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Divided council grants an extra hour of music for Harry Potter convention's masquerade ball

LACONIA — The City Council struck a blow for peace and quiet this week by denying the request of The Margate Resort to extend the hours for amplified music outdoors from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, then by a single vote agreed to let the music play until 10 p.m.

The lakeside resort is hosting MISTI-Con, which describes itself as "an immersive Harry Potter fan convention" held every other year, over the Memorial Day weekend from Thursday 21 to Sunday May 24. Kyle Parisi, general manager of the Margate, said Tuesday that this will be the third time MISTI-Con has visited the resort. He said that in 2011 the event drew some 400 people and two years later the number grew to 600.

This year, Parisi said that organizers expected between 800 and 1,000 to attend. The Margate resort is fully booked and the downtown Landmark Inn, owned by the same company, is accepting reservations. Parisi said the conventioneers are mostly affluent young professionals aged between 25 and 35, many from New York and Boston.

This year MISTI-Con has opened the event to local residents by offering individual and family passes to "The Wizarding World's Fair" without requiring registration for the convention itself.

The event closes with a Sunday night "Ministry Masquerade Ball" beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at midnight in a tent pitched on the West Lawn of the resort. The city's loudspeaker ordinance limits the use of outdoor sound equipment to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, except during Motorcycle Week.

Two weeks ago, Caroline Snyder, event manager, first presented the request for later hours to the council, but offered few details and acknowledged that nearby property owners had not been informed of the event. The council advised her to canvas the neighbors and tabled the request pending their response. When Snyder returned this week she told the councilors that a letter explaining the request to extend the hours of amplified music was sent to the 22 property owners at Eastern Shores Condominiums as well as Shaw's, China Bistro and the Paugus Bay Plaza Condominium Association, all of which are across Lake Street in Gilford. She said there has been one response from a woman who said she was "excited".

Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and David Bownes (Ward 2) spoke in favor of granting the request to extend the deadline until 11 p.m. Lipman said that there was no evidence the sound would have adverse impacts on others and granting the extension would be in keeping with the city's interest in supporting its hospitality industry and encouraging tourism.

However, Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) reminded his colleagues that some years ago when the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound made a similar request, the council denied it. Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) warned against making exceptions for some but not others. Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) expressed concern that the sound would carry across Paugus Bay.

After the council voted three-to-two to deny the request, Lipman suggested granting a one hour extension, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., which won over Hamel's vote and carried by a majority of three-to-two.

"I guess that's the best they can do," Parisi said of the compromise. " They may not be overly happy, but they will manage with 10 p.m."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 12:35

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Balance is everything at police motorcycle training school

LACONIA — From a distance, the orange cones set up for police motorcycle training school don't seem to have any rhyme or rhythm and the lone motorcyclist navigating them just appears to be just riding around.

Up close, individual circular, square and lengthwise patterns become evident as Laconia Master Patrol Officer Robb Sedgely carefully navigates his way through them on a tarmac at the Laconia Municipal Airport.

Sedgely, who is expected to complete his training by today, will be the fifth motorcycle police officer active in the Laconia Police Department and one of two who will be on routine patrol throughout the city this summer. Officer Richard Bassett will share the patrol duties while Sgt. Gary Hubbard and Lts. Rich Simmons and Al Graton won't be on regular motorcycle duty but are trained and ready if needed.

The motorcycle class for area officers is offered once annually and is taught by Alton Police Officer Sean Sullivan and Gilford Police Officer Kevin Baron. Both share routine motorcycle shifts in their respective communities.

Baron said training teaches motorcycle officers how to navigate tight turns designed for mobility in traffic jams and weaving safely through traffic to reach an accident or crime scene.

"Don't forget," he said pointing to the cone course set up to resemble a traffic jam. "Each cone represents another motorist's fender or foot."

Other exercises train an officer to avoid debris on roads, how to come off an sharp turn and stop a 700-pound motorcycle within a few feet and how to "lay it down" and not get injured if it comes to that.

"I've got bruises all over the outsides of my legs," said Sedgely with a grin after he took a short break from his training. "I've probably dumped it 200 or 300 times."

For safety (of the motorcycle) all of the trim and outer metal is wrapped in firehose to prevent damage during training.

"Balance is everything," Sedgely said, noting that a motorcycle officer pretty much carries on his or her person everything an officer in a cruiser carries including, in some communities, a computer.

"Everything is moving but his head stays in a straight line," said Baron while pointing as Sedgley navigated an "S" turn course.

Sedgley, who has been riding a motorcycle for years, said riding as a police officer is a whole new concept.

"This has been one of the toughest courses ever," he said, noting the precision that must be used to navigate through the course. "You have to learn to trust the bike. It wants to go in a straight line."

"I definitely have a new appreciation for every cop who rides one of these," he concluded.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 11:53

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Belmont zoning board grants variance for 'doggy daycare'

BELMONT — The Zoning Board unanimously granted a Tioga Road woman a variance to start a "doggie daycare" in a three-car garage she owns. The lot is just under one acre in size.

Carolyn Bancroft of 68 Tioga Drive was given the variance with the overwhelming support of her neighbors, despite warnings by the board and the planning director that the variance will stay with the property regardless of who owns it.

Tioga Drive is zoned as "residential-multiple" meaning the zone is limited to single- and multiple-family homes.

According to the minutes of the meeting, Bancroft is allowed to have up to 17 dogs on her property, including five of her own. The pet day care will operate from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and not on weekends. Drop off times in the morning are between 7 and 9 a.m. There are no overnight accommodations.

One of the conditions of Bancroft's approval is that she install an underground dog waste system for use at all time when the temperature is above 40 degrees. Dog feces must be collected at least once a week. Unclean conditions is a reason the town code enforcement officer can shut down the daycare at any time.

Bancroft's property is already fenced and one of the other conditions is that she keep the daycare dogs in their cages in the converted garage area and only walk them in a manner as not to be reckless or loud. Client dogs are expected to be inside the garage except for exercise.

No more than five customers can be in the garage at one time including the times when people are dropping off and picking up their dogs or training sessions.

The fencing must be of a wire mesh type and not opaque or solid material and must be maintained at all times. There must also be vegetation (grass) to keep an appropriate ground cover and to control odors.

Bancroft will also need site plan approval from the Planning Board and the permit will only be valid for two years at a time. If it expires and not renewed, it will expire.

Bancroft told the board the garage is already equipped with heat and air conditioned and she agreed to maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in working conditions at all times.

According to the minutes of the ZBA meeting, Bancroft's neighbors all spoke in favor of her request for a variance.

One neighbor described her as a "dog whisper" that she has known and trusted for years. Bancroft has owned, trained and bred dogs for the past 30 years.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 01:25

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Alleged hotel rapist will argue he was home alone

GILFORD — A former resort employee accused of raping, robbing and threatening a guest in May of 2014 has filed a notice that he may be offering an alibi as part of his defense.

The alibi defense was included in a package of preliminary pleadings filed in the Belknap County Superior Court on behalf of Douglas Fisher, 54, formerly of 51 Lake St. who is accused of entering a guest's room at The Margate, restraining her, and repeatedly raping her.

Public Defender Amy Ashworth said Fisher's alibi is that he was home in his apartment at the time of the assault.

Fisher had been indicted by a Belknap County grand jury for four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault (forcible rape), one count of burglary, one count of robbery, one count of false imprisonment, one count of criminal threatening, and one count of sexual assault.

Gilford Police arrested Fisher in December of 2014 allegedly after some DNA taken from the alleged victim matched his that was on file in the federal system. Fisher was on probation at the time of his arrest and remains incarcerated in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

In addition and according to pleading Fisher's assented to request for money to depose a Gilford K-9 Officer, Ashworth said the track did not lead to Fisher's residence even though he lived on the property.

She said the officer was the first responder to the hotel and was the first to speak to the alleged victim who told him the man had been gone about 10 minutes.

As officers from Laconia responded, Ashworth said the K-9 officer began a search with his dog and asked the Laconia police to keep driving around the area.

The dog began in the hallway, exited the middle doorway and went into the parking lot. He worked around the back of the hotel along a fence that separates Shaw's Plaza and a portion of the hotel.

According to Ashworth the officer noted that the dog went toward a residence on the property but "did not appear to be tracking" and "never saw any clear signs of a track."

Fisher was said to have turned on his lights, opened his door and asked the officer what was happening. After learning Fisher worked at the hotel as a maintenance person, the officer asked him if he had seen anything suspicious and he said he hadn't, according to Ashworth.

Ashworth wrote that the officer and his dog continued their search that took them throughout the entire parking lot and then to Lake Street. She said the officer noted that the dog never showed signs of tracking and "it was clear to me that no one had fled the property on foot."

She said his report said as it began to get light, he made sure no one was hiding and found no one.

Ashworth said the deposition is needed because the officer, along with the state criminalist who tested the DNA evidence, are to be considered expert witnesses at Fisher's upcoming trial.

Fisher is scheduled to stand trial in June.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 01:14

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