Timber Hill ‘creates rift’ - Crowd fills Gilford Planning Board as it considers agritourism warrants

GILFORD — A member of the Gilford Planning Board told Andrew Howe of Timber Hill Road that his wedding receptions and the  petitioned zoning amendments he has submitted are creating a rift between town residents.

Member Jerry Gagnon asked Howe, who spoke for his petitioned warrant article to define agritourism under agriculture with virtually no fetters at a jam-packed meeting Tuesday night, to tell him what a wedding is. When Howe answered that it was when two people get married, Gagnon said he agreed but "a wedding is wedding, and not a wedding reception," which is what the Howes have been hosting on a portion of their farm.

"You're dividing everyone in town," said Gagnon to Howe.

Member Carolyn Scattergood said wedding receptions on farms reminds her of children's books where young ones have to pick out the one thing pictured that doesn't fit into a farm.

"I can't get past rental of a farm to a third party," she continued referring to the fact that the Howes hire the Common Man Restaurants to cater their events.

Audience member Bill Roderick asked the board to vote not to recommend the Howe's petitioned warrant article. He also encouraged the board to keep agritourism separate from agriculture, opening the door for a number of speakers to agree with him.

Jack Landow and his wife, Charlotte Landow, both said the two should be kept separate. He said agritourism is a relatively new phenomenon and its focus should be kept on agriculture.

"A wedding reception is not an agricultural event," he said.

"I believe agritourism and weddings have no place in agriculture," said Charlotte Landow who noted that she and her husband live between a sheep farm and a buffalo farm, and fears her property could be determined at some point to be commercial as well.

Ryan Crawford of Gunstock Hill Road agreed.

"I like the Howes and I go to Beans and Greens" (a second company owned and operated by the Howes in a commercial zone on Intervale Road), "As I look at these, I don't think they should be combined," he said.

Bill Seed, also of Gunstock Hill Road, has been opposed to the Howes hosting wedding receptions and including unfettered agritourism in agriculture for a long time.

"It must be a secondary use. It can't be a primary use," he said, referring to his research into agritourism.

One man simply stood at the podium and asked if it would mean agritourism would be allowed in all zones if the article is passed by the voters. When he was told "yes" by Morgenstern, he shook his head and walked away.

One man tried to speak on behalf of the Howes but when Morgenstern learned the speakekr didn't live in or pay taxes in Gilford but instead runs a business, he did not allow the man to speak.

The board then had little discussion and voted 5 to 1 with one abstention to not recommend the article.

The second petitioned warrant article would rezone all of the Howe property on Gunstock Hill Road from single-family residential to resort commercial. If passed, this will allow the Howes to do all activities on their property, including wedding receptions and the like, as well as other activities.

Andy Howe said this isn't true because all of his property is restricted by current use and is in a conservation trust granted by the Society for Protection of State Forests.

Crawford came to the podium for a second time and said this change would affect the value of his property. He said that the parties and weddings held last summer by the Howes "felt like they were in his own home."

"They woke up my kids and we had to close the windows," he said. It's not commercial, nor should it be."

Sally Rowe, who joined the agritourism conversation after living in Gilford for 50 years and never attending any meetings, said the proposal would "really screw up a lot of people."

 

Videos of wedding that have taken place at Timber Hill have been submitted to the town. They can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iEkpWsCef4 and www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CLiURQ_A1Q.

 

Members agreed 5 to 1, with Chan Eddy abstaining, that the petition would create "islands" of residential property within a commerical zone and voted not to support it.

As to their own proposed warrant articles, the board chose to put one on the ballot that would allow agritourism under certain conditions and within certain restrictions in all zones except Island Residential.

By agreeing to put the definition of agritourism under the category of agriculture and defining its parameters, the board eliminated a second proposal it generated that would have allowed it in all open space areas in all zones by a special exception from the Zoning Board.

Filing period opens for area town and school boards

The filing period for town officials opens today, Wednesday, Jan. 20, and ends at the close of business on Friday, Jan. 29.

In Alton, two of the five seats on the Board of Selectmen, each with a two-year term, are open.
Three of five seats on the Board of Selectmen in Barnstead, two with three-year terms and one with a one-year term, are on the ballot.
In Belmont, one seat with a one-year term among the five seats on the Board of Selectmen is on the ballot.
Of the three seats on the Board of Selectmen in Center Harbor, one with a three-year term, is open.
In Gilford, one of three seats with a three-year term is on the ballot.
In Gilmanton, two of the three seats on the Board of Selectmen, one with a three-year term and one with one-year term, are open.
In Meredith three of the five seats on the Board of Selectmen, two with three-year terms and one with a one-year term, are on the ballot.
One of the three seats on the Board of Selectmen with a three-year term is on the ballot in New Hampton.
In Sanbornton, one seat with a three-year term among three seats on the Board of Selectmen is open.
In Tilton, among the five seats on the Board of Selectmen, one with a three-year term will be on the ballot.

Gilford gives OK for $12M town budget to go on ballot

GILFORD — The Budget Committee sailed through its public hearing for the proposed town budget on Thursday unlike the previous night's tortured hearing over the school district's proposed budget.

Lasting just over 45 minutes, the committee approved a final proposed town operating budget for 2016 of $12,055,515. At the request of the administration, the final budget included $650 for the operations of the bath houses and snack bar at Gilford Beach and $2,351 for the cost provisions of the newly negotiated Police Department contract as negotiated by the Teamsters.

The default budget was set at $12,015,382, which is lower by $40,133.

The proposed budget is supported by the Budget Committee. In its meeting last week, selectmen voted to support its passage as well, despite the cuts in nonunion merit raises from an average of 3 percent to 1.5 percent as had been recommended by them.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said at the public hearing that the town will continue to follow its personnel policy.

Finance Director Geoff Ruggles said yesterday that about one-third of the employees in Gilford are not represented by unions. He said Dunn is the only employee with a contract,  so the employees affected include about eight to 10 employees at the Gilford Library, about 10 administrative staff members, the entire Town Clerk Tax Collectors Office, the two people in Parks and Recreation and the three in the Planning Department, all of the staff at the Fire Department and the administrative staff at the Public Works Department. All totaled, Ruggles said there are about 75 full-time employees in Gilford, with only the Police Department and the Public Works Department being represented by unions.

By law, the amount of money in the salary line item can be changed at the deliberative session of Town Meeting.

As in previous years, the majority of the members of the Budget Committee agreed with the three members of the Board of Selectmen that they would not support funding the requests from the so-called "outside agencies" whose requests total $59,130.

"Historically, I am not opposed to the work of these agencies," said Chairman Kevin Leandro, who went on to explain that traditionally it is a "long-held" practice to allow the voters to decide for themselves which, if any, of the agencies they will support.

When a member of the public noted that many area communities, including Laconia, include financial support in budgets, member Norman Silber said that it would be "highly irregular" to him to recommend all taxpayers support the agencies on a nonvoluntary basis, despite the "good works" they perform.

Leandro added that the "no" recommendations have traditionally not meant much because the Gilford voters have always "been pretty supportive of these agencies."

The agencies seeking funding from Gilford and represented by petitioned warrant articles 23 through 27 and include the Laconia Area Center of Community Action Program for $9,000; the Central New Hampshire Visiting Nurses Association for $23,500; New Beginnings for $2,630; and Genesis Behavioral Health for $21,000.

A speakers from Genesis, the Director of New Hampshire Fire Standards and Training Deb Pendergast spoke in favor of having the Budget Committee support Genesis. The agency provided mental health assistance form 3,843 people in fiscal year 2015, of which 189 were Gilford residents.

Sandra McGonagle, the town moderator, said that while she can understand the committee's and selectmen's reasoning about "not compelling" voters to support the agencies, she said she felt compelled to speak on their behalf because "we become truly a better community if we all work together."

"Think of the face of Gilford and how you reflect that face," she said.

McGonagle made her statement after the Budget Committee voted 7 to 2 with one abstention to support a petitioned warrant article that requests $750 for the Annual Candlelight Stroll through Gilford Village.

Town Finance Director Geoff Ruggles said the stroll began as part of Gilford's Christmas celebration during the 2012 Bicentennial Celebration. He said the committee continues to raise money through donations, while Parks and Works Director Herb Greene said there are a number of fundraisers that will continue throughout the year. The committee voted 7 to 2 to support the stroll, with David Horvath Sr. abstaining.

Gilford's deliberative session of Town Meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m., at the Gilford High School auditorium.