By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Marshall Bishop may continue operating his winery and function room as well as the portion of his restaurant that is in the section of the house he originally converted, as the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4 to 1 Thursday night to allow the use.
The permission comes in the form of a special exception because according to most members, the Gilmanton Table of Uses allows existing structures in the rural section to be converted to restaurants by special exception but new structures built specifically for restaurants to require a variance.
Members also requested the Planning Board review the Table of Uses as it relates to restaurants and develop clearer definitions of their applications.
Brenda Currier pointed out that the paperwork shows that Bishop received a preliminary site plan approval in 2011 that specified conditions, including that he file a completed site plan with the town, which he never did. She added he never built a bus turn-around, which was another condition.
She said that his application had the word "restaurant" crossed out and the words "function hall" written in its place.
Currier also said that because he changed the use of a four-bedroom home to a function room and a restaurant, she said he should get a variance so he could continue on with his business.
According to the state of New Hampshire website, "a special exception is a use of land or buildings that is permitted, subject to specific conditions that are set forth in the ordinance. A variance is a waiver or relaxation of particular requirements of an ordinance when strict enforcement would cause undue hardship because of circumstances unique to the property."
She said her objection is nothing personal but that she thought he should operate within the rules and guidelines established by the town for everyone.
Resident Barbara Swanson agreed, saying that "rules for one are rules for all" and that Bishop should bring himself up to code "even if it means starting at square one."
Speaking on his own behalf, Bishop said he believes the questions raised after he had been in business for 4 ½ years are personal and were raised simply because he is a selectman. Bishop added that all of the confusion around his approvals weren't his fault because the town never followed up with him on his preliminary site plan approval.
He also said that no one on the Planning Board or in the Planning Office ever told him he needed to go to the ZBA for anything. He added that what happened to him is emblematic of the dysfunction that has been prevalent in Gilmanton town government for the past five or six years.
Once the ZBA began deliberations, even 20-year veteran Chairman Elizabeth Hackett had some reservation about the change of use and whether the board should ask Bishop to return with a request for a variance.
Board member Nate Abbott said he thought a special exception for the originally portion of the renovation was appropriate but that Bishop should return for a variance before he begins any expansions.
Additionally, he apologized to Currier for insinuating at a recently Planning Board meeting that her husband had once paved a Class 6 road without permission. "I was wrong" he said.
Member Mike Teunessen said he opposed the ZBA granting either a variance or a special exception to Bishop because, in his opinion, Bishop had not made any efforts to comply with any of the town's requirements and that in some cases had deliberately circumvented them.
"In his mind, he was going to have a food establishment (thinking) that if he just do it "We'll give you an approval after the fact," he said. "Well, I'm going to vote no."
Hackett noted the board has stopped people from building things but had never made anyone tear anything down. "But we have that ability," she added.
Zoning Clerk Annette Andreozzi assured Hackett and the other board members that Bishop will still have to go before the Planning Board, which is waiting for a decision from the ZBA.
Abbott said he preferred to take the application and what's gone before it at face value.
"I choose to believe it's a benefit to the town," he said.