Is the Corner Slice flag history?

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A need for advertisement prompted the Corner Slice to install a 15-foot "open" flag on the property at a key intersection in Gilmanton. On Monday, this smaller version of the flag adorned the business. The pizza restaurant and gas station is located in Gilmanton's historic district. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)

Gilmanton business faces historic district review after having to remove large banner saying store is open


GILMANTON — A 15-foot flag with the word "open" on it has been taken down at the Corner Slice, a business that faced a host of regulatory hurdles before it opened last summer. Now, the freestanding "open" banner is at the center of a discussion about historic district regulations of businesses.
The Corner Slice restaurant and gas station, open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., is a place celebrated for its pizza and subs. A freestanding vertical flag with the word "open" on it once attracted customers from nearby Route 140 and Route 107, but town staff told owners Henry and Rachel Vigeant to take it down.
"They have to either meet general guidelines or ... get a variance to meet the zoning ordinance. Large signs — and by large I mean bigger than 9 square feet — are only allowed in the business district," said Annette Andreozzi, land use administrator for Gilmanton.
"These 'open' flags are kind of a conundrum in the historic district," Andreozzi said. "They're really not a problem in the business district because most of them meet the size of signs, and they're really not concerned about flags under the zoning ordinances, but in the historic district we need to clarify that."
Andreozzi said the Corner Slice "was trying to do something that didn't fit into the rules," prompting review by the Gilmanton Historic District Commission. At a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, the commission is scheduled to conduct two discussions, one with the proprietor of the Corner Slice and the other among commission members for "possible clarification of sign regulation," according to the agenda.
On Monday, a small "open" flag dangled outside the Corner Slice.
Rachel Vigeant said the larger 15-foot flag was up for about two weeks before she and her husband took it down.
"This building has a lot of history, and we're really trying to keep it alive here," Rachel Vigeant said.
Noting decorations and a "rustic feel" that the business has embraced, Vigeant said, "We definitely support the history of this building."
According to Gilmanton's historic district ordinance, "All signs visible from the exterior must have HDC approval. Signs shall not exceed 9 square feet. Signs placed on the exterior of the building or on the grounds shall be made of painted wood and shall be designed and hung in a manner appropriate to the buildings or grounds involved. Because of the exceptional unity of architectural design present in Gilmanton, it shall be the duty of the Commission to protect this unity by requiring that all exterior changes, additions, new construction, and land usage conform as much as possible to the standards set forth below. These regulations cannot possibly cover all possible proposed changes. Unique situations will have to be evaluated by the Commission on a case-by-case basis."
The ordinance does not mention flags or banners.
The historic district includes property in the Corners, from where Route 140 and Route 107 meet, reaching 400 feet on either side of both roads. "It's like a big cross," Andreozzi said.
The Corner Slice banner was not attached to the building but freestanding on the property, according to the business.
This is not the first time the Vigeants have faced regulatory challenges.
The Corner Slice sought a change-of-use from convenience store to restaurant when the Vigeants acquired the property at 518 Province Road. During months of permitting, Henry Vigeant said zoning approval posed particularly frustrating challenges, according to press accounts at the time. A drawn-out state septic design review also delayed the Corner Slice's opening until a grand opening in August 2016, according to press accounts.

Formerly the Corner Store, the building functioned for an estimated 60 years as a hub for the community. The Corner Store closed in 2015.

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Dead man’s statements up to judge in case of Center Harbor family trial

By BEA LEWIS, For The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — A Center Harbor man charged with looting the investment accounts of his terminally ill father is slated to stand trial next month.

Keith Fitzgerald, 51, who worked as a private equity consultant, is accused of stealing more than $827,000 by shuffling money from accounts jointly titled to himself and his father, into accounts he exclusively controlled.

In October, Fitzgerald was scheduled to accept the terms of a plea deal and be sentenced, but backed out the day of the scheduled hearing. The terms of the proposed agreement were never publicly disclosed.

Assistant Attorney General Attorney Jesse O'Neill who is prosecuting the case filed a motion last week asking that comments the defendant's father, Clifford Fitzgerald Jr., 79, made shortly before his death of liver cancer on Sept. 15, 2010, be admissible at trial.

Statements the elder Fitzgerald made to his children, Clifford III, Hope, Heather and his daughter, Alexandria, from a second-marriage, show the defendant's financial transactions were done without his approval,
the state asserts.

As proof of motive, the prosecutor has also asked the trial judge to allow the jury to hear evidence that the defendant was in dire financial straits at the time of the alleged thefts.

O'Neill wants the jury to know that the defendant had filed for bankruptcy both personally and for his business, owed the IRS more than $72,000, and that one of his former clients had successfully sued him over his handling of a $475,000 investment to a business for which Fitzgerald claimed to be raising capital. Fitzgerald allegedly used $200,000 of his father's money to settle the lawsuit.

The prosecutor has also asked the trial judge to bar the jury from hearing that a probate court found that Fitzgerald breached his fiduciary duty to his father's estate and ordered that he repay $767,683.

He argues that the outcome of the probate case is not relevant, and will only serve to confuse the jury by making them think the question of the defendant's guilt or innocence on the criminal charges were already decided by a probate judge.

Two days before he died, after Clifford Fitzgerald Jr. had returned to New York, his son, Clifford III, and daughter Hope, spoke with him on the phone. When Hope told him she'd found out that the defendant had made a payment to Cessna Finance, the elder Fitzgerald's response was, "Oh, we've got a problem."

The state is also seeking the court's permission to introduce evidence at trial that Fitzgerald Investments LLC listed assets of $1.9 million and liabilities of $1.3 million in bankruptcy filings, but failed to include a $625,000 secured claim.

His personal bankruptcy filing showed assets of $242,230 and liabilities of more than $1.2 million including $97,000 in credit card debt to American Express, the prosecutor claims.

A jury is scheduled to be picked on March 20 at 9 a.m. The trial is now set to begin in Belknap County Superior Court either that same week or the next, and is expected to last up to a week. Judge Larry Smukler will preside.

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County commissioner: New corrections center can’t open unless there’s money to run it


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) says the county won't be able to open its 18,000 square foot Community Corrections Center come September unless the Belknap County Delegation reverses itself and provides an additional $21,324 in funding for two part-time corrections officers.
During a marathon session last week which lasted for four-and-half hours, the delegation agreed to a motion by Rep. Time Lang (R-Sanbornton) to cut two full-time corrections officers from the proposed $3,964,613 Corrections Department budget. Before it voted on the $3,911,269 budget proposed by Lang, Rep, David Huot (D-Laconia) moved to amend Lang's motion by adding $21,324 for two part-time corrections officers. The amendment failed and Lang's original motion for a $53,334 cut passed.
Taylor said that Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray won't have sufficient manpower for staffing the center unless he can hire the part-time officers and points out that the county delegation knew when it unanimously approved an $8 million bond in November of 2015 for the corrections center that additional staffing costs were estimated at $650,183 annually.
He said that the 2017 budget proposed by commissioners included funds for four new corrections officers a well as instructional personnel and was far less than had originally been projected.
"It should be noted that staffing at the Belknap County Jail has problematic for a number of years. All three of the consultants that have addressed the needs of the Belknap County Department of Corrections since 2012 have agreed that the Department is seriously understaffed. This shortcoming is reflected in the inmate-to-staff ratios for county jails in New Hampshire. In 2015, the Belknap County ratio was 3.9 inmates to each staff member. The ratios for the other counties with populations of less than 100,000 were: Carroll 1.7 to 1, Cheshire 2.4 to 1, Coos 1.8 to 1, Grafton 1.6 to 1 and Sullivan 2 to 1. With a staffing ratio so out of line with the norm, Belknap County could be viewed as putting both inmates and staff at risk, which could lead to significant liability exposure should a serious incident occur which could be linked to inadequate staffing." Taylor wrote in a letter to the editor which was published in Saturday's Laconia Daily Sun.
The County Delegation, which last week cut less than $200,000 from the proposed $28 million county budget, will resume deliberations on the budget when it meets at 6 p.m. tonight at the Belknap County complex. A large turnout is expected as the delegation will be taking up requests from outside agencies, many of which have been cut in recent years and whose representatives have been in attendance at all of the delegation's budget sessions.

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