By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Selectmen have decided not to appeal a Superior Court ruling regarding the legality of weddings at Timber Hill Farm.
Under the heading of "consideration of litigation," the board discussed their legal options in the case during a closed nonpublic session Wednesday, according to Town Administrator Scott Dunn.
On Thursday, Selectman Richard Grenier said, "I think there may be even more agritourism legislation coming down the road, so it's fluid. So right now we're not going to take any official position. We'll just see where it goes with the litigants."
In a Feb. 14 ruling, Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill overturned a Gilford Zoning Board decision that concluded that, under the town's zoning ordinance, weddings were permitted agricultural uses at Timber Hill Farm. A neighbor sued to prevent weddings at the Gilford farm, located at 263 Gunstock Hill Road, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee.
Abutter Monique Twomey took the case to court after the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustment reviewed an appeal of an administrative decision, a cease-and-desist order dated Aug. 26, 2015, relating to a section of the Gilford Zoning Ordinance governing agriculture. The order barred weddings at Timber Hill Farm.
The Zoning Board of Adjustments voted against the cease and desist order, finding that weddings and other farm-to-table events at Timber Hill Farm were permissible under "other commercial agricultural activity." Judge O'Neill vacated the zoning board's decision, finding that the board improperly interpreted "agriculture" as defined by the town's zoning ordinance.
At Town Meeting last year, voters broadened local ordinances. An article on last year's warrant created a new definition for agritourism.
Last year, Article 7 passed 1,145-228, amending the zoning ordinance to make agritourism uses subject to nuisance regulations; and Article 8 passed 900-408, creating definitions for agritourism and making it a permitted use in all zones except island residential.
The definitions found that the term "agritourism" means "attracting visitors to a working farm for the purpose of eating a meal, enjoyment of the farm environment, education on farm operations, or active involvement in the activity of the farm which is ancillary to the farm operation."
Barring a legal victory, Timber Hill Farm will need to come before the Planning Board with a new application and comply with the newly amended zoning ordinance, Dunn said.
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