To The Daily Sun,
Two news items have prompted me to express my opinions. The first is about the agritourism conflict of late regarding weddings on properties owned by the Howes on Gunstock Hill Road in Gilford.
To begin with, I am in favor of agritourism for farmers as a way to supplement their difficult chosen profession through income from a diversity of agriculturally related events that bring people to farms. I feel weddings are on the very outside edge of my definition of an agriculturally related event. Therefore, I would like to offer a compromise.
Most of the fruits and vegetables raised typically mature between June and October. Allowing four regulated weddings — one a month on a Saturday afternoon of the farmer's choice within that timeframe would help the Howes supplement their farm income and would be at peak harvest time which would be ideal for wedding attendees. Neighbors would know in advance when the weddings would be held and by having them only in afternoons, they wouldn't be bothered with lights and noise in the evenings.
It should be noted that abutting neighbors derive benefits from being adjacent to conservation land. In this case their vistas are dependent on the Howes maintaining the land as fields or gardens rather than for forestry which is certainly a permitted agricultural use on conservation land. The value of land is increased when it abuts conservation land. And finally, because the Howes' land is under a conservation easement, the neighbors will never have to worry about the land ever being developed to completely ruin their views, and erases the possibility of lights, noise and other aspects of having many more neighbors.
One other point I need to address is a statement by Norman Silber in The Laconia Daily Sun on March 3 that I take strong exception to: "This entire tract is valued by the tax assessor at $1,525,060 but assessed for tax purposes at only $330,000 because of the legally permitted current use and conservation easement tax avoidance schemes utilized by the Howes."
To begin with, this has nothing to do with the entire issue. Be that as it may, "tax avoidance scheme?" There is no scheme. And I thank every legislator who had the foresight to understand that no farmer or large land owner could ever pay taxes on the full value of the land as if it were developed. And, yes, it's legally permitted, thank goodness, which is one of the main reasons why you and I can enjoy so much open space in the Lakes Region. One other point is that there is no difference between the taxes for land under a conservation easement or land under current use.
Bottom line, compromise is not a dirty word.
The second reason I wrote this letter is to express my adamant displeasure with the Belknap County Convention after their refusal to fully fund those "outside agencies" despite having a very large turnout that filled the room (including me) explaining the needs of each and supporting full funding. A heartfelt plea by an elderly woman new to the area who did such a wonderful job expressing the feelings of all the public attendees was met with a long applause from all of us. She personified that meeting and I, for one, thank her for not only coming and expressing her support but for doing so especially as an obviously very caring newcomer to the area.
I loved how Alida Millham expressed that these agencies are partners with the county rather than outside agencies. It seems obvious to me that the minds of the convention delegates (including all of my "representatives") were already made up and the hearing was not to hear what the public desired. I could understand if there was a lot of opposition expressed at the hearing, but only one woman opposed full funding, and I was later told she was the wife of one of the delegates.
With way over half a million dollars in the county's fund balance, the delegates still refused to allocate $58,505 of the $605,000 to fully fund these partners, which hurts each and every one of them. The delegates could have very easily done both: fully fund and cut taxes, and sent a message that they not only are trying to keep taxes down, but also care about the people and the partners that work so hard to provide the services so important to our county.
I want to thank representatives Dennis Fields, Valerie Fraser and Dave Russell for voting to fully fund these partners, and Commissioner Hunter Taylor for his support as well.
I hope politicians haven't lost the ability to listen to their constituents and we can still compromise when faced with conflicts. We are not Washington.
- Category: Letters
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