Sued again - Twomey asks for delay in events at Timber Hill Farm

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A neighbor of the Howe property on Gunstock Hill Road has filed an additional lawsuit in the Belknap County Superior Court against the town of Gilford asking the court to delay any activities at Timber Hill Farm even though the Planning Board granted approval to the Howes to host weddings and like events as a type of agritourism.

Monique Twomey claims that the Planning Board acted unlawfully when it granted Timber Hill Farm a site plan approval because it went against the law regarding agritourism in New Hampshire as established by the state legislature and affirmed by a decision of the state Supreme Court.

She is asking the court to order the Planning Board to review its decision.

Attorney Joseph Driscoll said Planning Board did not distinguish between agritourism and agriculture as state law requires, which takes precedent over a decision made by the Zoning Board of Adjustments, which Twomey is also suing.

Twomey's suit claims the Planning Board didn't take into consideration the state Supreme Court ruling that agritourism is not agriculture, which is the current law in the state.

The suit also says that the Planning Board is required by law when reviewing a site plan to see that any neighboring properties are not diminished in value. Twomey submitted a report completed by a local real estate agent who said her property value could be diminished by as much as $200,000, or one-third.

She also claims there was no investigation or discussion regarding the impact of hostimg weddings on the rest of community, because she was the only one who complained. Other neighbors have spoken at length in various Planning Board meetings about the effect the 2015 events had on themselves and their families.

Twomey says the site plan allow activities in a single family residential zone that would not otherwise be allowed. She cites allowing a place of gathering, the commercial serving of alcohol, music that is not contained, and outdoor lighting.

The site plan allows the Howes to operate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. — an 18-hour window that doesn't apply to yard sales, which are restricted to eight total hours.

Although the site plan "requests" the Howes consult the police for traffic control, no traffic study was performed before the site plan was approved.

The site plan "encourages" the Howe's to shuttle people from a parking area nearer their home on non-conservation land but said "there is no measure for compliance."

New Hampshire RSA 677:15 states that "if any party appeals any part of the planning board's decision to the superior court before all matters appealed to the board of adjustment have been resolved, the court shall stay the appeal until resolution of such matters."

In addition "upon presentation of such petition, the court may allow a certiorari order directed to the planning board to review such decision and shall prescribe therein the time within which return thereto shall be made and served upon the petitioner's attorney, which shall not be less than 10 days and may be extended by the court."

The town has not responded yet to the latest suit. Judge James O'Neill has not yet ruled on some procedural matters it considered last week regarding Twomey's two suits against the town regarding actions taken by the Zoning Board.

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)