Timber Hill Farm decision delayed again - Howes submit a brand new site plan; legal name of business creates confusion for Gilford Planning Board

GILFORD – A standing-room only crowd was on hand at Tuesday night at the Planning Board meeting for 2 ½ hours, only to hear that the site plan review for an agritourism proposal from Andy and Martina Howe of Timber Hill Farm will be delayed for at least two weeks for legal reasons.

Member Norman Silber said he didn't believe the application was complete because many of its documents referenced Timber Hill Farm LLC, which is not a company owned or operated by the Howe but an administratively dissolved limited liability company from Deerfield.

While the Howes have filed paperwork with the N.H. Secretary of State, Department of Corporations for a trademark registration for the name Timber Hill Farm, they do not operate Timber Hill Farm LLC.

The Howes' attorneys, Patrick and Ethan Wood, said the application for site plan review was requested by Andrew and Martina Howe and not by Timber Hill Farm LLC; however, board members unanimously agreed they would rather be careful than wrong and agreed to contact the town attorney for advice.

According to Town Planner John Ayer, who spoke to the Sun yesterday on the telephone, the application was submitted by the Howe's as individual people however the site plan review and the request for "farm-to-table" events were submitted on or about October 1 under the name of Timber Hill Farm LLC.

Last night, Ethan Wood handed out a site plan review that was dated Jan. 19, 2016, and listed Andrew Howe as the applicant. Ayer said the site plan review was delivered by email to his computer at 4:58 p.m. and he didn't get to review it until the meeting, which started at 7 p.m.

Within that packet were two documents with Timber Hill Farm LLC as the protagonist. One is signed by Isaac Howe and says he is the permittee that can have a bonfire and was issued by the N.H. Department of Resources and Development. The other is a bill from United Safety Services LLC that billed Timber Hill Farm LLC for some safety work done at 300 Gunstock Hill Road.

The packet all includes a permit to operate a place of assembly issued jointly to Timber Hill Farm and Great American Dining, Common Man Family – the third party company that actually caters the events at 285 Gunstock Hill Road. It is signed by Deputy Fire Chief Brad Ober.

Since the Board of Selectmen have ordered the Planning Board to review the site plan request within 30 days of the selectmen's last meeting, the Planning Board announced it would review the site plan at its next meeting on Feb. 8 and still be within the mandates of the selectboard.

As of yesterday at 5 p.m., the town attorney had not given an opinion to the Planning Director or Town Administrator.

Privatizing county nursing home gets thumbs down from commission

LACONIA — A majority of the Belknap County Commission yesterday turned thumbs down on a proposal that the county look at managed care organizations to take over the operation of the Belknap County Nursing Home.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who last week met with members of the state Department of Health and Human Services about Medicaid rate setting, said that he knew of two private companies who have submitted ideas about managing the nursing home.
At the commission's last meeting Burchell, said that managing the nursing home "doesn't have to be a county function," and suggested that nonprofit entities should be encouraged to look at taking over the nursing home.
But Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said the nursing home "plays a unique role which cannot be filled by a private company. It's a home of last resort for Medicaid patients and no private company can make money from it. The county needs to take care of its elderly."
Burchell maintained that Texas has lower reimbursement rates than New Hampshire and still has five private companies that manage nursing homes there. He also said that when New Hampshire counties started taking care of the elderly, it was an entirely different situation.
"200 years ago, you didn't have a convoluted system," said Burchell.
But County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that his goal is to make sure that the nursing home is run efficiently. "I'm not interested in privatizing the nursing home at this time."
Burchell said that at the meeting he had attended last week, he had learned the chief factor in setting Medicaid reimbursement rates for counties is the percentage of Medicaid residents at the county home and that the state uses two "snapshot dates" of Feb. 28 and Aug. 1 to set those rates.
He said that there was a 10 percent drop in the number of Medicaid patients registered in the nursing home in 2015 compared to 2014, which resulted in a large drop of payments for the county.
Taylor said responsibility for Medicaid nursing home patients were at one time split equally between the state and the county, but the state has been passing on a greater share of costs to the counties in recent years.

"Each year, a greater percentage is passed back to the counties," said Taylor, who said that 70 percent of the burden now falls on counties.
He said he would like to discuss the funding with members of the Belknap County Convention and make sure they are aware of the impact on county taxpayers.
Taylor said he thinks the county should take a good look at legislation which is currently being proposed in the New Hampshire House which would allow counties to establish heroin use prevention and treatment programs.
He also said he would like to get some feedback from the County Convention as well as the Belknap County Sheriff and Belknap County Attorney on establishing a program in the county in which the Sheriff's Department add a position similar to what Laconia police currently have for handling drug problems.
DeVoy said he thought that was a good idea and would like to explore it further.

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Gunstock Inn zoning change now goes to ballot

GILFORD — The Gunstock Inn and Resort would like its zoning changed to resort commercial, and on Tuesday the Planning Board voted to support that request.

The Gunstock Inn, at 580 Cherry Valley Road, is currently in a single-family residential zone and Les and Linda Schuster, who also own and operate the Lazy E in the Weirs, have petitioned the town for the property to be zoned to resort commercial, saying it would give them a chance to become profitable by allowing better signs.

"We would like to succeed, unlike previous owners," said Les Schuster in defense of his request at a Planning Board public hearing Tuesday. "All I'm asking is for the zone to fit the use."

The Gunstock Inn and Resort operates as an inn, a restaurant, and as a fitness center complete with a salt-water pool. Schuster said the inn portion of the business does well because it is booked by people looking for a place to stay; however, sign regulations because of zoning status have limited him from attracting any drive-by business to his restaurant and fitness center.

He explained that it took him a while to get through the entire planning and zoning process to get his expanded sign permit but that it cost valuable time, which is money in his line of work.

According to Jerry Gagnon of the Planning Board, Gunstock Inn was built in the late 1930s as a barracks for workers who came to Gilford to build what was then Gunstock Ski Area. The project was one of the first public works projects commissioned under former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his New Deal Program to get people back to work after the Great Depression.

At some point in the 1960s and 1970s, the inn became clubhouse of sorts for the then-expanding Gunstock Acres development of residential homes. Gagnon said it began operating as a public restaurant and a fitness club in the late 1980s.

One member opposed to the zoning change was Norman Silber, who said such a change constitutes "spot zoning," and since the use was already accepted and "grandfathered," there is no need to change its zoning status.

The final vote of the Planning Board was to recommend passage of the zoning change for the ballot in March. Silber and Carolyn Scattergood voted against recommending passage.