To The Daily Sun.
Agri-tourism or Agri-terrorism?
I live on Gunstock Hill Road in Gilford, right next to the residentially zoned property that the Howes want to hold events and parties on. I have attended and spoken at the last two Planning Board meetings, including the one that was extended multiple times and ended up going to midnight. I believed that enough Planning Board members were going to do the right thing and not approve commercial activities, including parties in the middle of a residential zone but to my surprise that was not the case.
The site plan would not have been approved if it had been commercially zoned but in the name of agri-tourism the board approved it, even with the majority of people against it. I have four children and moved back to Gilford 1 1/2 years ago where I bought my home in a great neighborhood with lots of farm and conservation land. To then take that and have alcohol served at weddings and other functions with up to 200 people just amazes me. In addition to that, having the ZBA overturn the town's decision to prohibit these parties and define agri-tourism and agri-culture as the same, which goes against a recent Supreme Court decision, just doesn't add up. They are okay with a barn in the middle of a field hosting parties, with up to 200 people, without sprinkler systems, indoor plumbing or electricity. They are also okay with the huge increase in traffic and parking. If this were another facility holding events like this, none of this would be allowed.
Hence the term, agri-terrorism.
This is what it should be termed when someone goes against the system in place and all their neighbors to serve their own interest in the name of farming. I can guarantee you that no one on the Planning Board would want or allow this to happen in their residential neighborhood. The fact that it even made it this far is absurd. There are plenty of farms that use agri-tourism correctly, such as Heritage Farm in Sanbornton. Their agri-activities, such as the pancake house, work with the farm and do not go against their surrounding neighbors. The Swains at Heritage Farm are well respected in the community, unlike the Howes.
In addition to the hundreds of acres of conservation land in Gilford, the Howes also own and operate the business Beans and Greens. If they were really into agri-tourism they would be holding events only at their main location, which is commercially zoned. Like the Howes, I am also part of a family business and I understand wanting to grow your business and find additional revenue sources. Unlike the Howes, our business owns all commercially zoned property and we have to go through the tedious process to get site plan approvals in all the towns that our properties are located. I can tell you firsthand how hard it is to get these approvals and the things that need to be done to the buildings or properties to meet the site plans and town or state rules, regulations and codes as well as conditions to appease neighbors. The Howes have complete disregard to all of these. What the Howes are doing is a commercial activity. They are not up to code for anything safety related. They are in a residential neighborhood that is zoned as such. On top of all this, their proposed venture is on conservation land. Nothing about it is right!
At this point in time, the right thing for the Howes to do in the best interest of their neighbors and the community, would be to drop everything that they are trying in this situation and apologize to everyone. They know it's not right, because if it were they wouldn't be going at it in the manner they have chosen. They are hitting it from every direction and just hoping that something works including: 1. re-zoning their conservation property in this beautiful neighborhood as commercial. 2. redefining agri-culture and agri-tourism as the same and then saying these event fall under that. 3. using their political connections, positions and relationships to persuade enough Gilford board members to vote in a manner that they know isn't right.
Enough is enough, there comes a time in business that you have to say to yourself that it just isn't worth it and you focus your efforts on something positive that doesn't negatively affect so many people. In the long run working with you neighbors and community instead of against them will pay off for your business.
- Category: Letters
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