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.

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.

Aavid Thermalloy's kinship with city's industrial heritage results in $20k in donations to Belknap Mill Society

LACONIA — Earlier this year Aavid Thermalloy and Alan Wong, its chief executive officer, donated $20,000 to be shared among community organizations and this week Mayor Ed Engler announced that the company has contributed another $5,000, which two of its employees anonymously matched with equal amounts, to the Belknap Mill Society.
In March Engler, who was entrusted by Aavid to distribute its donations, explained that $20,000 would be shared evenly between the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, Belknap Mill Society and the Immigrant Integration Initiative fostered by the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Heath.
With the most recent contributions, the Belknap Mill Society has benefited from the generosity of Aavid Thermalloy and its employees in the amount of $20,000. Engler said that Aavid, as an advanced manufacturer with its roots and corporate headquarters in the city, had a close affinity with the Belknap Mill, the lasting monument to the city's industrial heritage, which Aavid has inherited and perpetuated.

The original $20,000 donation from Aavid and Wong was made in celebration of the global company's 50th anniversary.

Monday night brush fire chars 3 acres in Belmont

BELMONT — Firefighters from five communities spent two hours Monday evening extinguishing a suspicious fast-moving brush fire that charred slightly over three acres of land behind Weeks Farm on Depot Street.

Chief Dave Parenti said the fire was reported at 6:18 p.m. and initially crews from Belmont tried to tackle it alone by cutting it off from behind.

Parenti said the wind shifted from north to south and the fire began burning back toward firefighters. He said the team was able to get out of the way but lost 800 feet of fire hose when the flames shifted.

He said after the wind shift, the fire jumped a creek and began burning uphill toward the Brookside Mobile Home Park. The command lieutenant called a first alarm that brought forestry crews from Laconia, Gilford, Tilton-Northfield, and Gilmanton for station coverage.

A short time later, Gilmanton crews were assigned to the fire on the Brookside end of it and Sanbornton crews came to Belmont for station coverage.

Parenti said it took about two hours to extinguish the fire and put out the hot spots. He said the Belmont Police are helping the Fire Department investigate the cause of the fire.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Belmont Police at 267-8350 or the Belmont Fire Department at 267-8333.