Gilford facing second lawsuit over agritourism rules

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The neighbor of a local family farm that wants to host weddings has asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment to overrule the Planning Board's decision saying town ordinances don't include agritourism. If the neighbor wins, it would mean the Planning Board has no jurisdiction over a site plan review.

Monique Twomey, as an individual and as trustee of her estate, said the Belknap County Superior Court should rule that the Planning Board has no jurisdiction over the proposal by Andy and Martina Howe for a piece of property on Gunstock Hill Road because the town's zoning ordinances do not include agritourism as a legitimate use of land.

The Zoning Board, through its decision, determined that agritourism and agriculture are one and the same, and that the Planning Board should review a site plan proffered by the Howes for a wedding venue about 250 feet from Twomey's home.

That site plan review is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Gilford Town Offices.

This is the latest twist in the saga that is being played out on Gunstock Hill Road as the Howe family seeks to host weddings and other activities on a piece of their property. In addition to two lawsuits filed against the ZBA by an abutter for its rulings that favor the Howes, the Planning Board has proposed its own zoning amendment adding and regulating agritourism for the town, primarily as a counterbalance to the amendments petitioned by the Howes on to the annual warrant that would change the zoning in the area to allow their proposal.

The town of Gilford has objected to the first suit filed by Twomey as untimely. It has not responded to this latest suit yet.

Twomey said the ZBA decision to overturn the Planning Board decision that it didn't have jurisdiction was incorrectly influenced by her concerns that the ZBA chairman chose to ignore the Planning Board's determination and that its decision was to be based only on what evidence had already been presented.

Twomey also argues the ZBA's decision was against current state law because the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Forster v. Town of Henniker that the legislature deliberately determined that agritourism is not agriculture.

She said that because Gilford's ordinance includes the words "and other commercial agricultural activity," weddings or similar activities should not be allowed. She cites a well-settled law that the court should interpret words themselves in the "plain and ordinary meaning."

Twomey said any other commercial activity should be agricultural, meaning the growing of produce or the raising of livestock.

"None of these are akin to hosting commercial events such as weddings and similar activities, that are not centered on agriculture," wrote her attorney, Joseph Driscoll III.

Twomey also asks the court to determine if the ZBA failed to take the negative effect the Howes' plan would have on the value of her property into consideration. He said an real estate appraisal obtained from a broker at a local real estate firm said the Howes' proposed activities would diminish her property values by about $200,000, or one third, and further cost her the private, peaceful enjoyment of her home.

Twomey said all of the property being considered for the Howes' proposal is in a conservation trust and she partially used that information to buy her home expecting there would be no commercial or industrial activities there.

Twomey is also asking for legal fees.

Humane society's 'Willow Fund' tapped to help two cats in crisis

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — About 30 years ago, the New Hampshire Humane Society was brought a dog that was had been tied to a tree in Bridgewater, presumably left to die. The dog, named "Willow" by the animal shelter, made a full recovery, thanks to significant emergency care and was adopted by a loving family. The incident proved two things to the organization – that animals that are even on the brink of death can be rehabilitated to become ideal pets, and second, that the shelter needed to establish a fund so that it could provide life-saving procedures on a moment's notice. Last week, the society's Willow Fund was leveraged twice to help two cats in need of urgent, and in one case, life-saving, care.

"Neglect and cruelty happen, animals do come in that need help ... We're the safe harbor for these animals," said Marylee Gorham-Waterman, executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society.

On the evening of Thursday, Jan. 28, the Laconia animal control officer delivered an orange-and-white cat, "Razzy", which had already been to a veterinarian in Laconia, where it was suspected that one of the cat's front legs was broken. The cat was sent to the Concord Area Veterinary Emergency Services, where it was determined that both front legs had been broken.

Gorham said that "all points indicate" that the cat had been forcefully kicked down a flight of stairs in a private home in Laconia. The cat's fur was matted, and he was dehydrated, Gorham said, which points to possible neglect prior to the suspected abuse.

A representative from Laconia Police said that there was an "open investigation" into the incident.

"I certainly hope that there will be some accountability for what happened to this cat," said Gorham. "He's in pretty bad shape." One of the legs required the use of pins to reset the bones, and he is currently recuperating at a foster home.

On the same night that "Razzy" was receiving emergency medical care, a family in Belmont discovered another orange-and-white tomcat desperately in need of assistance. Gorham said that a family dog alerted its owners to something under a set of porch steps; when they looked underneath, the found a cat, now named "Olaf," who was curled tightly in a ball. Because it was late in the evening, the family pulled the cat out and gave it a warm bed for the night. When they awoke in the morning, they feared that it had died due to its lack of motion.

"When we looked at him, we found truly the ravages of frostbite," said Gorham. Exposure to the cold had destroyed soft tissues on the rear legs, such that bone was visible. He was dirty and starving, indicating that he was living as a stray for quite some time, though he also had been neutered at some point in his life.

"We don't know how he ended up fending for himself on the streets," Gorham said.

"Olaf" is being cared for at the shelter. Once he regains his strength, he will require surgery to remove a portion of his ear that was damaged by frostbite. His care will require at least $1,200, while "Razzy's" treatment will cost at least $2,000. Those expenses will be paid out of the shelter's Willow Fund.

"Both of these cats are sweet and gentle, just so loving. That's the truly sad part," said Gorham.

Donations to the Willow Fund can be made through nhhumane.org, by mail to P.O. Box 572, Laconia, NH 03246, or by visiting the shelter.

Those who wish to support the shelter while celebrating in Big Easy-style may buy tickets for "Unleashed: Mardi Gras with a Mission," being held at Tavern 27 on Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $54 in advance, or $63 on the day of the event. The fundraiser features a wine and tapas tasting, with live New Orleans-style music, and a Mardi Gras party. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the New Hampshire Humane Society.

Razzle the cat is healing from having two broken legs. (Courtesy Photo)

Razzle the cat is healing from having two broken legs. (Courtesy Photo)

Gilford swears in new officer

With her own family, new Gilford PD family, Gilford Town personnel, & members of the Belknap County Sheriff's Dept. all looking on, Officer Kimberly Orr took her oath of office earlier today as she joined GPD as a full-time patrol officer. Officer Orr has relocated to the area from Lexington, MA, where she had been previously employed as an officer with that town's police department.

With her own family, new Gilford PD family, Gilford Town personnel and members of the Belknap County Sheriff's Department all looking on, Officer Kimberly Orr, left, took her oath of office Friday morning as she joined GPD as a full-time patrol officer.  Orr has relocated to the area from Lexington, Massachusetts, where she had been previously employed as an officer with that town's police department. With her is Chief Anthony Bean Burpee.