GILFORD – Selectmen rejected a proposed warrant article that would add agritourism to the town zoning ordinance last night after telling lead petitioner Andy Howe there were two clerical errors that made it impossible for them to accept.
Initially, said Town Administrator Scott Dunn, there is no provision for an "emergency" town meeting for a petitioned warrant article regarding zoning. Secondly, he said the warrant article should have been written to reference New Hampshire State Law RSA 21:34-a:vi, which is the state definition of agritourism.
Howe attended Wednesday's meeting and said he understood and would be submitting a similar warrant article before the deadline of Dec. 7 and could only be considered at the March annual Town Meeting.
Howe's intent is to amend the Gilford Zoning Ordinances to added a definition of agriculture and a definition of agritourism – as defined by RSA 21:31-a:vi – so that agritourism, like agriculture, can be permitted by right in all zones.
Howe and his family own Timber Hill Farm, which has been in the eye of a local hurricane regarding agritourism, farm-to-table events like weddings, and the future of his 250-acre farm on Gunstock Hill Road in the single-family residential zone.
His neighbor opposes his proposal because she believes the noise from weddings and other like events would disrupt the quality of her life and devalue her property.
Both sides are represented by counsel in what has become an prolonged and acrimonious battle that has the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment and the town's Planning Board each seeking the advice of their own counsel. Though farm-to-table activities were ordered stopped by the town code enforcement officer, the Zoning Board has twice voted not to uphold the order.
Right now, the definition of agriculture in Gilford is found under ordinance 4.7.1 titled Open Spaces and allows for "orchard, vegetable, garden, nursery, daily farm, commercial animals, poultry, live stock or other commercial activity. Home farming is allowed in all zones."
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