ZBA OKs Belknap House

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap House, the first shelter to serve homeless families in Belknap County, is anticipated to open its door at 200 Court St. in October.
Leonard Campbell of Catholic Charities said yesterday that with the special exception granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment earlier this week the Board of Directors is prepared to close on the purchase of the property.
Modeled after the Homeless Center for Strafford County, the facility will operate as shelter for homeless families from Oct. 15 until May 15 and as a hostel from May 15 until Oct. 1. The revenue collected from those staying in the hostel during the warmer months will be applied to budget to operate and maintain the shelter. The shelter will have capacity five or six families while the hostel can accommodate as many as 19 people.
The special exception was required since neither a shelter nor a hostel is a permitted use in the commercial district where the building is located.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment attached three conditions to its decision. The property must be screened from abutting properties, Temple B'nai Israel to the west and a residence on Pearl Street to the south, by either fencing or shrubbery. Families referred to the shelter by the welfare directors of towns in the county would remain domiciled in those towns, which would be responsible for providing any public assistance and services to them as well as schooling their children. Finally, the shelter would be open only to families referred to it by welfare directors in Belknap County.
Campbell described the conditions as "not the least onerous," explaining that all were incorporated in the design and operation of the facility.
Altogether $250,000 has been raised to purchase and renovate the property. Renovations will include installation of a sprinkler system, kitchen and laundry, improvements to the bathrooms and measures to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Currently the Carey House, operated by the Salvation Army, is the only shelter for homeless families in the Lakes Region, but it has capacity for only three families, leaving scant options for the rest, who are often directed to Concord.

No prohibition yet on events, weddings at Timber Hill Farm

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The owners of Timber Hill Farm and abutter Monique Twomey have still not learned if a judge will issue a restraining order to stop the farm from holding weddings and other like events on Gunstock Hill Road.

Judge James O'Neill dismissed one of two cases filed against the town of Gilford by an Twomey to Timber Hill Farm for actions taken by its Zoning Board of Adjustments relative to agritourism in a single-family residential zone.

The dismissed case was filed by Twomey and asked for the court to issue a restraining order stopping any forward progress by Timber Hill Farm and its wedding venue proposals and to force the ZBA to uphold a previously issued cease-and-desist. O'Neill dismissed this case because the final deadline to appeal the Dec. 1, 2015, decision was not filed within the 30 days allowed by law.

A second suit filed against the town of Gilford by Twomey challenged the second ZBA ruling which was to overturn a decision it made by saying the Planning Board erred in early December when it said that agritourism is not agriculture.

Twomey has requested a restraining order stop the Howes from continuing with their plans until the court cases have all been adjudicated.

The Howes have been granted intervenor status in the second case and have filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying that it is irrelevant now because Gilford's voters chose to allow agritourism as agriculture in all of their zones, with restrictions to be imposed by Planning Board site plan review.

Twomey has objected to this motion to dismiss, saying that the zoning ordinance recently passed by Gilford voters created a new subsection called "Open Spaces Uses" that establishes regulations for agritourism. She argues that this "doesn't change, clarify, modify, or in any way alter the Zoning Ordinance definition of 'agriculture.'" She contends the issue is not moot, or irrelevant, and that the court should be able to render a decision.

The judge will hear arguments on this aspect of the case and has decided to wait to determine whether he will issue a restraining order.

Juvenile arrested in Case and Keg robbery

LACONIA — Police arrested a juvenile male Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. and charged him with the armed robbery of the Case and Keg Store that occurred Saturday at 11:38 p.m.

Police said the juvenile's name is not being released because of his age.

At the time, police described him as a white man who brandished a knife and made away with an untold amount of cash. He was said to be wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black and white pajama bottoms.

Police said the investigation is still ongoing and if any one has any information they are asked to call Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

– Gail Ober