By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Although she wants some time to think about it, it appears a Gilford woman who has challenged her neighbors' attempts to host weddings on the property next door has reached a settlement with them. After 90 minutes of diplomacy, lawyers for Monique Twomey, the town of Gilford and Andrew Martina Howe told a judge in Belknap County Superior Court Monday that they are close to an agreement.
Monique Twomey of Gunstock Hill Road challenged the Gilford Zoning Board's second decision in 2015 to refuse to uphold a cease-and-desist order issued against the Howe family by the Gilford Planning Department.
The effect of this refusal was to allow the Howes to continue to host weddings under the theory that agritourism is the same as agriculture; however, Twomey filed suit challenging the decision, which effectively prevented the Howes from hosting events in 2016 on that property.
Twomey said she sought the cease-and-desist order over concerns about noise and traffic. She said she was being denied the intended use of her home because during the times the Howes hosted events, she was unable to be outside with her two small children, and feared that a commercial operation next door to her home would diminish her property's value.
In the interim, the Gilford Planning Board granted the Howes' site plan approval after selectmen stepped in and ordered them to make a decision within a month's time.
At the March 2016 annual Town Meeting, voters adopted a new definition of agritourism and the New Hampshire State Legislature passed a law that included agritourism in its definition of agriculture.
Twomey filed four lawsuits against the town of Gilford in the Belknap County Superior Court, and all but one were dismissed. Andrew and Martina Howe joined the lawsuit as intervenors.
Andy Howe said Tuesday they hosted one wedding in a pavilion near the family farm stand, Beans and Greens, and said it was a very successful event. He said the farm itself had a great summer but declined to comment further while negotiations continue.
The three parties are scheduled to reappear in court sometime around Dec. 14 or as the court calendar permits. All parties seemed confident that an agreement could be reached.
Speaking on behalf of the town of Gilford, Town Administrator Scott Dunn declined to reveal any of the settlement negotiations but added that as long as any agreement between the Howes and Twomey falls within the town's zoning regulations, he would be fine with it.
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