Council decides to hold its own hearing on pot dispensary ordinance

LACONIA — The City Council this week considered the zoning ordinance proposed by the Planning Baord to regulate the location and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, but withheld its approval pending the outcome of a second public hearing before the council at its next regularly scheduled meeting on March 9.

Although only one person spoke before a small gathering at the public hearing held by the Planning Board earlier in the month, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked the council to hold second public hearing before putting the proposal to a vote and his colleagues, led by Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) agreed.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will select, license and regulate the nonprofit corporations owning and operating the ATCs. DHHS has received 14 applications to operate ATCs in four geographic zones, one of which consists of Belknap, Strafford and Rockingham counties. At least one application has been received for each of the four geographic areas, but DHHS has declined to specify either how many applications were submitted for each area or where within each area applicants propose to operate. However, where such facilities operate are questions for municipalities to address through their zoning ordinances.
Rather than propose different zoning regulations for dispensing, cultivating and processing, the Planning Board chose to to apply the same regulation to all three. The ordinance would confine ATCs to the Industrial Park, Industrial and Airport Industrial districts and prohibit them elsewhere. The Industrial Park District refers to the O'Shea Industrial Park on Lexington Drive. There two Industrial Districts downtown — at the west end of Watrer Street and west end of Court Street — two in the south end on Province Street (NH Route 107) either side of the bypass— and another on Blaisdell Avenue. The Airport Industrial District lies on Artisan Court, east of White Oaks Road bordering the Gilford town line, and is reached by Lily Pond Road.
ATCs would be prohibited in residential districts and within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers and places of worship. The dispensaries would be allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. All facilities must be fitted with security alarms and cameras, operating around the clock and connected to the Police Department and an alarm monitoring company.
Corporations seeking to operate in the city would require a conditional use permit as well as an approved site plan. A conditional use permit requires an applicant to demonstrate that the use will not endanger the health or safety of the public, substantially diminish the value of nearby properties, adversely impact vehicular or pedestrian safety, not impair natural resources or necessitate excessive public expenditures. The use must also be compatible with the neighborhood and the uses of adjacent properties. In addition, any signage must comply with the relevant regulations.

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Parent sues officer over arrest at school board meeting

GILFORD — The man who objected to one of his 9th grade daughter's reading assignments at a School Board meeting last year is suing the local police lieutenant who arrested him and removed him from the meeting.

William Baer has filed a suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire seeking damages from Lt. James Leach for allegedly violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

"Had (Leach) of the Gilford Police Department not falsely arrested the plaintiff, without a warrant or probable cause, for exercising his right to free speech, the plaintiff would have been free from seizure, arrest, and criminal charges," wrote Concord attorney Charles Douglas in his pleading.

Baer was charged with three criminal complaints of disorderly conduct under three separate sections of the disorderly conduct law.

After a number of months, 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll dismissed the charges against Baer saying, among other things, that "the court questions the constitutionality of the state's action in the sequence as memorialized by the deposition."

Because of his arrest, Baer is seeking damages because he was humiliated in front of a room filled with people and the videos went viral. A YouTube video of the incident was viewed by at least one million times.

In addition, Baer's license to carry a concealed weapon in Maine was delayed and he was temporarily held at the Canadian border because of the arrest.

Baer's children attend Gilford Schools and he said they have suffered emotional repercussions as a result of his father's public arrest.

He is seeking a unknown amount of financial compensation and legal fees.

At a regularly scheduled Gilford School Board meeting on May 5, 2014 Baer and a number of other residents attending the meeting to voice their opinions on a reading assignment.

In Baer's opinion, the book, "Nineteen Minutes" by Jody Picoult, contained a sexually explicit section that he believed was inappropriate for a ninth grader. He had made his objections known through various outlets and because of the controversy, the meeting was packed with Baer supporters and detractors. At least three newspapers reporters were there as were two people operating video cameras.

Chair Sue Allen opened public comment and limited each speaker to two minutes and a single opportunity to speak. Leach was at the meeting, in uniform and initially standing off to one side.

Baer spoke for at least two minutes and, according to the lawsuit, was told by resident Joe Wernig that his time had ended. Baer finished his thought and sat down. Wernig lives in Gilford and is an educator in the Shaker Regional School District.

Two others spoke and were followed by Wernig who said Baer are others were trying to dictate what his kids can and cannot read. Without being recognized to speak again, Baer loudly reacted that Wernig's statement was ridiculous and was told by Allen to respect other speakers. But Baer kept talking.

After a nod from Allen and Superintendent Kent Hemingway, Leach approached Baer and told him he was being asked to leave. He gave him no prior warning and Baer said, "I guess you're gonna have to arrest me."

Leach removed Baer by grabbing his wrist and leading him from the meeting room. He was handcuffed outside the glass-walled room and arrested.

While the suit is filed against Leach as an individual, according to state law he is indemnified by state law — meaning he is not personally responsible for any financial awards should Baer prevail, but the town of Gilford is.

When contacted yesterday, Leach said he was not aware of the suit.

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Fire displaces family of 7 in Belmont


BELMONT — Seven people, including five children, escaped a fire Sunday night which consumed the roof of a residence at 58 Perkins Road.

Fire Chief Dave Parenti said the fire was first noticed at 8:30 p.m. by a neighbor who was out walking her dogs. He said the people in the home were unaware the house was on fire.

Parenti said the neighbor brought her dogs back inside her home and, while her husband called 9-1-1, she went up to the burning home and knocked on the door to alert the family.

Parenti said all the occupants got out however. However, of 1:15 a.m. Monday, the family cat was still missing.

He described the house as a manufactured home with multiple additions and multiple roofs.

Parenti said the cause of the blaze is "undetermined but not suspicious" and he believes the home is virtually a total loss.

He said it appeared the fire started in a small area between the highest finished ceiling and the roof in the rear of the building. The space was used for storage.

Parenti said Belmont personnel fought the fire from one side of the home while Laconia firefighters battled it from the other side of the structure. Gilmanton crews also assisted at the fire scene.

"There was plenty of water because there were two hydrants, and we had shoveled out both of them," Parenti said.

When the report of the fire came in, Parenti said his ambulance crew was just leaving Lakes Region General Hospital but a call-firefighter and an off-duty firefighter had come in for station coverage.

He said the ambulance crew went directly to the fire, while the two firefighters covering the station brought the fire engine. Lt. Mike Newhall said the back portion of the roof was completely engulfed in flames, prompting him to call a first alarm that brought crews from Gilford, Tilton-Northfield, Sanbornton and Franklin either to the fire scene or to the fire station for coverage.

During the blaze, firefighters also responded to an alarm at one of Belmont's schools.

He said the main portion of the roof was completely destroyed and, at one point, slid off the main portion of the house and onto a burning storage area.

Crews had to get the roof off the storage area, which was where the bulk of the fire was burning.

Parenti said the blaze was under control at 10 p.m., but crews were needed until just after 1 a.m. to make sure the fire was out.

He said because of ice buildup there were a number of "slip and falls" for firefighters, but fortunately no one was injured. Crews from the Belmont Department of Public Works were called to salt and sand the area.

The Red Cross is assisting the family.

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Candidates night in Tilton on March 5

TILTON — Voters will have an opportunity hear from the candidates running for town offices of Thursday, March 5 at 6 p.m. when they will appear at Town Hall.

There are three candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen — Pat Consentino, an incumbent selectman, Wayne Brock, chairman of the Budget Comment, and Peter Fogg, chairman of the Sewer Commission. Katherine Dawson is running for a seat on the Sewer Commission without opposition. Eric Pyra is seeking a three-year term and Juliet Harvey a two-year term on the Budget Committee.

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