NH Senate subcommittee says agritourism bill should pass

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — A legislative committee voted last week that a bill that would redefine agritourism and incorporate it directly into the state definition should move on to the full Senate with a recommendation that it passes with amendments.

The bill would eliminate Article VI from the current definition of agritourism of RSA 21:34-a and incorporate it into Article II which will read:

"Agritourism means attracting visitors to a farm to attend events and activities that are accessory uses to the primary farm operation, including but not limited to eating a meal, making overnight stays, enjoyment of the farm environment, education of farm operations, or active involvement in the activity of the farm."

An amendment suggested to the original SB-345 would change the Article II(b)(5) to include the new definition of agritourism in the clause incorporates marketing or selling at wholesale or retail, on site and off site,and where "not prohibited" by local regulations.

The key change in the amendment is adding the words "not prohibited," which means that if a community has no local zoning ordinances, agritourism would still be allowed in areas where the primary use is agriculture, but only according to the state definition.

Should this bill pass into law in its current form, as amended, it changes addresses the 2015 state Supreme Court ruling in [Stephen] Forster v. town of Henniker, which said because the town had no ordinance regarding agritourism, the state law would prevail.

As of now, state law defines agritourism as separate from agriculture. In a 4-to-1 ruling, The state Supreme Court determined that because the state legislature deliberately separated agritourism from agriculture, Forster would not be allowed to host weddings and other agritourism activities at his tree farm. In the court's interpretation, agritourism is not agriculture and is not an accessory use to agriculture.

A second amendment to Senate Bill 345 states that agritourism shall not be prohibited on any property where the primary use is for agriculture.

The proposed bill still leaves it to local governments to require site plans, special exceptions and other land board reviews for any proposed agritourism uses. Last week, Gilford voters passed their own agritourism ordinance, meaning their new ordinance would allow agritourism by right and gives the town of Gilford's land board's control over how it will regulate it.

SB-345 as amended must be approved by the full Senate after which it will move on to the State House of Representatives for deliberation and possible passage. It then goes to the governor's desk for approval.

Defending Division III champs skate to 4-1 win, face top seed Wednesday

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs (13-6), defending Division III champions, skated to a 4-1 win Saturday over Kearsarge/Plymouth at the Laconia Ice Arena.
The victory advances the Bulldogs to the semifinal round of the hockey playoffs where they will meet top-ranked John Stark/Hopkinton (14-3-1) Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Everett Arena in Concord.
Trailing 1-0 after the first period, Belmont-Gilford evened things up at 1-1 on a breakaway goal by Ethan Becker and went ahead with just 33 seconds left in the period on Caleb Drouin's goal.
Dylan Treamer's goal early in the third period extended the lead to 3-1 and Drouin added an empty net goal late in the game to iced the victory.
Belmont-Gilford goalie Bailey Defosie stopped 16 of the 17 shots on goal by Kearsarge/Plymouth. The Bulldogs outshot their rivals 49-17 and Kearsarge-Plymouth goalie Richie Caron made 45 saves.
In Wednesday's other game at the Everett Arena at 5:30 p.m,. number three ranked Kennett, which beat Sanborn 6-0 Saturday, will face the second-ranked Berlin-Gorham Mountaineers.
The winners of Wednesday's games will meet in the finals at the Verizon Center in Manchester at 12:15 p.m. Saturday.

Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs senior Dylan Treamer celebrates as the puck slips past the Kearsarge-Plymouth Cats goalie in the NHIAA quarterfinal game at the Laconia Ice Arena on Saturday, March 12, 2016.  (Alan MacRae/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs senior Dylan Treamer celebrates as the puck slips past the Kearsarge-Plymouth Cats goalie in the NHIAA quarterfinal game at the Laconia Ice Arena on Saturday, March 12, 2016.  (Alan MacRae/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Moultonborough rejects community center at Town Meeting

BY MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MOULTONBOROUGH — Voters at Town Meeting on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected the proposal to construct a community center at a cost of $6.5 million as 348 ballots were cast against and 220 in favor. A two-thirds majority was required for passage.

After a resident asked the four selectmen who voted to recommend the project to explain their votes, Selectmen Paul Punturieri and Russ Wakefield spoke, followed by their colleague Josh Bartlett, the lone member of the board to vote against the recommendation. Chris Shipp, who chairs the board, and Jean Beadke were waiting to speak, but discussion was cut short when Joe Cormier moved to "call the question." The rules specify that "the Moderator shall have the right to refuse to recognize a motion to 'Call the Question' if, in the Moderator's opinion, the voters have not yet had an adequate opportunity to discuss an issue." Nevertheless, Moderator Jerry Hopkins granted the motion and debate ended.

Shipp, seconded by Punturieri, offered a motion to reconsider, which he withdrew upon being advised by legal counsel that the vote would have to be reconsidered immediately. Shipp said yesterday that "I didn't want to hijack the debate but to preserve it," explaining that he found it "unfortunate" that discussion was curtailed, "I made the motion solely because there had been no debate," he said, adding that he was "frustrated."

Punturieri, writing on the blog "Moultonborough Speaks," said "our one day of democracy was hijacked by a coordinated group of citizens who did not want any discussion of Article 2 to occur." Opponents of the project, he continued, "clearly did not have the courage to put out their 'facts' for a fair debate. Instead, they took a much less honorable way, which was to win at any cost." The "real losers," he said were those who came to the meeting expecting a debate, but "left feeling cheated and needing a shower to wash away the funk left behind."

In an email to Punturieri, shared with The Laconia Daily Sun, Cormier insisted "there was no conspiracy on 'Call the Question.' I went to the meeting to cast my ballot. That's it. I had no intentions of 'speaking' to any article. My plan was to vote, get the heck out, and go home to greet family."

Although there was consistent support for the project among younger residents, most of them with children, it met with stiff opposition from those who insist that the scope and cost of the project is unwarranted in a town where the general population is aging and the school enrollment is declining. Opponents claimed that the demographics of the town render a community center unnecessary while supporters counter that investing in the amenity will draw younger residents and foster a more balanced demographic.

With little debate voters approved the 2016 operating budget of $7,594,327, approximately $100,000 less than the 2015 budget, which was recommended unanimously by both the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Budget Committee. Likewise, articles to raise $400,000 for a new fire truck and $815,000, also recommended unanimously by the selectmen and budget committee, carried.

Voters also approved an article to appoint rather than elect the Road Agent and authorize the Board of Selectmen to search for and hire a qualified person with appropriate design, engineering, personnel  and financial skills.