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Gilford boards learn cell tower issue is quite complicated

GILFORD — The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) and Planning Board, meeting jointly last night, decided to continue consideration of a proposal to erect a cell tower at the foot of David Lewis Road that has aroused the ire of several nearby property owners.
According to federal law, the ZBA has another 150 days to grant the special exception the project requires. To grant a special exception the ZBA must find, among other things, that the cell tower will not have a detrimental impact or pose a nuisance to the neighborhood.

John Morgenstern, chairman of the Planning Board, said that the board was treating the meeting as an informational opportunity in advance of holding its first public hearing on the proposal in January.
New Cingular Wireless PCS, doing business as AT&T, and American Tower Corporation, LLC, the construction manager, have applied to erect a 100-foot monopole tower with 12 antennas on the southeast corner of a 148-acre tract owned by the Traditional Catholics of New Hampshire, most of which is a farm worked by Armand and Ernie Bolduc, who raise buffalo and tap maples on the property.

The tower would be topped by a beacon specified by the Federal Aviation Administration to alert aircraft The site would include an equipment shelter, 12-feet by 20-feet, and emergency diesel generator within a 50-square compound surrounded by chain link fence six-feet high and topped with barbed wire. A 12-foot driveway leading from the southwest corner of David Lewis Road would provide access to the tower.
The tower would stand 100 feet from the property line of two adjoining lots, one a house lot at 38 David Lewis Road owned by Kevin Lacasse and the other a vacant 5.27-acre parcel reached from Stark Street owned by Roger Baron. Although the tower would not be as close to the home of Charles and Winifred Hughes at 48 David Lewis Road, the slope of the land would make it very visible from much of their property. Moreover, to reach the tower a 12-foot wide road would be built within a 50-foot right-of-way from David Lewis Road adjacent to their property line.
Will Dodge, an attorney representing AT&T, explained that the tower is intended to expand voice and data coverage in the immediate area by reducing the extent of zones where coverage is frequently intermittent or altogether lacking. He claimed that set in a wooded area the tower would be visible from only a few locations and would not be seen from public roads. Radio frequency emissions, Dodge said, would be "well, well below" the recommended threshold to ensure public safety.
Neither Baron nor Lacasse were persuaded. Calling the tower "very offensive," Baron said "there is no doubt in my mind that it will devalue my property." He told the boards that an appraiser could not measure the precise impact because she could not find comparable circumstances where a cell tower was erected so close to a residential neighborhood. Baron also presented photographs of cell towers that caught fire, asking how the Gilford Fire-Rescue Department would deal with a 100-foot tower ablaze.
Lacasse said that the tower would reach at least 30 feet above the tree line, dismissing claims that the trees would screen the structure from view. Apart from occasional noise when it was running, the generator he said would emit exhaust fumes on to his property. He also expected that the tower would become a target for vandalism and attract "all kinds of riff-raff." He urged the board to "come to the defense of the little people in Gilford" by rejecting the proposal and "have them look for another location."
Steve Nix, acting as chairman of the ZBA, sought clarification of the relationship between local land use ordinances and the federal telecommunications law, which stipulates that zoning ordinances cannot be used to prohibit telecommunication service. Dodge said that AT&T has equipment on other towers in the area, but cannot provide the coverage it needs without the proposed tower. He said that the federal law provides that each provider of cellular service is entitled to fill in the gaps in its coverage, not simply to ensure that competing providers together provide adequate service to a given area.
The ZBA will return to the proposal when it meets in January.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 02:38

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If Winnisquam union deal approved, teachers with more than 10 years experience will no longer get both 'step' & cost-of-living pay hikes each year

TILTON — Automatic pay scale step increases for teachers with more than 10 years of experience will be a thing of the past in the Winnisquam Regional School District if a new collective bargaining agreement is approved at the annual school district meeting next March.
''There was a perception that teachers are getting double raises because they received both the step increases as well as cost of living increases and we wanted to deal with that,'' said Winnisquam Regional School Board Chair Michael Gagne.
Advancing steps that equate to years of experience are built into the union salary schedules of almost all school districts and teachers typically move up the ladder, one year at a time, until there are no more steps available to them. A teacher moving from one step to the next will typically see an increase in pay on the order of 2 or 3 percent, plus the value of each step will often be adjusted upward by the terms of an agreement, adding another 2 or 3 percent to base pay.

The Winnisquam School District currently has 41 steps but that will be reduced to from to 11 in the first year of the agreement and 10 the following year.
Gagne said that the agreement which was recently reached between the Winnisquam Regional School District and the Winnisquam Regional Teachers' Association also increases the starting salary for teachers by $5,000 over a three-year period.
He said that in the first year of the three-year agreement, the base pay for new teachers will increase to $34,000 and that it will increase in subsequent years to $35,205 and $36,191. Currently starting pay for a new teacher is $31,152.
'We wanted to attract more teaching candidates and retain staff by making the district's salaries competitive with those of nearby school districts,'' said Gagne.
In the first year of the new contract teachers will be advanced two steps because they are working without a contract this year. The step increases in the first year will be 3 percent of base salary for each step through step 15 and 1.94 percent of the base salary for steps 15-41.
The total "new" cost of the package agreed to will be $559,674 for the 2014-2015 school year.
a 7.25 percent increase in the district's teacher salary account.
In the second year of the contract steps 1-11 will see a three percent increase in value and those still in that experience range will also move up one step. Those with no more steps to ascend to will receive a three percent cost of living increase. Total salary increase will be $347,569 for 2015-2016, a 4.2 percent increase in the salary account.
In the final year of the contract steps 1-10 will receive a 3 percent increase in value and teachers who are no longer able to step up will receive 2.5 percent cost of living increases. Total increase will be $270,592, a 3.13 percent increase in the salary account.
A teacher on step 5 currently making $36,420 will see a salary increase to $40,129 next year, $42,598 in 2015-16 and $44,877 in 2016-17.
By contrast a teacher on step 15 currently making $47,322 will see an increase to $49,599 next year, $51,357 in 2015-16 and $52,641 the following year.
The teacher currently on step 5 will see an increase of $8,467 over the life contract while the teacher on step 15 will only see an increase of $5,319, more than $3,000 less than the teacher with 10 years less experience.
A major focus of the new contract according to Gagne and Brenda Lawrence, president of the Winnisquam Regional Teachers Association, was the "promotion of professional growth among our existing staff". The contract increases the number of teaching days from 188 to 189 in the first year and then adds another day in the second year. There is also an increase in monies made available for professional development, from $90,000 to $110,000 per year.

A new health care benefit was also added to the contract for retiring teachers. If the agreement is approved, they will be eligible to receive a $6,000 health care allowance annually for a period of five years, or until they become eligible for Medicare, whichever comes first.

"This new benefit encourages our existing staff members to remain in the district long term," said Gagne and Lawrence. "The benefit also makes retirement a reality for some of our existing staff members, with potential savings to the district, long term."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 02:12

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N.H. Supreme Court sides with town in its dispute with Meredith Zoning Board

MEREDITH — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Belknap County Superior Court setting aside the decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to grant a variance to allow a variety of commercial uses on the portion of the lot at 22 Foundry Avenue.

The litigation, which began in 2010 pitted the Board of Selectmen against the ZBA. The selectmen were troubled by so-called "zoning creep," by which uses permitted in one district are extended to another by annexing abutting property as well as by the prospect of a commercial operation in the Waukewan Watershed Overlay District.

The property at 22 Foundry Avenue, owned by Foundry Avenue Realty Trust, originally consisted of two lots that were merged in 2009. The first, a one-acre parcel fronting on Foundry Avenue in the business and industry district. The second, abutting the first to the north, is a four-acre wooded lot which lies entirely in the residential district. The only access to the residential portion of the property is through the business and industry district.
The owner sought the variance to construct a building on the land in the residential district to serve as a "warehousing, light manufacturing, building trades and/or equipment and truck repairs." The board, with one dissenting vote, granted the variance, finding that because of its proximity to commercial enterprises and lack of appropriate access, the land is not suited to residential development, despite its zoning.
The Selectboard asked the ZBA to reconsider and when it reaffirmed its decision appealed to Superior Court. Justice James D. O'Neill, III ruled that without knowing the precise use for the property, the ZBA could not determine whether the five criteria for the variance were met. He set aside the variance and remanded the case to the ZBA.
Foundry Avenue Realty Trust amended its request, limiting the proposed use to "building trade or repair shop." The ZBA again granted the variance. The selectmen again appealed and O'Neill reversed the ZBA's decision, again ruling that the proposed use was not sufficiently precise. "Given the endless possibilities of types of trade and items that can be repaired," he wrote, "it is arguably impossible for the ZBA to reasonably grant the variance absent more specificity."

Foundry Avenue Realty Trust and the ZBA then appealed to the Supreme Court.
At the Supreme Court Foundry Avenue Realty Trust, represented by attorney Ed Philpot of Laconia, argued that O'Neill erred by requiring that the proposed use be more specifically defined than the zoning ordinance requires. The justices noted that the five criteria that the ZBA must find are met to grant a variance are established by statute, not the local zoning ordinance. "Accordingly," they held, "the burden on the applicant to address the particular characteristics of the specific proposed use arises independent of, and is not a function of, the uses that are specifically enumerated in the town ordinance."
The justices explained that the responsibility of the ZBA to determine that the five criteria are satisfied cannot be delegated to the planning board. They cited a case in which the court ruled that the Alton ZBA erred by granting a special exception despite severe traffic issues, expecting the planning board as well as state and local officials to resolve the problem.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 02:07

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Gilmanton man admits to reckless conduct on night he was firing cap & ball revolver

GILMANTON — A local man who police said pointed a loaded gun at a police officer has pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of reckless conduct in the 4th Circuit Count, Laconia Division Thursday.

Daniel Walker, 57, of Chestnut Avenue was facing two felony charges that he reckless placed a Gilmanton Police officer in immediate danger on November 24 and that he purposely placed the same officer in imminent danger.

Walker told The Daily Sun that he had been lighting off caps from a gun that he made from a hobby kit. He said it probably "sounded like a cannon."

He described it as an 1858 cap-and-ball Civil War era revolver.

Police were called to Walker's home on a Sunday at 1:28 a.m. after a neighbor called to report gunshots. While approaching Walker, a responding officer said in his sworn affidavit that he saw him take an aggressive stance and and bring his hands to his face like he was pointing a gun.

Walker, who said he is a former corrections officer, said he had no idea who was coming to his house because it was dark and the police SUV cruiser was very low profile.

Walker said Friday that he was not pointing a gun but was putting his hands up to his eyes to see who was approaching his house at 2 a.m. He said that the gun was never pointed at the officer and he thought that "he could brandish it" at whoever was coming up to his deck if he needed to.

On Friday, he said when he realized the approaching person was a police officer he put the gun in the house and "assumed the position."

"I came running out of my house with my hands up," he said.

When asked if the officer announced he was a police officer, Walker said he didn't hear it. He said the wind was loud.

After Walker was arrested he said he warned police that the gun was real and had one live round in it. Police agreed he was cooperative and apologetic.

When Walker was asked why he reached out to the media, he replied that he wants "people to know he's not the wild cowboy they think he is."

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 01:57

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