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Cell phone tower plan irks Gilford neighbors

GILFORD — A proposal to erect a cellular telephone antenna tower on land owned by the Traditional Catholics of New Hampshire abutting residences on David Lewis Road and Stark Street has aroused opposition from at least two nearby property owners.

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 the 148-acre tract. The site would include an equipment shelter, 12-feet by 20-feet, and emergency generator within a 50-square compound surrounded by chain link fence six-feet high and topped with barbed wire. A 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. It would also be the same distance from residential properties on Stark Street, but because the lots are relatively deep and the homes are on the street, it would be less obtrusive.  

"I'm very opposed to it," Lacasse said flatly. He explained that the driveway will run alongside his yard and the tower will overshadow his property, obstructing its view. He expressed concerns about the health affects of high frequency radio waves. "It will lower the value of our property," he said. "We don't want that monstrosity of a tower in our backyard."

Baron said that he purchased the lot with the intention of eventually building a retirement home. Since the property is intersected by a brook and dotted with wetlands the buildable area is confined to less than two acres in the northwest corner of the lot nearest the site of the proposed tower. The tower, he explained, would be 100 feet from his property line, as close as permitted. "If I built a house, it would be in the tower," he remarked. Like Lacasse, Baron believes the tower would diminish the value of his property.

Both Baron and Lacasse said because the tract owned by the Traditional Catholics stretches over 148 acres, there is no need to place the tower so close to neighboring properties. "If they were putting it in the middle of their lot," Baron said, "we wouldn't be having this conversation. Instead," he continued, "they're putting it in the one place where it impacts the most abutters. I don't really feel that is being a good neighbor."

"With all that land," echoed Lacasse, "the could find a place to put it without affecting their neighbors."

The Planning Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the site plan for the cellular tower on Monday, October 21 while the very next day the Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to hold a public hearing on New Cingular Wireless PCS's request for a special exception, without which the project cannot proceed.

Baron and Lacasse, who only received notices of the public hearings in the past 10 days, had already arranged to travel out-of-state next week and are both unable to attend either hearing.

Planning Director John Ayer said yesterday that the hearing before the Planning Board will be deferred until November because no representative of New Cingular Wireless PCS attended a preliminary meeting to review the site plan and the firm failed to notify all the required abutters. Dave Andrade, the Code Enforcement Officer who manages the ZBA, could not be reached.

To qualify for a special exception a project must comply with six requirements, among them that it is "not detrimental, injurious or offensive to the neighborhood."

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 October 2013 02:02

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An 8 year, 4,000 mile hike

MEREDITH — On October 5, Jim Gregoire waded into the surf of the Pacific Ocean rolling on to the beach at Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington to complete a journey that began eight years earlier at Portland, Maine, taking him from coast-to-coast — across 4,200 miles, through 13 states — on foot.

"In 2005, I completed the Appalachian Trail, which took me 10 years," Gregoire recalled, "and began thinking about something bigger in scope." Tempted by a coast-to-coast trek, he explored the prospect and sought the inspiration through the experience of other hikers, particularly Nimblewill Nomad, who has hiked all 11 national scenic trails as well as walked from the Florida Keys to the Cliffs of Forillon at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, a stroll of some 4,000 miles.

"In June 2006, I dipped my toe in the Atlantic Ocean and headed west," said Gregoire, who proceeded to walk 284 miles through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. Although "through hikers" have crossed the country in a single trip, he broke the journey into segments, 14 altogether — two a year but for two years — each of about 300 miles.

Gregoire said each trip began with a fresh pair of hiking boots, but after wrestling with blisters he switched to Teva sandals halfway across the country. But, the walking stick that carried him along the Appalachian Trail also took him from ocean to ocean. He said that walked about three miles per hour and covered approximately 17 miles a day.

With a tent, food and utensils in his back pack, Gregoire said he camped and cooked in RV parks and farmers field from time to time, but frequently passed through small towns to get a square meal and soft bed. "I met some of the finest people in bars," he remarked, adding that he was given advice about places to eat and stay and upon telling his story was stood drinks.

"I had not a single problem with people," Gregoire said, "and relatively few with animals, except for some stray dogs." He encounter a few rattlesnakes on the roadside and, in Glacier National Park in Montana a grizzly bear. "He stood on his hind legs when he heard me, but I talked to him and he went back to the huckleberries."

Each day Gregoire telephoned his wife Jane, a native of Laconia and his high school sweetheart at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, who transcribed their conversation and wrote a journal entry every third day. He said that the journal of his travels are currently being distributed to around 170 people, including many of those he met on his journey.

When Gregoire reached the Pacific he was joined by 13 classmates from the class of 1969 at Princeton University, along with family and friends who shared the last couple of miles with him, erupting in cheers when he doffed his socks and sandals and stepped into the ocean.

Now 65, he returned to New Hampshire after a career as a financier in New Jersey, Gregoire has begun pondering what to do next. "I haven't figured that out yet," he said, "but I thinking of hiking the the 25 or 30 highest mountains in the lower 48 states, all in California, Colorado and Washington, from base to summit. I think I could do four or six a year and be done in five or six years."

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 October 2013 01:58

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Young couple charged with running marijuana growing operation in 3-car Governor's Island garage

GILFORD — Local police and agents from the New Hampshire Drug Task Force and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency converged on a Governor's Island home Thursday morning and arrested the two residents for two counts each of possession of drugs with intent to distribute.

Following their separate video appearances in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Janelle Noftle, 24, and Corey M. LaPlante, 28, of 47 Blueberry Hill Lane were each held on $30,000 cash-only bail.

According to Asst. N.H. Attorney General James Vara, Noftle and LaPlante allegedly had about 100 marijuana plants growing in a three-bay garage that contained what he described as a fairly sophisticated growing operation.

Inside the home, Vara said police allegedly found three to five pounds of hashish and a table that was equipped to serve as production and distribution center. He said they also found $33,000 in cash.

Vara said six guns — three handguns and three long guns — were found in the home. Two of them were allegedly loaded and he said the three pistols were located near the cash.

During his request for $50,000 cash bail, Vara said what police found was "not a run of the mill" growing operation. He said there were commercial grade fans, a watering system and a separate electrical box that LaPlante allegedly told police he installed.

The two had apparently been living in the home, which is rented, since 2010. Gilford assessing records obtained on-line list the owner as a trust whose primary trustee lives in Jackson, Wyoming.

During Noftle's bail argument, Atty. John Bresaw said she was not a flight risk and Vara's request for $50,000 cash-only bail was punitive — meaning it was tantamount to a punishment rather than to ensure her future appearance in court and/or to protect the public safety.

Bresaw also argued that Noftle has no prior arrest record, that she works in a local restaurant and is a graduate of Catholic University with a 4-year degree in Health and Wellness. He said she is also a certified personal trainer.

He also argued that marijuana and its derivative hashish are on the low end of the drug spectrum as compared to methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine and although he assured the court that he wasn't trying to minimize the seriousness of the charge, his client was none-the-less not a danger to the public.

"I'm not arguing if marijuana is appropriate or not," he said, asking Judge Jim Carroll that if he feels he must set some kind of cash bail, that it should be in the $1,000 to $5,000 range.

LaPlante's lawyer, Jared Bedrick made a similar argument for his client saying that if he were to be released on personal recognizance or low cash bail, that he would be unlikely to be able to reproduce the operation he was accused of running.

Bedrick said LaPlante's parents were in the court, that he was a graduate of Laconia Christian School, and had attended college. He said LaPlante is a welder by trade.

"This court should look at what could possibly happened when he's out," Bedrick said. "He has no convictions, no arrests, no nothing."

He said LaPlante agreed to live at his parents home in Gilford where no similar kind of alleged behavior would be allowed. He also said LaPlante saw the police and immediately put his hands up.

Vara agreed that both LaPlante and Noftle cooperated with police during the arrest.

Both defense attorneys argued separately that corporate surety should be an option for posting bail but Carroll said no and stipulated that a source of any cash bail must be disclosed.

Carroll said he agreed to a certain degree with Bresaw that marijuana possession is a "political football" but that LaPlante and Noftle are accused of running a commercial operation that is illegal both federally and locally.

He also said people can look sophisticated and cultured but sometimes their appearances can be "a Trojan horse."

Affidavits supplied by the N.H. Drug Task Force said little except that there had been a "cooperating individual" who allegedly told law enforcement  during the week of October 13 about the operation. Paperwork showed that Carroll signed a search warrant on October 16 and police raided the house the next morning at 9:15 a.m.

At 4:40 p.m. on Friday, LaPlante had posted bail and Noftle remained incarcerated in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Lt. Kris Kelley of the Gilford Police said only that the investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be forthcoming.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 02:30

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Car stolen from Laconia dealer recovered on Bay St.

LACONIA — Police charged a Belmont man with one count of theft of an automobile for allegedly taking a car from the Irwin Automotive Group on October 15.

Samual P. Vachon, 21, is free on personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on December 12.

On October 16, police received a call about a suspicious vehicle that had no plates in the area of Bay and Winnisquam Streets.

Police stopped the 2001 red Chevy Cavalier and learned that it had been reported stolen by the local dealership.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 October 2013 03:10

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