LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge will not dismiss an appeal of a December 2015 Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustments ruling that negated a Planning Board decision not to move forward on a site plan review for a wedding venue on Timber Hill Road.
The Planning Board had previously determined that agriculture and agritourism were not the same thing and that Andy and Martina Howe's proposed wedding venue site was not allowed under town ordinances and state laws, which at the time were supported by a N.H. Supreme Court ruling.
The ZBA overturned the Planning Board's assessment and forced it to conduct a site plan review.
Abutter Monique Twomey appealed the ZBA decision Superior Court. The town of Gilford and the Howe's, who were granted intervenor status, both asked the court to dismiss the case as moot or now longer applicable because a definition of agritourism was added to the town ordinance by the voters at annual Town Meeting.
Twomey objected to the dismissal because the decisions by the planning board and ZBA were based on the definition of agriculture and not the definition of agritourism. She contends that the voters didn't change the definition of "agriculture" in March but only added "agritourism" as a permitted use in some zones.
"Upon review, the court agrees with (Twomey) that there is still technically an issue ripe for review presented in this case," wrote presiding Justice James O'Neill.
He said the underlying ZBA was based on a definition of agriculture, which was not changed at Town Meeting.
"The issue of whether the ZBA's interpretation of this definition was lawful and reasonable is unaffected by this amendment," he wrote.
O'Neill denied Twomey's request to amend her request for a restraining order to stop the Howe's from gaining site plan review, agreeing with the town of Gilford's assertion that state law does not entitle the court to issue a stay of a Planning Board decision.
O'Neill did point out that, as the town says, the law automatically stays any Planning Board decisions once the court has agreed to hear the case.