Planning Board approves work at Gilford cottage colony

GILFORD — Objections by abutters and questions about how strict an interpretation of the zoning ordinance is warranted ultimately failed to persuade the Gilford Planning Board to deny an application that seeks to make a commercial cottage colony off Scenic Drive less nonconforming than it currently is.
Dave Farley of Diversified Marine, representing Todd and Maureen Berkowitz, successfully argued that the replacement of several buildings, while not bringing the colony into conformance with all setbacks, brings it into closer conformity, while also improving drainage on the property to prevent washouts and stop organic matter from getting into the lake.
A proposed pervious deck and pavilion will cover less square footage than the total space of the buildings being replaced, but it will be larger than any single building, posing a dilemma for the Planning Board.
“You can repair a nonconforming structure, but the size of a rebuilt structure cannot exceed the size of the original,” said John Ayer, planning and land use director. The ordinance makes no provision for using multiple structures in that calculation, he said.
Abutters Janet and Alan Rose argued that because the Berkowitzes already took down a pumphouse on the property, there is no way of knowing what the actual height or square footage was. Ayer noted that the plan lists the pumphouse as being 82 square feet, while the state Department of Environmental Services, which approved the drainage plan, calculated the size to be 61.61 square feet.
Jeff Merritt, who presented plans showing the original topography, what is being removed, and what will ultimately be on the property, said his calculations included the overhang of the eaves, while the DES did not include the eaves in its measurements.
The new pavilion will have a maximum height of 12 feet and cover 892 square feet, Merritt said. The pumphouse, at 82 square feet, the former deck and stairs leading to the dock, at 953 square feet, and a gazebo, at 99 square feet, are being removed, he said. The new staircase will be 194 square feet.
“The lot coverage will have a net decrease of 1.7 percent,” Merritt said, “and that’s consistent with the intent and spirit of the town’s regulations.”
For Richard Grenier, the selectmen’s representative to the Planning Board, the concern was the Berkowitzes’ plan to build an 8-foot-high fence around the perimeter of the property, tapering to 3 feet at the entrance.
“The fence is a bone of contention with the abutter,” Grenier noted.
It was the erection of a short section of fence that originally pitted the neighbors against one another, because it obscured the abutters’ view of the lake and affected the air flow to a cottage near the property line. The revised plan presented on Monday night increased the height and length of the fence.
Maureen Berkowitz said they were putting up the fence to ensure their privacy, since the Roses were taking down sections of their own fence overlooking her property.
“They’re literally looking into our yard,” she said. “That’s what a buffer is for.”
The Roses had erected the original fence, but later took down two sections to improve air flow and give them a view of the lake.
“I’m very concerned about the notion of putting in a new fence, raising the height to 8 feet, and running it as far to the lake as possible,” said Alan Rose.
Planning Board member Jack Landow pointed out that residents have a right to erect fences on their property.
Board members discussed the danger of setting a precedent by allowing an applicant to include multiple buildings in calculations for a replacement nonconforming structure, but they agreed that the plan makes the property less nonconforming.
“They’re actually reducing the amount of the impact, and that’s enough for me to say yes,” said Landow.
Ayer pointed out that the board’s decision could be appealed to the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustment, which would decide whether the Planning Board’s reasoning was sound.
The decision to approve the plan was unanimous.

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Fredericks make case for appeal of boat storage decision

MEREDITH — Douglas and Leslyee Frederick, who own and operate the American Police Motorycyle Museum, are seeking an appeal of an administrative decision that found boat storage not to be an approved use on the property.
The town denied their original appeal as not having been filed in a timely manner, but they maintain that the town had not informed them of the decision in time and, once they learned of it, they did file within the 30-day period allowed for appeals.
Doug Frederick said he had received permission from the town four years ago to allow Meredith Marine to store boats on his property, and the company has been storing boats there since. That changed on Nov. 15, 2015, after he had informed Town Manager Phil Warren of “an incident on 11-16-15 that occurred on my property that was cause for serious concern and which I firmly believe was a clearly stated Meredith Zoning Violation.”
According to Frederick, the code enforcement officer arrived and told him “he was not sure if boat parking was allowed on my property.” Frederick said he sent two emails to find out “what his orders were as to boat parking on the property. At no time did [anyone] answer those emails and provide direction ... regarding boat parking.”
It was not until September 2016 that he heard from the town. Planning Board Chairman William Bayard then told him that boat parking was not allowed.
Frederick went to the next Planning Board meeting to address the issue, and the town planner said “water recreation/storage” as listed for the Meredith Central Business District applied only to water park items such as bumper boats and water slides.
In early 2017, Frederick received additional certified letters “in which the definition of ‘Water Recreation/Storage’ was changed from Water Park items to the storage of Lagoons, Ponds and Water itself in the Central Business District of Meredith.”
The town ordered the Fredericks to remove the boats stored on their property by May 1, and, through their attorney, William Woodbury, they asked for an extension to Aug. 1, which coincided with the term of the contract with Meredith Marine. They received no response from the town and Woodbury followed up on May 8. The town responded by email on May 18, saying a decision had been issued. Woodbury responded the next day, saying they had not received a copy of the decision.
An email trail shows that the town officials “Have no idea what happened to the letter.”
Doug Frederick said that, apart from that incident, the town had communicated through certified mail, and he had been diligent about responding within a day or two of receiving information from the town.
He learned of the adverse decision through his attorney in late May, and filed an appeal on June 19, which Woodbury maintains was within the 30-day period after they learned that a decision had been made. Woodbury noted that the 30-day period fell on June 17, a Saturday, and that state statutes agree that, when a deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, it is extended to the first business day after that, which puts June 19 within the filing deadline.
The town denied the request as arriving past the filing deadline, and subsequently denied the Fredericks’ request for a variance to allow boat storage on the property.
Their current appeal is based on “fundamental fairness” and their right to due process.
“Neither the applicants nor any member of the public had any way of knowing a decision ever existed until May 18,” Woodbury wrote.
Meredith Marine is allowed to continue storing boats on the property through the appeal process.

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Motorcycle wrecks leave 1 charged, 2 seriously hurt

LACONIA — Police and fire department personnel responded to two accidents involving motorcycles on Sunday. One accident resulted in two people being airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, while the other led to an arrest.

The first incident occurred at around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, when a motorcycle collided with a vehicle that was turning onto North Main Street. Police report that a car driven by Robert Slavin, 75, of Laconia, pulled out from Blueberry Lane when it struck the motorcycle. Both the motorcycle operator, Gary Ames, 47, and passenger Danielle Colp, 58, both of Laconia, were thrown into the roadway and sustained serious injuries. They were initially transported to Lakes Region General Hospital, then airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon.

Emergency personnel were called again at around 7 p.m. for another motorcycle crash, this time for a motorcycle that went off Rollercoaster Road and into a wall. The motorcyclist, Terry Whipple, 51, of Woodstock, was arrested on the charge of driving under the influence. He was released on bail and is due to appear in Laconia District Court on Oct. 5.

– Adam Drapcho

09 18 Motorcycle Crash North Main

Two people suffered life-threatening injuries when the motorcycle they were riding on was struck by a red Hyundai Sonata exiting Blueberry Lane onto North Main Street early Sunday evening. The female passenger on the motorcycle was thrown beneath the blue Chevy pickup truck that was stopped to turn left into Blueberry Lane. The driver of the car can be seen at far right leaning against the rock wall being monitored by EMS with the Laconia Fire Department. His leashed Sheltie dog that was in the car with him can be seen lying behind him. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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