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Gilford's attorney says solar panel farm not 'accessory use' in residential area; applicant granted time to study opinion

GILFORD — After getting an opinion from the town attorney that Will Drew's request for a solar panel farm on a residential lot at 16 Kimball Road doesn't meet the definition of an "accessory use" under the town's zoning ordinance, the Planning Board decided to table his request to give his attorney time to study the opinion.

Drew wants to build 370 raised solar panel racks that will hold 1, 480 3-foot by 4-foot solarvoltaic panels on a 1.4-acre portion of his property in the field adjacent to the intersection of Rte. 11-B (Weirs Road) and Rte. 11-C (Lily Pond Road).

The panels will generate enough electricity to power eight of the homes he has on the property and his plan is to sell the balance into the Public Service of New Hampshire grid. The application has been before the board since February 27 and has been through at least two public hearings.

Last week, Drew was represented by attorney Phil Brouillard, who expressed his clients frustration by telling the members that "we will not stand for making it up or flying by the seat of your pants."

Brouillard said there is no ordinance in Gilford that covers solar panels but he and Drew believe it is a worthwhile project and want the Planning Board and Planning Department to assist them in making it a reality.

He said there's no smoke, no colors, "just electricity that goes back into the grid," and that he didn't want to hear a lot of unnecessary stuff that's not in the ordinance."

That there is nothing in the ordinances is what troubles Town Planner John Ayer and the town attorney, who said the proposal "does not constitute a reasonable use of the site for the purposes permitted" according to the contents of RSA 362-A:1.

The draft proposal presented to the board by the attorney said Drew's proposal for energy production of more that 22 times the amount he would use on the property is not a "subordinate use" but would be a "principal use" of the property.

In previous meetings, many Planning Board members have said the amount of electricity being generated borders on a commercial use as opposed to an ancillary use for a residential area.

Abutters were primarily concerned with screening the solar field from view and the general appearance of the field once the solar stands and panels are installed.

One man wanted to know if it was even possible to mow the grass once the stands had been installed. Another said he was concerned about glare and run off but Drew said the panels would be angled away from Route 11-B.

Although the board voted to table the site plan proposal, the suggestion from the attorney was to have the Planning Board deny the request and have Drew appeal the decision to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, asking for a variance.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 01:02

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Biker bar owner tells city officials Motorcycle Week in decline

LACONIA — "This is the oldest motorcycle rally," said Bill Niland, who owns and operates a biker bar in Seabrook, "and it's the first one I've seen declining."

Niland was speaking to a meeting hosted by officials at City Hall yesterday to solicit comments from property owners, traveling vendors and the general public on the 91st running of Motorcycle Week. For the second year, Niland operated a beer tent with live music at the Weirs Beach Drive-In, noting that he invested $100,000 in the enterprise, but lost $20,000, half as much as he lost the year before. He said that many of the regular patrons of his bar in Seabrook, who have come to Laconia for years, did not spend a day at the rally this year.

With a measure of sarcasm, Niland referred to a report in "The Citizen" newspaper that this year's rally drew a record crowd, prompting Planning Director Shanna Saunders to quip, "I think we have a record maker every year."

"There's nothing really going on up here," Niland continued, adding that he hoped to find side mirrors for his motorcycle, but could not find a single vendor offering them amid the T-shirts and sunglasses. He said there were only two entertainment venues at The Weirs, his own and the Laconia Roadhouse at the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound. "There is no attraction," he said.

Niland acknowledged that he did not know how to reverse the trend, he suggested the organizers of the rally consider a partnership with the Freedom Ride, sponsored by the Northeast POW/MIA Network, which he thought might enhance the rally. Otherwise, he said flatly "I see it declining, declining fast."

By the time Niland spoke, Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, had left the meeting. "Charlie knows what I think," Niland remarked with a smile. However, City Manager Scott Myers asked Niland if the two could speak together about the issues he raised. "Anytime, Niland replied. "Anytime."

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:57

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Gilford police station job could go out to bid as early as September 1

GILFORD — Town Administrator Scott Dunn told selectmen last night that the engineering plans for the Police Department renovation and expansion project at Town Hall should be ready for board review by August 27.

Should the board accept the plans, Dunn said they should be ready to go to bid by September 1.

The board also approved a one-year extension of the finish date for the Homeland Security federal grant portion of the project that will build a Emergency Operations Center — something the existing department doesn't have right now.

Dunn said the assistant chief of planning for Homeland Security approved moving the final completion date from September 30, 2014 to September 30, 2015.

Dunn said the town requested the extension because it had just hired a new police chief, who will be a key member of the construction management team.

He also said the town wants to continue to be able to use the portion of the Police Department that will eventually become the EOC during construction, which should take about a year.

In other news, selectmen approved $2,647 for the replacement of deck of the town bandstand.

According to a memorandum from Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene, the buildings and grounds department has told him the deck has rotted through and replacing the floor board only is no longer an option.

Greene said the re-decking should not interfere with any of the town's scheduled activities which include community band concerts and Old Home Day.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:54

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Police release name of man found dead in Laconia apartment

LACONIA — Police have identified Steven J. Copp II as the man who was found dead in an apartment at 709 Union Avenue Saturday afternoon

Copp's body was discovered around 3:30 p.m. when another person in the apartment checked to see why he hadn't risen.

Police said Copp entered the apartment just after midnight on Friday and went directly to bed.

Police did not give a cause of death and said the investigation is ongoing.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:48

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