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Developer asks Gilford to accept road so home buyers will come

GILFORD — Some questions about a how much road frontage is needed to make a legal building lot led to a heated exchange between a developer and town officials at the selectman's meeting Wednesday night.

Developer Howard Warren of Blue Sky Enterprises had asked the selectmen to accept a road (Rowe Farm Road) in an approved subdivision off Cotton Hill Road before any houses are built on the 13 available lots.

During his presentation, Warren told selectmen that Town Administrator Scott Dunn had told him his advice to the Selectboard would be that they don't go through the process of accepting the road until there are at least three homes are built.

The road is built and the Department of Public Works and the planning director worked closely with Blue Sky to build it so it would be easy for the town to plow and maintain.

Warren said he had applied to the town to accept the now-finished roadway as a town road, but Dunn had sent him a letter telling him accepting Howe Farm Road before any homes are built is premature and does not meet any "public need."

During the course of Warren's presentation to the board, he made several points, including that it would be impossible to sell lots because without a public road because there wouldn't be enough frontage, but ended his presentation by saying he didn't want to seem threatening but if the board didn't "take (it) right away (they're) essentially saying no to the subdivision ...we'll be forced to litigate."

Dunn exploded. "To imply that he can't sell a lot if the town doesn't take it over has no basis in fact."

"There is nothing in the law that says the town ever has to take a private road and there is no guarantee it will ever be a town road," Dunn continued.

"To threaten us with litigation, I say, 'Bring it on,'" he said.

Selectmen Gus Benavides and John O'Brien also said they interpreted Warren's statement the same way Dunn did, although Warren spent most of the rest of the presentation trying to mollify the board.

"I would say that if you want us to help you, don't even bring that word (litigation) up," Benavides said, adding selectmen hadn't discussed the road yet, that Selectman Kevin Hayes, who represents the selectmen on the Planning Board was unavailable for last Wednesday's meeting, and that selectmen will make the decision — not the town administrator.

"We make out own decisions," he said.

According to Planning Director John Ayer, who spoke on the phone yesterday but was not at Wednesday's meeting, Blue Sky Development has the frontage it needs to sell the lots because the definition of frontage is the length of road bordering a right-of-way and has nothing to do with being public or private.

Dunn's recommendation was made in light of the fact that it is close to winter and he doesn't want to spend town resources plowing a road with no homes.

Warren said it is much easier to sell a house on a public road — a statement with which everyone agrees — but said he was up against the impending winter season and would like to get a few lots sold before then so they can be planned in time for the spring building season.

He also said that it is in the town's best financial interests to get the lots sold as quickly as possible because each lot will pay a 10-percent land use change tax and it could realize as much as $140,000 sooner rather than later.

He also said it makes sense in the long run to accept the road, which is about 1,000 feet long with a cul-de-sac and driveway cuts, sooner than later so it can generate property taxes.

Warren also said that Dunn's recommendation was the result of a "new rule" but Benavides told him there is "no new rule" and that has always been entirely within the selectman's purview to make a private road public.

Benavides also wanted to know if the Planning Board "guaranteed" acceptance to which Warren said Blue Sky and the Planning Board had a "gentleman's agreement" but that nothing was ever guaranteed.

Dunn said he met privately with Warren, his business partner and wife, and Ayer on Thursday but nothing was resolved in that meeting.

Dunn reiterated yesterday that the selectmen make the decisions and he only makes recommendations.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 03:11

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Some Briarcrest residents skeptical that a cooperative could handle $10M of debt & still keep rents low & upkeep high

LACONIA — The impending sale of Briarcrest Estates has divided residents of the manufactured housing community. Some have formed Lakemont Cooperative in an effort to purchase the park for the tenants while others, apparently the majority, support the preference of the owners, Mark and Ruth Mooney of Belmont, to sell to a Florida corporation.

In July the Mooneys tentatively accepted an offer from Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC of Orlando to purchase the 183-acre park with 241 home sites for $10 million. However, state law entitles the tenants to make a counter offer by presenting a purchase and sales agreement within 60 days of the first offer.

On the eve of the deadline, Lakemont Cooperative, consisting of a minority of the residents, bid to acquire the park by matching the offer Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. The statute grants the cooperative "a reasonable time beyond the 60-day period, if necessary, to obtain financing for the purchase" and, in the meantime, requires the owners to bargain in good faith with the cooperative.

Jim Cowan, president of the cooperative, insists "if we don't own the land, we don't control our destiny." In particular, he fears for the lease agreement, which limits the annual increase in park rents to the increase in property taxes and special assessments, such as the trash collection contract, and, at the discretion of the owner, the percentage increase in the consumer price index (CPI).

Orrie Gibbs, who has lived at Briarcrest for the past 21 years, is among those who favors the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. She doubts a cooperative can service the debt required to purchase the park without either raising rents beyond the limits set by the existing agreement or reducing operating expenses by cutting services, which would impair the quality of life in the community.

A real estate paralegal, Gibbs dismissed Cowan's concern for the lease agreement, claiming that "whoever owns the park must honor the lease agreement." Instead, she said that cooperative ownership posed a greater threat of higher rents.

Gibbs said that ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which has assisted and financed the conversion of 107 manufactured housing parks to cooperative ownership, has proposed a financing package. The cooperative would borrow $5.1 million at near 5 percent for 20 years from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and make only interest payments for the first five years, but repay both principal and interest afterwards. She said the cooperative would likely refinance the loan after five years at a higher interest rates, noting that "rates have already begun to rise." A commercial lender, most likely a bank, would finance the balance of the purchase price at a market rate.

"I am concerned by the magnitude of the amount of money the cooperative wants to borrow," Gibbs said. Stressing that the lease agreement not only caps rent annual increases but renews automatically each year, she questioned how the cooperative could service a debt of $10 million while honoring the lease agreement. Furthermore, she noted that "the cooperative must make money, enough to pay its bills and keep reserve fund for unforeseen expenses."

Gibbs acknowledged that while parks have converted to cooperative ownership, most are much smaller with different lease agreements and, above all, incurred far less debt and far fewer expenses than would be required to acquire and maintain Briarcrest.

According to Gibbs, only a small minority of the 231 tenants at Briarcrest favor cooperative ownership. When the cooperative voted to submit a purchase and sales agreement, only 31 tenants voted, she said, and two of them voted "no." She said that when the Mooney polled the tenants 176 opposed cooperative ownership and favored the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC.

Last week, on the strength of the poll results, attorney John Giere, on behalf of the Mooneys, petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to find that they had met their obligation to bargain in good faith with both parties and that by refusing to accept the cooperative's offer they would not be liable to penalties. The statute provides that owners who fail to bargain in good faith may be subject to a penalty of $10,000 or 10 percent of the sale price, whichever is greatest, or in this case $1-million.

Attorney Brenda Smith-Weiss, who represents Lakemont Cooperative, said that she has not yet been served, but would prepare a response to the Mooneys' filing in due course.

Briarcrest Estates is located off Rte. 106, just outside the Laconia Bypass.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:24

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'Boo-Boo' told to leave N.H. & never come back

LACONIA — The Lowell, Massachusetts man who was featured in a HBO production about crack cocaine and former boxer Dicky Eklund was given suspended sentences in state prison for spitting on a Belmont Police Officer.

Gary "Boo-Boo" Giuffida, 58, of High Street in Lowell was also told never to come to New Hampshire again.

After pleading guilty in Belknap County Superior Court this week, Giuffrida was sentenced to 2-to-5 years — all suspended — in the New Hampshire State Prison for simple assault. On a second charge for exposing the officer to a disease by spitting in his face, Giuffrida was sentenced to 3-to-7 year prison sentence — all suspended.

The assault was triggered by Giuffrida's arrest in November of 2012 for receiving stolen property and fraudulent use of a credit card. After being processed at the Belmont Police Department, Giuffrida was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where he spat in the face of one of the officers.

Giuffrida is HIV positive and was in a spit mask but the spittle reached the side of the officer's face.

The motion picture "The Fighter" was based on the live of Giuffrida's friend, the later boxer Dicky Eklund who was also from Lowell. Eklund and Giuffrida was also the subject of the HBO documentary "High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell."

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:17

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Gilmanton man guilty of sex assault on disabled man

LACONIA — A former Gilmanton man pleaded guilty in the Belknap County Superior Court on September 9 to two counts of rape for assaulting a disabled victim who is wheelchair bound in 2006 and 2007, while he was living in Gilmanton.

According to the Gilmanton Police, Roger Toutaint, 54, formerly of Leatherstocking Lane in Gilford but recently of Hillcrest Drive in Laconia, will serve five-to-10 years in the N.H. State Prison on one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years on the second count which was suspended pending his good behavior for 20 years.

At the time of his arrest by Gilmanton Police in October of 2012, Toutaint was on probation for a different assault conviction stemming from a 2007 incident that involved a minor female.

One of the terms of his probation was that he take a mandatory lie detector test and it was during this test that he admitted to assaulting the disable man. During the ensuing police investigation, he provided Gilmanton Police with the details.

Both assaults occurred during the 2006 to 2007 time frame.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 01:57

Hits: 502

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