Father, toddler in critical condition after crash

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Hospital personnel prepare a man injured in a crash in Gilford for a flight from LRGH to Dartmouth Monday night. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)



GILFORD — A father and his 3-year-old daughter remain in critical condition at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon following a two-car collision that occurred at 8:08 p.m. Monday on Lake Shore Road near the entrance of Belknap Point Road.

Gilford Fire and EMS officials said the toddler was taken by ambulance to the Laconia Airport, where she was flown to Dartmouth. Her father, who was driving the Ford Focus, was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital, where he was stabilized and also flown to Dartmouth.

A 1-month-old child and his or her mother, who were on the passenger side of the car, were taken to LRGH by ambulance, treated and released. The male driver of the white work van was also transported to LRGH and was treated and released.

Gilford Police Lt. Chris Kelley described the crash as an offset head-on crash in which the driver's side of the van collided with the driver's side of the Focus. He said the collision opened the passenger side of the car "like a can opener" and the male driver and his daughter were sitting on that side of the car. Both cars, he said, ended almost off the road and facing west.

Police are not releasing names at this point to insure that all family members have been notified. Kelley said the car is registered in Pembroke and the van is registered in Laconia. The car was headed east toward Alton and the van was headed west toward Gilford. Both vehicles are impounded at the Gilford Police Department.

Deputy Fire Chief Brad Ober said the woman in the passenger seat of the car and the driver of the van were out of their vehicles when first responders arrived. He said firefighters needed to remove the driver from his seat and the two children who were in the back of the car and in car seats.

"We took the children out of the back window," Ober said, adding he's not sure if firefighters removed it or if it was destroyed in the crash.

Gilford Police accident reconstructionists were assisted at the scene by the the New Hampshire State Police. Kelley said they knew there was rain coming and decided to complete their investigation while the road was closed last night rather than close it again on Tuesday. As of Monday afternoon, Kelley said they are not sure how the collision happened and are still examining the data.

Ober said Gilford Fire and Rescue were assisted at the scene by Laconia and Belmont while crews from Stewart's Ambulance, Tilton-Northfield Fire Rescue and Meredith covered the station. At the time of the crash, Alton Fire and Rescue were already responding to two individual calls including a serious medical condition and a crash.

Emergency Management Director at Lakes Region General Hospital John Prickett described the incident as a small mass-casualty event. Because the female toddler was taken directly to Lebanon, he said the emergency room treated one critically injured person.

He said in Monday's case, helicopters from Dartmouth and Maine Medical Center both responded. He said like mutual aid emergency responders in this area, helicopter crews have a similar cooperative agreement.

Prickett said Monday night was a very busy night at the LRGH emergency room even before the motor vehicle crash.

"Fortunately, we had plenty of staff," Prickett said, noting he was called in to coordinate resources.

"My job is to make sure the emergency room has all the equipment and people it needs," he said. On Monday, and with the exception of Dartmouth, he said he didn't need to use the resources of the other area hospitals although they meet regularly to plan for mass casualty events.

He said the majority of mass casualties involve moving vehicles but recalled LRGH reaching out to other hospitals during a lightning strike at a boys camp in Gilmanton where the patients were sent to four area hospitals.

"We all work together and at LRGH we are there for them, knowing they will be there for us if we need them," he said.

He said the patients who get treated first are those with the most critical injuries or sicknesses and with the case of a critically injured or sick patient, the physician and nurses don't leave that person's side.

"This is hard for the patient in the waiting room because nobody likes to wait," he said. "Remember, if you're in the waiting room, it means others are sicker than you are."

Prickett said the nursing and ancillary staff did "an amazing job Monday night getting people where they needed to be."

"They are doing all of the right stuff down there," he said.

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This is the van involved in a head-on collision in Gilford Monday night. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

Agritourism - As farmers try to adapt to today’s needs, regulators struggle to keep up

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Krebs Farm in Sanbornton offers commanding views of Lake Winnisquam.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


SANBORNTON — Just six months after the state legislature changed the definition of agriculture to include agritourism, and more than a year into a different battle over agriculture and wedding events in Gilford, an Upper Bay Road family finds itself in a similar situation but under very different circumstances.

Ralph and Kris Rathjen run a farm with a spectacular view of Lake Winnisquam. For at least four years, KREBS Farm has provided fresh produce and a variety of berries to local restaurants as well as at their own farm stand. There is a piggery and food ducks at the farm, as well as a pick-your-own season.

"All Ralph has ever wanted was 40 acres and a mule," said Kris Rathjen about her husband with a laugh.
After a successful test run with a farm-to-table dinner in their renovated barn last year, the Rathjens developed a plan to host various events, including weddings, in a large tent on their property. They also plan to have smaller events in their barn during the winter. The Rathjens submitted a site plan request and a parking plan to the Planning Board for review.
And that's where the problems began.
According to Town Planner Bob Ward, the Rathjen's proposal could have fallen under one of three Sanbornton zoning categories, which are home occupation level 1, home occupation level 2, or commercial. Agriculture is permitted in all zones.
Ward told the Planning Board that the new state law that was passed in June 2016 defining agritourism as a component of agriculture in New Hampshire is a "complication."
However, after considerable deliberation, the Planning Board decided the KREBS Farm request was "way beyond level 2" and should be considered commercial. They instructed KREBS Farm to seek a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustments for a commercial use in a general residential zone.
The Rathjens and their neighbors, who by and large support the wedding venue proposal, have said they do not want the use of the property classified as commercial, despite the fact that Ward told them it would only be a change in use and the zoning would not change.
Rather than apply for a variance for a change in use, the Rathjens asked the Zoning Board to overturn the Planning Board's decision to classify the proposed use as commercial.
In a well attended meeting on Dec. 22, the ZBA, which had previously met with town attorney Chris Boldt for about an hour, voted 4 to 1 to consider the Rathjens' project as agritourism, which is allowed by right, and would not need a variance.
Presumably, the Rathjens will take their site plan back to the Planning Board for site plan review.
What makes the KREBS Farm case different than the Timber Hill Farm case in Gilford is largely a function of time, local zoning ordinances and legal definitions.
It was the summer of 2015 when Timber Hill Farm on Gunstock Hill Road began hosting weddings and abutter Monique Twomey complained to the town toward the end of the summer. The town code enforcement officer issued a cease-and-desist order, which was overturned twice by the ZBA late that year.
The Planning Board also determined that agritourism is not agriculture, citing their own local ordinances and a pivotal case from Henniker about a Christmas tree farmer who wanted to host similar events.
In 2014, the Forster v. Henniker case regarding agritourism made it to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which determined in June of 2015 that because of the state law at the time and the deliberate decision of the legislature to define agriculture and agritourism separately that the wedding event plans of Forster couldn't happen.
Because of the Henniker decision, the Gilford Planning Board determined that they didn't have the authority to issue a site plan because, legally, agritourism is not agriculture, according to both state law and the Forster Supreme Court decision.
Timber Hill Farm appealed the Planning Board's decision to the ZBA, which overturned it. Timber Hill Farm returned to the Planning Board for a site plan approval but the Planning Board still refused to review the case, until ordered to do so by the Gilford Board of Selectmen, which is provided for in state law.
The second decision by the ZBA to not enforce the cease-and-desist order was appealed to the Belknap County Supreme Court where it is still being considered by the court.
The Gilford Planning Board has since granted Timber Hill Farm a site plan and the town of Gilford passed a new ordinance in its March 2016 annual Town Meeting to include agritourism as a component of agriculture.
Because the legal case had not been finally adjudicated, the Howe family, which owns Timber Hill Farm, has been unable to go forward with any events on Gunstock Hill Road. Andy Howe said they had a few events at their pavilion this past summer at their long-running farm stand Beans and Greens, and that they were successful.
The differences between the two cases are substantial.
While Gilford had its own definition of agriculture when the Howes first attempted their program in 2015, the town of Sanbornton does not specifically define agriculture, although it is allowed in all zones. By state law, when a town doesn't specifically define something, the legal definition reverts to the state definition. The town of Henniker, at the time of the Forster application, didn't have a definition of agriculture, which is why its court case and subsequent Supreme Court ruling depended solely on the state definition at the time.
The Howes' request came before the state changed its definition of agritourism to include "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 about farm operations, or active involvement in the activity of the farm."
In addition, the Howes' request came before the town of Gilford and added a specific definition of agritourism in their zoning ordinances, which is consistent with the newest state definition but adds some restrictions as to the number of people attending the event, the number of events per week, and restricting amplified music and alcohol beverages.
The decision as to what laws apply to the Howes and their complaining abutter, Twomey, will be determined by a judge in the Belknap County Superior Court. The court has already heard oral arguments at a hearing on the merits held two weeks ago.
The Rathjens' application comes after the state changed its law in 2016, said their attorney Courtney Herz, who said "It fits squarely within the definition of agritourism" that includes a "no exhaustive list" of allowed activities.
At last week's Sanbornton ZBA meeting, Herz also cautioned against changing the use of KREBS farm to "commercial" because, while it will likely not open the rest of that neighborhood to additional commercial uses, or the so-called slippery slope argument, she said there is some legal precedence to the contrary.
She cited a case in Newington ( Simplex Technologies v. Newington in 2001) where the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision and the ZBA when it determined that an industrially zoned area for a former manufacturing plant that was nearly surrounded by a commercial zone could be used for commercial expansion because the existing commercial uses in that neighborhood had proven there was no adverse effect to the area and that the owners of the former plant had met their hardship burden by seeking a commercial use variance for an industrially zoned area.

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Krebs Farm in Sanbornton covered with a blanket of snow.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Merrimack County indictments for Dec. 14, 2016

CONCORD — A Merrimack County grand jury returned 76 felony indictments and 19 misdemeanor charges against 45 defendants when it met on Dec. 14.

Only charges involving Lakes Region area residents or alleging crimes occurring in The Laconia Daily Sun's readership area are reported. An indictment is not a finding of guilt but rather an indication that an independent jury has voted, after hearing from police, that sufficient evidence exists to warrant a Superior Court trial.

• William Moores, 44, 119 Elkins St.t, Apt. B, Franklin, was indicted for burglarizing a home on Fourth Range Road, Pembroke, on Oct. 1.

• Ryan Thurston, 55 Highview Circle, Gilford, was indicted for possessing methamphetamine in Loudon on Sept. 9.

• Robert Blake, 42, 70 Main St., Ashland, was indicted for possession of methamphetamine in Henniker on July 2.

• James Bryson, 57, 29 Winter St., Laconia, was indicted on three counts of selling cocaine to an under-cover police officer in Franklin on April 4, 2013; April 18, 2013; and March 28, 2013, after previously being convicted of felony drug possession in Belknap County Superior Court in August 2005.

• Thomas Chambers, 28, 276 Province Road, Belmont, was indicted for possessing methamphetamine and the controlled drug buprenorphine in Concord on Aug. 1, after previously having been convicted of a drug crime in Belknap County Superior Court in November 2015.

• Jeffery Connor, 50, 679 Province Road, Gilmanton, was indicted for the sale of less than one gram of what he represented to be heroin on Feb. 23 in Concord. Connor was also indicted for sale of fentanyl on the same date.

• Paul Costella, 43, 318 Cross Mill Road, Northfield, was indicted on two counts of possessing methamphetamine, some wrapped in a $20 bill in his wallet and more in a plastic bag, in Franklin and Boscawen on Sept. 22. He was also indicted on three counts of being a felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, a 12-inch fixed blade knife, with a 7-inch blade and two sets of metallic knuckles.

• Fred Cross III, 46, 605 Central St., Franklin, was indicted for possessing fentanyl in Northfield on June 6. He was also indicted on two counts of receiving stolen property, copper wire, belonging to South Railroad Company, and a sickle rake and lanterns, after previously being convicted of burglary and theft by unauthorized taking.

• Tony Freeman, 29, of Plymouth, who is now being held in the Merrimack County jail in Boscawen, was charged with misdemeanor drug possession for driving a vehicle on Village Street in Concord, while he had the drug in his possession or in any part of the vehicle on Sept. 27. The grand jury also returned misdemeanor charges of possession of fentanyl, driving after suspension or revocation and disobeying a police officer. Freeman was additionally indicted on charges of possession of both fentanyl and methamphetamine.

• Trevor Hoyt, 21, 115 Bean Hill Road, Northfield, was indicted for reckless conduct for driving at a high rate of speed on Concord Road, Northfield, on Aug. 31, and crossing into the opposite lane of travel at an oncoming vehicle, causing the other motorist to swerve to avoid a collision. He was also charged with misdemeanor driving after suspension.