GILFORD — The Gilford Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Monday, October 19 at 7 p.m. to take up a site plan application from Andy and Martina Howe for holding farm-to-table events at their 250-acre Timber Hall Farm property on Gunstock Hill Road.
The property is located in a single-family residential zone and has been the site of farm-to-table events for the last several years, including five this past summer, some of which were weddings.
After receiving a complaint from an abutter regarding weddings being held on the Howe's property this summer a cease and desist order was issued by town's code enforcement officer on August 26 which said that the Howes could not resume holding weddings or other similar activities until they had obtained site plan approvals from the planning board.
The Howes appealed the ruling to the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustment, which held a lengthy meeting two weeks ago which culminated with a 3-1 vote by the board to lift the cease and desist order.
During that meeting, Attorney Patrick Wood, who represented the Howes, said that the issue was the Farm to Table aspect of the business, which he said encompassed weddings as they were a part of selling products which were produced on the farm, and met the standards of the town's zoning ordinance.
Town Planner John Ayer said that the town's cease and desist order also said that site plan approval might be contingent on a land-use variance from the ZBA but that might no longer be required as the ZBA's ruling includes farm-to-table events with weddings as being allowed under the town's zoning ordinance.
The Howes plan calls for construction of a 40 foot by 84 foot timber frame farm with a 20 by 30 foot porch, as well as construction of a sugar house and an irrigation pond. The plan also calls for a parking area and a temporary events area.
Andy Howe said that he is hoping to obtain a building permit this fall and install a foundation and anticipates the barn would be completed in time for the 2017 summer season.
He said that the barn will be constructed of timber harvested from the farm which he will use a portable sawmill to turn into lumber which will be used to build the barn.
''It's going to be an authentic old-fashioned timber frame building with wooden pegs in an old New England style of construction,'' said Howe.
He noted that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests holds a conservation easement on the property, which allows only agriculture and forestry uses of the land with only agricultural buildings allowed.
He says that last summer, following a washout of one of the scheduled events, a large tent was purchased to protect the events from the weather. Howe said that he was also receiving many inquiries about using the site for other events.
He contacted the Forest Society about the content of the events in order to confirm that they were allowed by the easements, which was the first request to society had ever received about farm-to-table events. Howe said that after an internal committee process was conducted, the society concluded the use was allowed as long as the event was focused on the farm to table meal and created a discretionary consent document which limits the event to 15 years.
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