day passes, so those snow-making windows are getting smaller. The best bet is to stay closed to take full advantage of snow-making opportunities."
Goddard said they are going to concentrate on the trails that would be open after Christmas, and staying closed until then will allow them to make as much snow as possible.
"I'm pretty confident we'll have something for that day after Christmas," he said. "I think, over the long term, looking at the weather forecast, guests will be happier waiting."
Those in the area hoping to ski can still enjoy hiking and biking the cross country trails, said Goddard, and there is still entertainment through the week and a big New Year's Eve bash that will go on with or without snow.
Goddard noted that he did a little informal survey, and found that out of 132 alpine resorts listed by Snow Country, only 17 were open as of Wednesday.

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Changing the rules - Howes petition to change two zoning laws to allow events at their farm

GILFORD — In a effort to allow farm-to-table events, wedding and other functions on his Gunstock Hill Road farm, the family at the center of the debate has filed two petitioned zoning warrant articles that, if either or both passes, they believe will give them that right.

In the first attempt, Andrew and Martina Howe and the other signatories of the warrant would rewrite Article 3 of the Gilford Town Ordinance to include cultivation, conservation and tillage of the soil; the storage, use and spreading of fertilizer; the use of and application of agricultural chemicals; the raising and sale of livestock and poultry; farm stands; farmer's markets, orchards, plant or tree nurseries, dairy farming and maple syrup production; and subsistence farming and farming for personal and family use.

This article would also add "Agritourism uses as set forth or referred to in RSA 21:34-a (vi) and other commercial activities on a farm that are intended or designed to attract visitors to a working farm; and shall include the terms 'farm' 'agriculture,' and 'farming.'"

A second portion of the warrant article asks voters to add the definition of agritourism as defined in state law RSA 21:34-a (vi) and specifically include farm-to-table events, corn mazes, agricultural-based educational activities; fairs; on-farm weddings and similar events, hay rides, petting zoos, nature walks, bird watching, historical agricultural exhibits and museums, as well as other commercial activities on a working farm that are intended or designed to attract visitors to that working farm.

The warrant article would also amend town ordinance 4.7.1(a) to read that agritourism and agriculture as defined in Article 3 uses shall be permitted on any property where the primary use is for agriculture. Home farming is allowed in all zones.

The Howes have also submitted a petitioned warrant article that would make their four contiguous properties part of the resort commercial zone as opposed to a single-family residence zone.

At least one of the Howes' properties lies along Old Lakeshore Road, and the north side is zoned resort commercial. To the west of the resort commercial zone lies the commercial zone that contains all of the various retail entities on Lakeshore Road.
The total amount of acreage the Howes wish to see rezoned is 252.12 acres of Howe family property.

The immediate goal is to allow the Howes the ability to host farm-to-table events, hay rides and weddings and other similar activities on all four of their pieces of property on Gunstock Hill Road.

A "yes" vote on the first article means support for a redefinition of agriculture to include agritourism as well as a definition of agritourism consistent with state law.

A "yes" vote on rezoning the four Howe family properties means that the single-family restrictions on agritourism, as explained last week by a majority of the Planning Board, would no longer apply to their property.

The reason for the petitioned warrant articles is that one of the abutters filed a complaint about the wedding and farm-to-table activities, saying the noise from them is disturbing and has the potential to drop her property value by about $200,000. She is not alone in her sentiments but is the lead objector to the activities. Monique Twomey has said she has no objection to the activities as long as they are held at the Beans and Greens Farm stand operated by the Howes.

Last week the Planning Board said that agritourism use is inappropriate in this instance because the area is zoned single-family residential, despite the fact that New Hampshire is a right-to-farm state and that agriculture, as it is presently defined, is permitted in all zones in Gilford.

The Howes have appealed the Planning Board ruling to the ZBA, which should meet next on Dec. 22 in the Town Offices.

Correction: The petitioned warrant article that, if passed, would re-zone property owned by the Howe family on Gunstock Hill Road was generated by the Gilford Planning Board. It was incorrectly reported in an article that ran on page 1 on the Dec. 18 edition of the Laconia Daily Sun.

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