Gilmanton Winery to continue operation despite unrecorded permit


GILMANTON — There is no desire to hurt any business in town, Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni told Selectman Marshall Bishop Thursday night, including Bishop's business, the Gilmanton Winery & Vineyard and alpaca farm.

After reviewing a package prepared for the board regarding the various permits and permissions granted to the winery and farm since 2010, Ogni said it appears Bishop has town permission for a function hall and wine tasting, not a restaurant, but that the plans were never recorded.

"We want to get this straightened away for you," Ogni said.

Bishop, who was elected to be a selectman in March, has been under fire by a small cadre of detractors for not having the proper town permits, including the need for a special exception or a variance to operate a restaurant in a rural zone.

His meeting with the Planning Board on Thursday was to confirm with them that he is working with the Planning Department staff to bring all of his paperwork up to date.

Bishop told the board he had been operating for six years and wanted to know "Why now?" to which Ogni replied, "It was brought to our attention and we want to treat everyone fairly."

Bishop left, but Brett and Brenda Currier said they thought they were on the agenda that night and wanted to address the board.

Brenda Currier spoke regarding a directional sign for the Gilmanton Winery that had been on her mother's property. When she asked for the sign to be removed, she said it showed up on the property next to hers. In her opinion, a directional sign must have a permit from one of the town's land boards.

Ogni said the Planning Board is working with a land use attorney regarding the sign and all of the rest of the things the Curriers had brought to their attention.

Currier said Bishop's permit to operate the winery was granted by the Planning Board in June 9, 2011, but with the condition that the site plan be finalized and recorded, which Ogni agreed hadn't happened.

Brett Currier said he felt he and his wife have been "getting the runaround" for the past two months and that nothing is being done.
"The select(board) should have done its job and shut this down," Brett Currier continued. "We're letting a sitting selectman wait for months. I don't understand."

Things heated up a bit when former Selectman Nate Abbott, who served from 2000 to 2006, said the town traditionally gives leeway to residents who are trying to work with the town.

He said he recalled a resident who paved a road years ago when he shouldn't have, and the town worked with him to get the necessary permits.

Brett Currier stood and faced Abbott and said, "Are you talking about me?"

Abbott, also standing, said that all he was saying is that as long as someone acts in good faith the town should continue to work with them.

"If he's accusing me of that (unlawfully paving his driveway), it's a blatant lie," Currier continued while Ogni told him to calm down and sit down, which he did.

Records from 2003 show Currier went before the Board of Selectmen about paving a section of a road and that Abbott felt that he had not gone through the proper steps. A letter dated March 19, 2003, to Currier from former town administrator Tim Warren indicates selectmen granted Currier permission to pave a portion of the road.

Brenda Currier said she only wants Bishop to go to the ZBA and get whatever variances and/or special exceptions he needs to operate his business, to which board Vice Chairman Marty Martindale replied that those steps "had not been done.

"We are working with him." Martindale continued. "He will correct it or a cease-and-desist will be ordered."

"Good enough," said Brett Currier, while Brenda nodded in agreement.

Mark Sisti, the town moderator, said he's very glad to see cooler heads prevailing at the Planning Board and said that Brett and Brenda Currier had made some legitimate points.

Sisti also said that he is a lawyer, and as such, wouldn't recommend suddenly shutting down a business that had been operating for six years.

"That could be a problem," he said.

But, he said having working and thriving businesses in Gilmanton is something the town hasn't seen for a "number of decades" and the tax revenues from business enterprises should be the focus for all of the town's boards.

Belmont man faces nine charges of drugs sales within school zone

BELMONT — After a month-long investigation, the New Hampshire Drug Task Force with the assistance of local police, charged a Concord Street man with nine counts of sales of drugs from his apartment.

08-13 Jeffrey Thomas Davidson

Jeffrey T. Davidson, 32, of 58 Concord St. Apt 3 is charged with the sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of the Belmont Middle School. Affidavits indicate all of the sales involved some combination of heroin/fentanyl and oxycodone – an opium-based pain reliever.

Davidson was asked to come to the Belmont Police Department where he was arrested without incident.

Affidavits said police learned of Davidson in early July and used a "cooperating informant" to make nine drug purchases between July 6 and Aug. 3. The purchases ranged in values between $250 and $575, all of which was provided to the informant by members of the task force.

Police said they had learned that allegedly Davidson typically had at least a "finger," or 10 grams, of heroin/fentanyl at all times and that they learned from the informant that they had purchased 30 mg pills of oxycodone from him in the past.

Most of the alleged contacts with Davidson and the informant, said police affidavits, took place in Davidson's driveway, however on at least one occasion, the Davidson allegedly sold the drugs through an open window in his apartment.

A member of the drug task force said that he calculated Davidson's apartment to be 718 feet from the Belmont Middle School using Google Maps. Bryant Field is also in the general area. If convicted, Davidson could face enhanced penalties because of his location.

Davidson waived his arraignment in Belknap County Superior Court Friday and entered a not guilty plea. He is being held on $50,000 cash only bail in the Belknap County House of Corrections. Should he post bail, the court will require a source of funds hearing to make sure the money didn't come from illegal activity.

Hope and health through art - Velvet Weeks finds painting and photography a way out of addiction


LACONIA — Whether it's the downtown Coffee Fest, a local dog show, or a picturesque sunset by the lake, native Laconian Velvet Weeks can be found with her camera in hand intently looking for the perfect picture to come into view.

Struggling with life challenges that had left her facing her own addictions and periods of homelessness, Weeks was drawn into the River Crew Art organization, which was aiming to provide the homeless community with the opportunity to find hope through art. It was through this organization that Weeks was able to reconnect with her natural inclination toward artwork, and find ways to give her a sense of peace, tranquility and ease that she had not felt in years.

Through the generosity of Dick Smith and Elaine Morrison, the coordinators of River Crew Art, Weeks has had access to paint supplies and a digital camera to help her shape her creativity. Learning how to capture skilled and tasteful photos through the instruction of Smith, she has been able to sell some of her artwork to the local newspaper The Citizen, showing some of her work on a large-scale platform for the first time. While people in the community often only see the Weeks's work in newspaper features and art exhibits, the vast majority of her work is displayed privately in the homes and offices of those to whom she has donated work. Focused on positively impacting the lives of others, Weeks has donated original artwork to Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer and Judge Jim Carroll, The Unitarian Church of Laconia, children with cancer at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the Laconia Fire Station, the Laconia Clinic, and many others.

"I love giving back to the community through my artwork," said Weeks. "There is so much beauty in Laconia from the city workers who plant the flowers or the people volunteering at events, it's nice to be able to show how city members come together through my work."

Recently, Weeks has been working closely with Stand Up Laconia! using her art as a way to promote awareness of addition to youth. Using her knowledge of addiction, Weeks has been able to create pictures and posters that depict the horrors of addiction and the inner struggle it leaves those abusing drugs in. Hoping to expand ability to positively impact the lives of community members farther than just pictures and posters, Weeks hopes to later mentor those in the community struggling with addiction using means of artwork.

"River Art Crew will be partnering with Navigating Recovery of the Lakes Region, so Velvet and other individuals will have the opportunity to help those struggling with addiction through art therapy and mentorship," said Morisson.

Each week, River Art Crew meets at the Unitarian Church of Laconia between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. for an art project and a meal.

"Mondays are my favorite days of the week," said Weeks. "Art with River Art Crew has turned my life around, and given me discipline, focus, and a sense of calmness. In the future I hope to keep up with the photographs and artwork, and keep giving back to the community that I love."

08-06 Velvet Weeks

Velvet Weeks displays her art and photos, done as part of the River Art Crew, a group that works with the homeless to find hope through art. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun) Below are examples of her work.


08-06 Velvet Weeks - court painting

08-06 Velvet Weeks - round painting

08-06 Velvet Weeks - church painting

08-06 Velvet Weeks - Mill photo

08-06 Velvet Weeks - cook photo