Arbor Day marked at Sanborn Park with planting of two trees


LACONIA — Together with children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, the city celebrated Arbor Day yesterday by planting a pair of trees — a Katsura and a Stellar Pink dogwood – at Sanborn Park.

Arbor Day traces its origins to 1594 in the Spanish village of Mondoñedo, where today a plaque on the Alameda de los Remedios, a boulevard lined with lime and chestnut trees, marks the occasion. The day was first celebrated in the United States in in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on April 10, 1872, when an estimated million trees were planted across the state. Today Arbor Day is celebrated in nearly 50 countries on six continents.

Several dozen children gathered around the Katsura tree and listened as three of their number — Knevaeh, Olivia and Jake — each read a poetic tribute to trees. One young girl responded correctly when Mayor Ed Engler asked the children the meaning of "arbor" by answering "It's another word for tree." Engler told the children that years from now, when two trees have grown to maturity, they can return to Sanborn Park with their children and tell them that they were here when the trees were planted.

Amy Lovisek, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department, introduced Tim Ford, her "guru" who keeps the grass growing green and the trees standing tall in the city parks. Ford answered questions from the children and told them that the department would soon be providing them with seedlings to grow their own pumpkins for the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in October.

New Hampshire has marked Arbor Day for the last 130 years, and for nearly three decades Laconia has been recognized the Arbor Day Foundation as a "Tree City" for nurturing its trees in accord with the high standards of the foundation. This year, the city became the first city in the state to receive the Growth Award from the Arbor Day Foundation for providing city employees with training to care for the trees in the city.

Native to Japan, the Katsura tree will reach a height of about 40 feet. Its heart-shaped leaves bloom a ruddy purple in the spring, turn bluish green in the summer and glow apricot in the fall while breathing a fragrance reminiscent of cotton candy. In Japanese folklore, the Moon Goddess sat beneath the Katsura tree awaiting messages from the heavens.

The dogwood, common along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, was once used to treat dogs with mange, which may how it got its name. Birds relish its glossy red fruit that falls in September and October, and its wood, highly resistant to sudden shock, has served as the heads of clubs to drive golf balls and as the shuttles on looms to weave cloth. Legend has it that the dogwood, once a tall tree, was ashamed at providing the cross for the crucifixion of Christ. Seeking Christ's forgiveness, the dogwood found itself slender, twisted and bedecked with flowers in the shape of crosses with crowns of thorns at their centers.

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Jake, Knevaeh and Olivia, from left, read poetic tributes to trees as children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region celebrated Arbor Day with the planting of two trees at Sanborn Park. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

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While children from the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region ringed the newly planted Katsura tree at Sanborn Park, Mayor Ed Engler read a proclamation to celebrate Arbor Day. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Gilford woman again challenges definition of agritourism


LACONIA — A woman whose property is next door to the spot where a local farm has proposed to have a wedding venue has asked a Belknap County Superior Court judge to "offer a definitive definition of 'agriculture' and 'agritourism.'"

In her most recent petition against the town of Gilford, Monique Twomey of Gunstock Hill Road said the decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustments not to uphold a cease-and-desist order issued by the town building inspection that would have stopped Timber Hill Farm from hosting weddings at that site was based on the town's former definition of agriculture, which she claims was ambiguous.

The challenge she posed to the ZBA's first decision not to enforce the order was dismissed as untimely by Judge James O'Neill; however, he left the door open a crack when he wrote that she could pursue her appeal through a petition for declaratory judgment, or a request the court define the legal parameters within with which two adversaries can proceed. A petition like this is barred by a time limit like the ZBA appeal was.

But what any decision means for Andy and Martina Howe and their proposed wedding venue venture in the long run remains muddy.

A bipartisan bill first introduced in the state Senate has now passed both the Senate and the House but with amendments. District 7 Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Gilford), who is one of the sponsors of the bill, said the Senate has not decided whether or not it will accept the bill as amended by the House but said they will look at it next week.

If both houses agree with the changes to the original bill made by each respective body, the bill will go to the governor's office. If there is no agreement, it will be referred to a committee of conference where the differences will be hammered out – or not.

The current law, which separates agritourism and agriculture, was passed in its final version in 2015 after a committee of conference agreed the two should be separated.

The current law is also the law Twomey says the ZBA misinterpreted when it decided a second time to not to enforce the cease-and- desist order. In its decision, the board determined that agritourism is the same thing as agriculture, which Twomey says is incorrect. She referenced a 2015 ruling made by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a case in Henniker where the plaintiff was trying to host wedding venues at a Christmas tree farm and the court said it wasn't allowed.

Twomey is also saying that the Gilford town ordinance governing "agriculture" during this period said "other commercial activities" after defining narrowly what types of activities are allowed with words that refer only to growing produce – "orchard, vegetable garden and nursery," and with words that refer to raising livestock – "dairy farm, commercial animals and livestock."

She says there is a rule or general principal in the law that says if the above activities are listed after a word, in this case "agriculture," then the "other commercial activities" must interpreted by its most narrow meaning.

The town attorney used this principal, the town ordinance and the state law plus the Henniker decision to initially determine that the board couldn't hear a site plan review from the Howes because it was not a permissible use, said Twomey.

Twomey said that when the ZBA chose to depart from this principal and adopt a broader interpretation of agriculture and define agritourism as agriculture "their decision ... (was) illegal as the true definition of 'agriculture' in the town ordinance (was) ambiguous."

To further muddy the waters, when ordered to do so by the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board granted the Howes site plan approval to move forward with their wedding venue proposal. Twomey also filed a suit in Superior Court challenging the site plan approval, which automatically puts it on hold until the suit can be legally resolved.

After all this, the town adopted a new ordinance that includes a definition of agritourism within the definition of agriculture making it an allowed use with restrictions to be applied by the Planning Board board during individual site plan reviews.

As of yesterday, the town of Gilford has not responded to the latest pleading. It is not known if the Howes will ask to intervene as they have in the previous three suits filed by Twomey.

Three iconic downtown Laconia buildings go up for sale


LACONIA — Three buildings that have contributed to defining downtown for the past century were listed for sale this week — the Pemaco Building at 622-634 Main St., the Cook Building next door at 610-618 Main St., and the triangular McIntyre Block at 12 Pleasant St.

All three buildings were purchased by Dwight Barton in 2007, but are now in receivership and managed by RE/MAX Bayside, which has listed them for sale.

Pemaco building 2016Built in 1926, the Pemaco Building is the youngest of the three. The building offers 19,115 square feet of space on three floors, the second of which is dominated by the Garden Theater with seating capacity for 500 people. There are five commercial units on the ground floor and apartments on the top floor. The building, which the city has assessed for $161,300 is listed at $299,900.

Downtown building 2016The Cook Building, built in 1898, is also a three-story block similar in profile and proportion to its neighbor. Its 17,316 square feet are divided among four commercial units on the ground floor and 10 one-bedroom apartments and a studio on the upper floors. The building is listed for $499,900 and is assessed for $460,500.

McIntyre building 2016The McIntyre Block, built in 1914 at what was the junction of Pleasant Street and Water Street on the west side of Bank Square, is the largest of the three with 30,308 square feet, including a 3,330-square-foot garage and 6,652-square-foot basement. It houses nine commercial units on the ground floor along Pleasant Street and the abandoned stretch of Water Street known as Vintage Row. There are 21 one-bedroom apartments on the two upper stories. Listed for $1,175,000, the building has an assessed value of $748,100.