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Ordinance demanding half-acre per dwelling unit standing in way of Belmont renovation

BELMONT — The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday to table for 60 days a request for a variance for the owner of the Belmont Village Store to add two apartments to the upper floors.

Ramsey Al-Shawafi had proposed adding two apartments to the upstairs portion of the three-story building — one for his own use and one for the possible use of his employee.

He needs a variance from the density portion of the town's zoning ordinances that say each dwelling must have .5 (one-half) of an acre. Ramsey's lot, most of which is taken up by his building, sits on .20 acres.

Should the ZBA grant Al-Shawafi his variance, he would still have to file and get approved a site plan with the Planning Board because the plan calls for the demolition of the "ell" portion of the building and the addition of parking in the "ell" area.

According to the minutes of the Application Review Committee held in March of 2014, Belmont department heads are generally very supportive of the project and that Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin has given Al-Shawafi some information about some tax relief that can be related to his project.

The uphill battle for Al-Shawafi remains the variance zoning ordinance itself.

At the ARC meeting, Town Planner Candace Daigle "strongly recommended" that Al-Shawafi get assistance in developing a legal argument for the variance.

"Being able to obtain a variance is truly the single most important hurdle for the project," reads the minutes.

Right now, the second and third floors of the store are vacant. Zoning Board Chair Peter Harris said yesterday that it appears that at some point in time, there was living quarters upstairs but that is not the case now.

In his application for a variance, Al-Shawafi addressed the five criteria for requesting a variance.

He said it would not be contrary to the public interest because the most of the work is to be done inside the building and he will improve it with new windows and siding.

The spirit of the zoning ordinance is observed because he is tearing down a portion of the building to provide parking for his proposed apartments. Since he would be living in one of the apartment, he said the need for addition parking for a second apartment would be minimal.

He said substantial justice will be done because the remodeling of the building will make the village area look better.

The value of the surrounding properties would not be diminished because of the clean new look of the building and it's likely surrounding property values could increase.

The hardship standard has two prongs both of which are specific to the property itself and the relationship of the ordinance. Proving a hardship is often the biggest hurdle an applicant has to face.

In this case, the minimum of .5 acres of land per dwelling is to limit residential growth within that district.

Al-Shawafi's response to this portion was to say that "finishing the apartment will no effect the people down town in (a) negative way. It will be better because I am planning to live (there.)"

The second prong is the reasonableness of the use to which Al-Shawafi said he is only using the building as it was used in the past.

"This time I am trying to make it safer and better by following all the rules" he wrote.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 October 2014 01:08

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Executive committee chairman defends actions in calling meetings to consider budget transfer requests

LACONIA — Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the Belknap County Executive Committee, says that claims by the Belknap County Commission that he refused to call a timely meeting of the committee to deal with requests for budget transfers are not accurate.
In a letter sent to the commission this week in response to an October 2 letter sent by the commissioners to Tilton requesting a meeting as soon as possible to address requests for transfers, Tilton says ''the trend for the budget line was pretty clear weeks earlier and could have been addressed at our meeting of Sept. 15 (when you couldn't gather even one commissioner, or a written request form, with three weeks notice.''
In a letter which appeared in Tuesday's Daily Sun, commissioners said that Tilton was well aware of that commissioners had requested a date other than Sept. 15 so that they could all attend the meeting.
Tilton also wrote ''You often cite the ''emergency situation.'' I don't recall any so far that have been totally a surprise or couldn't have been anticipated sufficiently to use the proper appropriation channels.''
He also said that a meeting on Sept. 26, commissioners dropped all but one of their emergency requests and said that the county has failed to provide an adequate explanation of its reasons for transfer requests on the form which has been submitted to the committee.
''I'm still awaiting the one I returned to you on Sept. 30 that wasn't complete or signed. So the $411,676 transfer in the Nursing Dept. has not yet been requested in writing by you, and though verbally approved, not appropriated in writing.''
At a meeting on Sept. 26 the committee approved the request of the commission to transfer more than $600,000 within the budget to maintain operations of the nursing home, county jail and sheriff's department. Only a request to transfer $2,000 to fund the salary, benefits and associated cost of the county administrator was denied.
The meeting was convened to consider the requests for transfers prompted by the preliminary injunction issued by Justice James D. O'Neill, III of Belknap County Superior Court last month, which prohibits the Belknap County Commission from either spending in excess of any line-item appropriation of the budget adopted by the convention or transferring more than $300 from one line item to another without the approval of the Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee will meet Monday at 6 p.m. at the Belknap County Complex to hear a request from the commission to approve the transfer of $93,667 to spare the cost to the employees and honor the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the union representing them.
Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to inform county employees that they must pay the balance of the employer's share of the annual increase in their health insurance premium until the close of the fiscal year on December 31.
The action came after commissioners rejected the suggestion of County Administrator Debra Shackett to apply a credit of some $159,000 from HealthTrust against the premiums, which by discounting the cost of premiums would have enabled the county to pay the employer's contribution.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 October 2014 01:03

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Guinta tells Laconia Rotarians he felt compelled to take anohter shot at representing First District in Congress

LACONIA — "I think we're in trouble," Republican Frank Guinta, told the Laconia Rotary Club yesterday. "The country is headed in the wrong direction."

Guinta is challenging Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, the incumbent, in the First Congressional District for the third time in the past four years. Elected in 2006, Shea-Porter served two terms before being ousted by Guinta in 2010. Two years later she turned the tables, setting the stage for the third round of their rivalry on Tuesday, November 4..

"It was rather nice not to talk or think much about politics," Guinta said of the first six months following his defeat, which he spent with his wife, Morgan and their daughter Colby and son Jack. He said that he enjoyed "looking at the world through the eyes of a private citizen."

Guinta was troubled by what he saw. He said that from his parents he learned that "if you work hard you can pursue any opportunity you so desire" but he is concerned that for the first time the opportunities open to the next generation may not match those of the last.

"We face some very challenging problems," Guinta said, "but there are some very logical solutions." He said that neither the budget deficits nor the national debt are sustainable, noting that he is among the sponsors of legislation requiring a balanced budget. Government regulations have become increasingly onerous, he claimed, especially on small businesses, which he called "the backbone of the New Hampshire economy."

Guinta stressed the importance of reforming the individual and corporate tax codes to enable businesses to become more competitive internationally. In particular, he said that steps must be taken to forestall American corporations from escaping their tax liability by acquiring companies overseas.

Turning to foreign policy, he suggested that the stature of the United States abroad has diminished. "We need to have a role where we are respected," he said. "Where we can lead."

In response to a question, Guinta warned that without changes the Social Security system will go bankrupt. Asked twice what steps he would take to sustain the system, he said he would convene a bipartisan committee "with everything on the table" and ensure that those impacted by any changes would have 25 or 30 to plan for their retirement. Pressed he replied, "a combination of things."
"Cynicism about politics is well warranted," Guinta said, conceding that Congress has had scant success in addressing these issues. He said that although the current House of Representatives has passed 285 bills, 90-percent of them with bipartisan support, the Senate has taken a mere 21 votes. The process by which the House, where the Republicans have held the majority since 2010, and Senate, where the Democrats hold the majority, adopt different versions of the same legislation, including the budget, then resolve their differences in a committee of conference, Guinta said has not been working for six years.

"Most people don't think there is a Republican or Democratic way to pick up trash or plow roads," Guinta remarked, emphasizing the need for "good public policy, not politics, regardless of party affiliation. We must restore faith in government."

Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 12:52

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Lawyer says man who fled with stolen car is suffering from PTSD as result of earlier stabbing

CIRCUIT COURT — The defense attorney for a Tilton man who allegedly fled from Laconia police while driving a stolen vehicle on September 28 said his client is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since being the victim of a stabbing in February.

Atty. Justin Littlefield argued in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division that Corey Cromwell, 26, formerly of 18 Pine Street in Tilton should have his bail reduced from $2,000 cash to personal recognizance so he can get some mental health treatment.

"Mr. Cromwell was a victim of a pretty horrific incident," said Littlefield, adding that his client wants and needs some mental health treatment that he can't get while he is incarcerated.

Cromwell is charged with one count of receiving stolen property — a car reported stolen from Bay Street, one count of disobeying an officer, and one count of criminal mischief for damages he allegedly caused to the property of St. Andre Bessette Parish on Union Avenue while fleeing from police on September 28.

On February 23, 2014, Cromwell and two of his friends were ambushed while they walked up the stairs to Cromwell's former apartment in Belmont. Cromwell was stabbed eight or nine times including one cut to his throat. He was airlifted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon for treatment.

"He has had a difficult time coping with that incident and further incarceration won't help," Littlefield said.

Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer said Cromwell should continue to be held on cash bail. He said Cromwell fled from the police in a car that was found burning in Gilford a short time later.

Sawyer noted that Cromwell was still being held on $500 cash bail for a recent drug arrest in Tilton, that he was charged recently in Sanbornton for having a false inspection sticker, and he is facing an operation after suspension in the Laconia Courts.

Sawyer said that Gilford Police are working with the Belknap County Attorney's Office to get Cromwell indicted for arson.

Littlefield said Cromwell hasn't been charged with arson and since that issue is not before the court it should not be a consideration for bail.

Littlefield also said his client would live with his mother in Hillsborough County (the actual address is sealed and unavailable to the public) and would abide by any bail conditions set by the court.

He said Cromwell has a good job and his mother, who was in the courtroom, needs the financial help her son can give her.

Judge Jim Carroll said he would reduce Cromwell's bail from $2,000 cash to $1,500 cash. Should he post it, he is ordered to seek mental health counseling, report to the court every Thursday morning for compliance court, and remain in his mother's house in Hillsborough County.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 12:34

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