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Mooneys tell court that law that puts them between warring Briarcrest Estates factions needs to be clarified

BRIARCREST — In the latest round of the tussle over the future of Briarcrest Estates, its owners have asked the Belknap County Superior Court to clarify the state statute bearing on the sale of manufactured housing parks.
Attorney Paul Fitzgerald, representing the owners, Mark and Ruth Mooney of Belmont, claims that the ambiguity of the law imposes contradictory duties on his clients, putting them at risk of significant financial penalties.
In July, the Mooneys accepted an offer from Hometown America Corporation of Chicago to purchase the park for $10 million. In accord with a state law entitling park tenants to make a counteroffer and requiring park owners to bargain in good faith, a group of residents, with encouragement and assistance from ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, incorporated as the Lakemont Cooperative and matched the $10 million offer.
In response, the Mooneys asked the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale of the park to Hometown America. Attorney John Giere, representing the Mooneys, claimed that approving the transaction would be in keeping with the statute, which is is intended to safeguard the best interests of tenants, most of whom oppose cooperative ownership of the park. Last week a majority of tenants filed a petition with the court opposing the sale of the park to the cooperative.
The Lakemont Cooperative, represented by Attorney Robert Shepherd of Nashua, asked the court to dismiss the Mooneys' petition. Shepherd told the court that as the owners of the park the Mooneys were in no position to represent the interests of its residents. Shepherd reminded the court that the statute does not prescribe that the cooperative include a specific number or percentage of tenants to make an offer and pursue the transaction.
In objecting to the cooperative's petition to dismiss, Fitzgerald cites the statute, which requires that upon receiving an offer to purchase, park owners must "consider any offer received from the tenants or a tenants' association, if any, and the owner shall negotiate in good faith with the tenants concerning a potential purchase." Failure to comply carries a liability to the tenants of $10,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater.
Fitzgerald argues that the term "tenants" and "tenants association," which are nowhere defined, are ambiguous, but can only reasonably taken to refer to a majority of the tenants. Consequently, he concludes that the Mooneys "owe(s) conflicting duties of good faith" to both the cooperative and the majority and could face a liability of $1 million to either. Contrary to Shepherd's suggestion that the Mooneys have no grounds for petitioning the court, Fitzgerald insists that the liability affords them standing. He cited a judge, who in another case, remarked that "The law does not always say to the prospective victim that the only way to determine whether the suspect is a mushroom or a toadstool is to eat it."
Fitzgerald asked the court to resolve the ambiguity of the statute and in the meantime to deny the cooperative's motion to dismiss the case along with its requests to order that the law is not ambiguous and the cooperative does not require a majority. And finally to refrain from ordering the Mooneys to negotiate with the cooperative until the case resolved.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 November 2013 01:17

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Gilford Boy Scouts honor 2 leaders for 69 total years of service

GILFORD — After serving a total of 69 years and helping 53 young men reach the level Eagle Scout, Carl Gebhardt and Gary Doucette are retiring from leadership of Daniel Webster Council Boy Scout Troop 243.

The two were feted Wednesday night in a Court of Honor — ostensibly called to recognize some local scouts for their achievements — and it really was a surprise.

"They're probably not happy we're making a fuss about it," said new Scout Master Kurt Webber to the nearly 100 scouts, former scouts, parents, family and friends who gather in the basement of the Gilford Community Church for a potluck supper in their honor.

Gebhardt spent 43 years as an adult leader, 32 of them with Troop 243 in Gilford. He earned his own Eagle Scout ranking in 1956. Both of his sons, Jim and Ken, are Eagle Scouts.

He's been involved in scouting in New Jersey, Missouri and served as Scout Master in Gilford for the past 28 years. During his time, 30 boys have earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

Doucette has been Troup 243's director, treasurer and trainer for 19 years and earned his Eagle Scout rank in 1966. Both his sons, Derek and Dan, are Eagle Scouts. During his time, 23 boys have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

Both men are retired. Gebhardt said he will continue to work in scouting in Gilford. He enjoys hiking and riding his bicycle. Doucette said he's not going any where either but will have more time to enjoy hiking, hunting and fishing.

Each was presented with a Norman Rockwell painting commemorating scouting and a proclamation of thanks from the Gilford Board of Selectmen.

After the ceremony, both said this was a good time to make the transition to a new leadership team because there are good adult leaders with a great deal of experience in Gilford right now.

"I wish I could remember the number of boys who have come and gone," said Gebhardt wistfully.

When asked what one piece of advice they would give to the next leader, Kurt Webber, each said he should be aware that boys are a lot busier now with more structured free time activities than they were in the past with organizations like band, school athletics, and family trips.
"Be flexible," Doucette said, saying many of the boys will come and go and then return again when their schedules permit.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 November 2013 01:11

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Meredith & Colony Club reach deal on taxes

MEREDITH — Senior Housing of New Hampshire, inc., owners and operators of the Meredith Bay Colony Club has abandoned its quest for a charitable exemption from property taxation by agreeing to make an annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the town in a settlement that brought lengthy legal proceedings to a close.

Acknowledging that the uncertain outcome of the litigation posed risks to both parties, the town and company settled on the PILOT, which is calculated by applying town and county tax rates to the assessed value of the property. The property is currently assessed at $13,145,500, which at the 2013 town and county tax rates of $4.55 and $1.51 would amount to a payment of $79,661.73. The agreement begins in 2014 and runs for five years, when it can be extended, though the town is entitled not to renew it.

In 2010, the town denied the request of Senior Housing of New Hampshire to exempt the private Meredith Bay Colony Club, a senior housing community of 44 assisted living and 41 independent living units on 10.16 acres at 21 Mile Point Drive, from property taxes. The company appeal the denial to the Belknap County Superior Court, where a bench trial was forestalled by the settlement.
To qualify for a charitable exemption a corporation must be "established and administered for the purpose of performing, and obligated, by its charter or otherwise, to perform some service of public good or welfare advancing the spiritual, physical, intellectual, social or economic well-being of the general public or a substantial and indefinite segment of the general public."

Senior Housing of New Hampshire contended it was entitled to a charitable exemption because it provides subsidies of between $100,000 and $220,000 against the membership fees of five residents of independent living units and that its annual rates and entrance fees are less than market rates and fees. The town questioned whether loans bearing interest rates between 7 percent and 11 percent qualified as subsidies and challenged the company's calculation of market rates and fees. The town also questioned whether the Meredith Bay Bay Colony Club was established and operated for a charitable purpose.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 November 2013 01:00

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Billings urges Inter-Lakes board to put money away for capital improvements

MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board is being urged to commit itself to recommend putting money every year into a capital reserve fund to help soften the impact large-ticket expenditures can have on the district's budget and taxes paid by district residents.
Board member Mark Billings advised such a course of action during Tuesday evening's School Board meeting.
Billings, of Meredith, noted that the district is facing three capital improvement projects which are especially costly. One is a four-year phased replacement of the roof of Inter-Lakes Elementary School, which has a price tag estimated at $600,000. The second is repaving of a road used by school buses at the elementary school, as well as repairs and resealing of high school parking lot, at an expected cost of $145,000. The third is a proposal to spend $120,000 to replace the seats in the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium at the high school.
Billings said that the district is putting more effort into planning further ahead for capital projects. He said district administrators are currently working on a 10-year capital improvement plan.
He said that putting $75,000 a year into a capital reserve account would help to prevent budget spikes that could otherwise occur due to big-ticket capital projects. Placing money in a capital reserve account requires approval of voters at the annual School District Meeting.
"Our first commitment is to our people," Billings noted. "But we have $20 million worth of facilities and the more we focus on maintaining and preserving our facilities we will save money in the long term."
NOTES: The board gave initial approval to district policies dealing with summer activities, safe-school measures, and advance placement courses. While there were little discussion on any of the policies, board member Carol Baggaley raised concern with a provision of the advance course policy that would allow a student to take an advance placement course regardless of that student's grades in the subject and whether the student satisfied the prerequisites for the course. Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond said while teachers and school counselors have an important role in advising students what courses they should take, that if a student's parents wanted their child in a certain course then the school should defer to the parents' wishes. But Baggaley felt that was unfair to high-achieving students in advance placement courses. Ormond noted that Tuesday's vote was on a first reading of the policy and that the policy could be amended before being presented to the board for a second reading. The board must approve a policy twice before it is adopted. . . . . . The board voted to accept $3,300 in donations to support the Inter-Lakes Middle Tier and High School Theater Companies. The donations came from Meredith Village Savings Bank, Meredith Dental, Dr. Edward DeTolla, and the Inter-Lakes PTO. The board also voted to accept a $1,167 donations from the New Hampshire Electric Co-op Foundation to help pay for sixth graders at Sandwich Central School to visit four power plants in the state.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2013 01:48

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