City Council to re-visit Weirs zoning issues on Monday

LACONIA — After rejecting a recommendation from the Planning Board to rezone a large portion of Weirs Boulevard in May, the City Council will revisit the issue when it meets Monday night with an eye to offering guidance to the board.

The proposal would have rezoned about 2.5 miles of the boulevard south of the Naswa resort to White Oaks Road from Commercial Resort (CR) to Shorefront Residential (SFR) and an area on Lake Street from the Margate Resort Commercial Resort to Commercial. It also changed 10 permitted uses within the new district. The plan was developed by the city's Zoning Task Force in response to the council's request that the Planning Board review the permitted uses within the CR district, which extends northward from White Oaks Road to the Meredith town line and also east along Route 11B to just beyond the Weirs Community Center.
The Planning Board recommended the change to limit commercial uses along Weirs Boulevard, which it claimed has become a residential neighborhood as the result of the conversion of many one-time motels and cottage colonies to condominiums as well as the construction of several new multifamily condominium complexes. However, after hearing opposition to restricting commerce in the area from business interests, the council scuttled the proposal.

In returning to the subject, Mayor Ed Engler said yesterday that the council seeks to indicate specific items in the CR zone that the Planning Board should address. For example, he questioned whether the uses of highway frontage in the CR district should be differentiated from those in the remainder of the district. Likewise, with so many vacant lots at the Weirs, should steps be taken to forestall residential development, which is permitted throughout the CR district, foreclosing opportunities for commercial or mixed-use development.

A "Smart Growth" team, sponsored and funded by the United States Environmental Protection, that visited the city in 2006 recommended refining the zoning at the Weirs to encourage a mix of commercial and residential development in 2007.

Judge voids eviction for unauthorized pet on grounds cat is a 'service' animal

LACONIA — A 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division judge ruled Thursday that a local landlord cannot evict a couple from their apartment because the cat they own is a "service" cat for their 15-year-old niece.

H & P Apartments has long had a no-pets policy. One of the owners said recently that they have never allowed pets because of noise and damage concerns.

When they found out recently that one of their tenants had a cat, they started an eviction process but Judge Jim Carroll ruled that because a mental health clinician at Genesis Behavior Health recommended the girl have a cat "in order to decrease depression and anxiety symptoms in the home" there would be no eviction.

In his two-sentence decision, Carroll wrote that the defendant, in this case, the girl's uncle, "has presented sufficient evidence that the cat is a service pet for his niece who is a legal resident of the apartment. Eviction denied."

According to the Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire, the Fair Housing Act of 1988 and the New Hampshire Human Rights Laws (RSA 354-A) protect the rights of people to have support animals in their homes, even when the landlord has a no-pets policy.

However, there are some rules that apply to getting an exemption from a no-pets police including that the person has a disability, that the person needs the animal to function and there must be a relationship between the applicants ability to function and the assistance the animal provides.

The Disability Rights Center's on-line bulletin also says that a tenant with a disability exemption animal can not be a nuisance to other tenants and if the animal causes any damage the tenant is responsible for any costs associated with it or for cleaning costs.

The bulletin said a tenant should make a written request for a service animal for a "reasonable accommodation" and that a note from a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional is required.

The landlord is not allowed to ask for an additional "pet" deposit.

A representative from H & P apartments declined comment saying he was consulting with his attorney about Judge Carroll's decision.

Dragonfly said to have caused Coca-Cola truck overturn in Northfield

NORTHFIELD — A man driving a Coca-Cola truck escaped serious injury after he lost control of his vehicle on Rte. 140 yesterday when a dragonfly flew into his window and became lodged between his glasses and his eyeball.

Police Sgt. James McIntire said the unnamed driver tried to remove the insect from behind his glasses but swerved the truck and blew out a tire.

The truck drove through the drive rail, said McIntire and landed on its side, spilling Coca-Cola products into the ditch and along the highway.

McIntire said the driver was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia for evaluation. The dragonfly has not been located.