Burchell charged colleagues are 'apologists for failed system'; DeVoy & Taylor respond

LACONIA — The two Belknap County Commissioners who voted Monday to oust Richard Burchell of Gilmanton as chairman have defended themselves against charges made in a written statement he distributed to members of the Belknap County Convention last month.
Both Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton and Hunter Taylor of Alton took issue with Burchell's characterization of them as ''apologists for a failed system'' because they had not endorsed his plan to restructure county government by eliminating the positions of county administrator, finance director and director of Human Resources.
''Dick Burchell has no education or experience in organizational change. I'm not going to come in and try and start changing everything after just two months on the job," said DeVoy. "When it comes to that kind of change we need to think about it and study it before deciding it's the right thing for the county.''

DeVoy was selected as the new chairman on Monday in an election that Burchell disputes.
Taylor said that Burchell's characterization of him as an apologist is simply wrong. ''No one was more of an outspoken critic of the previous regime than I was,'' he said, pointing out his strong opposition a costly jail plan proposed by the former commissioners as well as his criticisms of them for not following the budget transfer law and not doing something to curtail rising health insurance costs for the county.
''I've learned that if you disagree with Mr. Burchell you better be ready to be criticized,'' said Taylor, who said that the criticism comes in the form of exaggerations of an opponent's positions.
Burchell's statement was distributed to convention members at their Feb. 17 meeting.
Frank Tilton, chairman of the convention, said that he recalled reading it and said it lacked specific recommendations that could be considered during the 2015 county budget process, as did a brief one page description of Burchell's budget plan which was distributed a week later to the Laconia City Council.
The written statement was distributed to the convention four days after Burchell refused to participate with his fellow commissioners and county officials in a day-long meeting to address the budget and come up with an additional $400,000 in budget changes to meet Tilton's target of a $1.1 million cut in the amount to be raised by property taxes.
It cited ''the divisive personalities which were rife in the two years I served as a member of the delegation'' and claimed that not making the changes he recommended would ''leave the same personalities in place which helped to create a distrustful and punitive work environment,'' an apparent reference to Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett and Finance Director Glen Waring.
DeVoy has said that Burchell is using the prospect of diminished revenues as leverage to shrink and restructure the county administration, an agenda he nurtured as a member of the convention for the two years before his election to the commission. Alluding to the tension between Burchell and county officials whose positions he would eliminate, DeVoy suggested his plan smacks of "retribution".
Taylor has said that Burchell lacks the temperament to be chairman and can't deal with differences of opinion.
Burchell was apparently ousted as chairman in a chaotic meeting of the commissioners Monday morning in which he tried to prevent them from removing him by constantly rapping a gavel and declaring loudly that they were "out of order. DeVoy and Taylor continued to make and pass motions to overrule the chairman and, after they replaced him, adjourned the meeting.
Burchell later in the day filed a motion in Belknap County Superior Court seeking ex parte relief from the action of the other two commissioners, claiming that there is no statutory basis for his removal as chairman, which he maintains will be ''an invitation to chaos". He had unsuccessfully sought an injunction before the meeting to prevent the other commissioners from taking action. He says he still considers himself chairman and will only step aside if ordered to do so by a judge.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for March 11 at 1:30 p.m.
DeVoy will be represented by Attorney Paul Fitzgerald at the hearing while Taylor, who is a lawyer, will represent himself.

All three commissioners are Republicans, as are all members of the current convention.

Weirs zoning changes would prohibit auto sales & self storage

LACONIA — Planning Director Shanna Sauders this week presented the recommendations of the city's Zoning Task Force to redraw the boundaries and revise the uses of the Commercial Resort District to the Planning Board.

The Commercial Resort District begins on Lake Street, just south of its junction with White Oaks Road, extends northward along Weirs Boulevard, includes the center of the Weirs and runs either side of Rte. 3 to the Meredith town line. It also includes property along both sides of Route 11-B, including the former Surf Coaster property. The zoning ordinance describes the district as intended to accommodate dining, lodging and recreation entities for both occasional tourists and seasonal residents as well as apartments and condominiums.

Last fall, after the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a special exception to operate a used car lot at the north end of the district then denied two requests to do the same in the eastern part of the district, the City Council asked the Planning Board to review the permitted uses in the district.

Saunders said that the task force recommends adding the southernmost part of the Commercial Resort District, from the Bayside Cemetery to the junction of Weirs Boulevard and White Oaks Road, to the commercial district that extends southward along Union Avenue. She explained that because many of the motels and cottages on Weirs Boulevard have been converted to condominiums, the task force recommends rezoning the eastern shore of Paugus Bay northward to the Naswa Resort from commercial resort to shorefront residential. The remaining boundaries of the district would remain unchanged.

The task force recommended changing 10 land uses in the Commercial Resort District. Accessory apartments and greenhouses, which are not permitted, would be permitted, but would require a conditional use permit.

Granted by the Planning Board, conditional use permits require that the use will not endanger public health or safety, adversely affect the value of abutting properties, is compatible with the neighborhood and nearby uses and will not impair either vehicular or pedestrian safety or natural resources.

Storage of trailers, campers and boats on residential properties, sexually oriented businesses, car washes and detailing, nightclubs and dance halls and agricultural uses, all of which are currently permitted by right, would require a special exception.

Special exceptions are granted by the ZBA, which must find the use will not create traffic congestion or impair pedestrian safety, not overburden water, sewer or drainage systems, generate excessive demand for emergency or disposal services, pose hazards to pubic health, safety and welfare, is suited to the location and consistent with the Master Plan.

Bed and breakfast establishments, which currently require a conditional use permit, would be permitted by right. Indoor self-storage, which is currently permitted, would no longer be permitted in the district. Automobile sales and service, which is permitted by special exception, would also be prohibited.

After reviewing the recommendations of the task force, the Planning Board will propose amendments to the zoning ordinance to the City Council for its approval.


2 of 3 selectmen don't recommend budget but default would fund Year-Round Library in Gilmanton

GILMANTON — It looks like SB-2, also known as the Official Ballot Act, may come back to haunt its supporters this year because of a deliberative session change made to Warrant Article 7 — the 2015 appropriation for town government.

During the SB-2 deliberative session last month, Selectman Brett Currier made a motion to increase the general operating budget from $3,434,797 to $3,458,730 — an increase of $23,933.

The increase was so every town employee could have a 3 1/2-percent raise. The budget approved by the Budget Committee and the Board of Selectmen included 3 1/2-percent raises for the two employees of the Town Clerk/Tax Collector's Office. The rest of the employees were slated to get 2 percent.

Currier said he didn't think that was fair that all employees didn't get the same raise so he made the motion on the floor to increase the budget. Though it passed by those attending the deliberative session, Currier's amendment is not supported by the majority of the selectmen, nor is it supported by the Budget Committee and wording at the bottom of the warrant article reflects that.

Should the electorate vote down the operating budget as written, a default budget of $3,515,283 will take its place. The default budget is $56,553 higher and includes last year's $52,000 voter-approved appropriation for the Gilmanton Year-Round Library. The entire Selectboard declined to recommend a $46,000 appropriation for the library this year and it will again appear on the ballot as a separate warrant article.

On the ballot, voters will find a race between Michael Jean and Scott Dunn, however Selectman Brett Currier has said that he will enter Tuesday's race for the one selectman's spot as a write-in candidate.

Currier had said earlier that he didn't wish to seek a second term, however confirmed that a group of people had approached him about taking the seat if he could prevail in a write-in campaign.

"I said I wasn't going to do any campaigning but did say that if I won, I would serve," Currier said.

Jean said he was concerned about the number of non-public sessions the current board holds, supports having an appointed road agent and supports SB-2. (Voter's will be asked to repeal use of the Official Ballot Act in their town.)

When he lived in Epping he was a selectman. He is a member of the volunteer fire department.

Dunn is a recent arrival to Gilmanton and is the Town Administrator for Gilford. He said he is also not actively campaigning for the one open seat and entered the race because nobody had entered as of 1 p.m. on the last filing day.

He acknowledges he is new in town and said he wants to be an active participant in Gilmanton.

Gilmanton voters go to the polls at the Gilmanton School this year because of the water damage done to the Town Hall when a pipe burst.

New recording studio a co-op

GILFORD — With the opening of the Recording Co-Op, four musicians with a bundle of talents, breadth of vision and array of ambitions have embarked on turning a horse barn on Cherry Valley Road into a rustic echo of Tin Pan Alley.

Ryan Ordway, a well-travelled singer-songwriter, recalled the project began five years ago when he met Franz Haase, a fellow musician, owner of the Folk Cellar in Wolfeboro and mainstay of the local arts community. They opened a small recording studio — Resort Recordings — and began pursuing plans to foster what Ordway called "a community of musicians".

Last year, Ordway and Haase moved their operation to Gilford, where, together with Cameron McGonagle and Alan Loudon, they formed the nucleus of the Recording Co-Op. "It began as a private thing," Ordway said, "for our band, Ordway, and our music."

Investing more than $100,000, the four converted the barn to a recording studio, featuring a vintage mixing console acquired from Audio Magic, a studio in Buffalo, New York. Haase noted that Ani DeFranco recorded her first four albums on the console, which also laid down the voices of the Goo Goo Dolls and Willie Nelson. "It's got a history," he remarked.

With its own label — Recording Co-Op — the studio offers artists 100 hours of time in the studio and a one-percent stake in the cooperative in return for $3,500. Nearly half of the 40 available memberships have been taken. Ordway said "we're a label funded by the artists." The cooperative also stages live concerts on the first Saturday of each month at the studio, where the 40 seats sell for $15 apiece.

Meanwhile, Ordway and his partners envision the studio as the beginning of a grander undertaking. They have formed a nonprofit corporation — Lakes Region Institute for the Arts — to offer education and instruction for aspiring artists of all ages in performing and songwriting as well as audio and video engineering. Ordway said they are looking for a second venue with space for teaching and rehearsal rooms along with audio and video studios.

"It will be a like mini music school," Ordway said, explaining that half the cost of tuition would be offset by scholarships. He said the cooperative has already worked with schools in the region, including Moultonborough Academy, Inter-Lakes High School, Prospect Mountain High School, and anticipates complementing the curriculum offered by the schools with instruction in audio and video engineering. He noted that between 2011 and 2012 employment in audio and video engineering grew by 640 percent.

Ordway expects to draw on his connections in music business to nurture enterprise. He has recorded for television shows, among them "The Office" and "raising hope," and networks, including ESPN and NESN. He was selected from more than 1,000 entries to spend a week at Blackbird Studios in Nashville under the tutelage of producer Ken Scott, who has engineered the sounds of the Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Jeff Beck.

"It would be a real innovative thing for the music business," Ordway said, "and it's going to take a community, or several communities, to make it happen."