Institute for the Arts downtown still in the works

LACONIA — The city could become home to the Lakes Region Institute for the Arts if the initiative of a pair of musicians, Ryan Ordway and Franz Haase of the Recording Co-Op in Gilford, comes to fruition.

When Ordway and Haase opened their recording studio in 2014, they were already eyeing a grand project, an institute offering education and instruction for aspiring artists of all ages in performing and songwriting as well as audio and video engineering. Recently they have begun to pursue their vision in earnest.

"We have formed a nonprofit corporation, the Lakes Region Institute for the Arts," Ordway said Monday. He explained that originally the institute was intended for Wolfeboro, but on reflection they chose to
take a regional approach located in Laconia.

"It's going to take a community, several communities, to make it happen," he said.

Ordway anticipates financing the project with a mix of grant funding and private donations while at the same time drawing on his connections in the music business. He has recorded for television shows, including "The Office," and worked with both ESPN and NESN. He recently placed a survey online designed to measure interest and support for the project in the community and described the initial response as "really awesome." He counted more than 150 positive responses in the first few weeks. The link to the survey is www.surveymonkey/r/Letsbuild it.

"It will be a like mini music school," Ordway said, explaining that half the cost of tuition would be offset by scholarships. He said the cooperative has already worked with schools in the region, including Moultonborough Academy, Inter-Lakes High School, Prospect Mountain High School, and anticipates complementing the curriculum offered by the schools with instruction in audio and video engineering.
Meanwhile, Ordway has become a member of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, which is promoting the survey, and approached the Belknap Economic Development Commission.

"We've begun looking for a building or space in downtown Laconia," he said, adding that he was especially impressed by the Garden Theater at 634 Main St. The ideal venue would have space for teaching and rehearsal rooms, audio and video studios, and a sound stage.

A well-traveled singer-songwriter, Ordway recalled the project began five years ago when he met Franz Haase, a fellow musician, owner of the Folk Cellar in Wolfeboro and mainstay of the local arts community. They opened a small recording studio — Resort Recordings — and began pursuing plans to foster what Ordway called "a community of musicians."
Last year, Ordway and Haase moved their operation to Gilford, where, together they formed the nucleus of the Recording Co-Op.

"It began as a private thing," Ordway said, "for our band, Ordway, and our music."
Investing more than $100,000, they converted the horse barn to a recording studio, featuring a vintage mixing console acquired from Audio Magic, a studio in Buffalo, New York. Haase noted that Ani DeFranco recorded her first four albums on the console, which also laid down the voices of the Goo Goo Dolls and Willie Nelson.

"It's got a history," he said.

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Agritourism debate continues as Timber Hill Farm owners file request (366)

GILFORD — The fight continues by Timber Hill Farm owners Andrew and Martine Howe to be allowed to host weddings and Farm to Table events on their property. They have submitted a request to the Zoning Board of Adjustments to overturn the Planning Board claim that it can control zoning through its ability to review site plans.

Attorney Patrick Wood said that under state law, among other things related to agriculture, "activities are a beneficial and worthwhile feature of the New Hampshire landscape and shall not be unreasonably limited by use of municipal planning and zoning powers or the the unreasonable interpretation of such powers." In other words, if the law doesn't address a certain use or specifically prohibit it, such agricultural activities would be allowed, not limited.

Last week, Planning Board members, after deciding they could exercise control over how zoning is interpreted through its site plan review powers, came to a 4-to-2 decision that agritourism – or the wedding and farm-to-table events proposed to be held in 2016 at Timber Hill Farm – is not agriculture.

The Planning Board adhered to a 2015 State Supreme Court decision that said agritourism was deliberately withheld from the state definition of "agriculture" and given its own definition.

The Howes have hosted a farm-to-table event annually since 2008, and had hosted some weddings at the same place on its property. Abutter Monique Twomey filed a complaint with the town saying the activities disrupted her peace and quiet and could possible devalue her property by as much as $200,000. The planning department issued a cease-and-desist order that the ZBA has twice refused to enforce.

During the ZBA's most recent meeting, its members determined that the intent of the vote was meant that weddings and other activities are allowed under the town of Gilford's existing zoning ordinances.

Wood contends that the Planning Board does not have the jurisdiction to apply a different interpretation to the town's zoning ordinances.

He also cited a second State Supreme Court case that enumerated the "law of the case," meaning that the prior determinations of the zoning issue controlled the zoning issues on appeal."

He said the "Planning Board's decision to ignore the prior decision of the ZBA's interpretation of the Gilford Zoning Ordinance's definition of agriculture as it applies to the [Howes'] property is improper, unlawful and illegal and should not be upheld.

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Children's Auction has third best year ever

Community support was strong, with the 33rd annual Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction raising almost a half million dollars for needy childen in the Lakes Region last week. The proceeds will be distributed among the 65 applicants as early as next week according to Mike Seymour, chairman of the Greater Lakes Region Charitable Fund for Children, the nonprofit organization which earlier this year took over ownership of the auction.
Seymour said he was humbled by the success of his year's auction and the efforts of nearly 100 volunteers who helped the auction raise $469,609, the third highest total ever, as well as the outpouring of community support from the public, which continued to respond by donating and bidding on the more than 2,000 auction items during the five-day event.
"We definitely went into this with the goal of more local control and were a little concerned over whether the level of local support would be maintained. But once it gained momentum, it was like a snowball rolling down a mountain and picking up more speed as it went along," said Seymour.
He said the board of directors of the auction will meet Thursday with the Disbursement Committee, which has reviewed the requests for $700,000 from community organizations and will recommend how much each organization will receive.
"We'll be going over the recommendations in detail and some checks will be in the mail as early as Friday. By early next week, we expect all of the checks will have been mailed so that they can get to the organizations by Christmas," said Seymour.
Last year, the Children's Auction raised $486,575 and in 2013 raised a record $510,801.
Seymour noted that this year's Pub Mania raised $240,125, more than half of the entire amount raised in the auction.
"That shows the need for us to step it up on the other side. What Patrick's Pub has done for the auction is phenomenal," said Seymour.
Pub Mania has raised $1,037,125 for the auction in the seven years it has been run, and this year set a new record, topping last year's $235,595 total.
Alan Beetle, co-owner of Patrick's Pub, said he is amazed by the work of the 30 teams and their captains in being able to reach out into the community to find support for the event, which involves 720 people in a 24-hour barstool challenge.
"They're motivated and committed and have lots of fun while they're doing something good for the children of the Lakes Region," said Beetle, who pointed out that the teams run a variety of events year-round in order to raise funds.
Top fundraisers were Bonnette, Page & Stone, $27,388; Café Déjà Vu, $21,096; LCC 19th Hole, $16,032; Winnipesaukee Yacht Club Diving Ducks $12,068; Dream Team Supreme, $11,902; Blue Angels, $11,184, Kings Corner, $8,838; Sotheby's Sippers, $8,407; Naughty & Nice, $8,222 and the Merry Stoolers, $7,859.
He said the teams will be honored at a Jan. 7 event at Patrick's Pub.

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