Crown for the throne - Piper Mountain Summit purchase completes Gilford Conservation Commission’s goal


GILFORD — After 37 years of fundraising and negotiating for several tracts of land in the Belknap Mountain Range, the Conservation Commission has entered into a purchase-and-sales agreement for the summit of Piper Mountain.

For the Conservation Commission, which works in conjunction with the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, and the Gilford Land Conservation Task Force, the summit has been the choice piece of property that has, until now, eluded the town.

"This is amazing. Big time," said Everett McLaughlin who has been working on getting this piece of property into conservation for about 37 years. "This ties all those properties together. It's fabulous."

"All those properties" refers to other parcels of private property that Gilford Conservation Commission has purchased over the years with the help of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

In 1979, the town approved a bond for the purchase of the "Powell" property and the thinking at the time was that Piper Mountain, including the summit, was included in that purchase. But it wasn't.

But with that piece in conservation, the Conservation Commission next pursued the "Gage" property or a 327-acre tract of land they called the Gage/Menighin/Cullinane parcel for $210,000 in 2013.

With the summit surrounded on three sides by the previous two purchases, McLaughlin said he and Ernie Houle, the owner of the 273-acre parcel at the Piper Mountain summit, began discussions about its conservation and preservation.

McLaughlin said all of the parcels on Piper Mountain are ripe for conservation, as an ecological study commissioned by the Gilford Land Conservation Task Force shows the land is remote and pristine, is host to a wide variety of natural wildlife, and has a high likelihood of having some exotic plant life.

Piper Mountain summit is also home to a couple of stone thrones built by unknown people on both the east and west sides where people are often photographed. McLaughlin added that the summit is loaded with low-bush or wild blueberries, which are smaller than cultivated ones but much sweeter.

According to Sandy McLaughlin, there is also an Australian shepherd named after Piper Mountain. She said the first mountain in the Belknap Range climbed by Piper's owner was Piper Mountain and he liked it so much that when he got a puppy, it became the dog's name. She said they are regulars on the trail and the summit.

There will be a public hearing on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. so the Conservation Commission can take input. McLaughlin said up to $115,000 from Gilford Conservation Fund will be used toward the $220,000 purchase. He said there is some other funds from the Lakes Region Land Trust for the purchase as well.

After the Conservation Commission hearing, the matter moves to the selectmen, who are authorized to spend money from the Gilford Conservation Fund.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the purchase of the property can contribute by sending a check to the Town of Gilford Conservation Fund. Include "Piper Mountain" in the memo section. The closing date is scheduled for Jan. 17.

08-25 Piper and Fatemah   08-25 Piper on Piper Mountain

Piper, an Australian shepherd, stands with Everett and Sandy McLaughlin’s friend Fatemah on one of the stone thrones atop Piper Mountain, now set to enter conservation status. (Courtesy Sandy McLaughlin)

Tardif takes on countyy - Former mayor sues Belknap delegation over union contract vote


LACONIA — Former Laconia Mayor Tom Tardif has filed a complaint in Belknap County Superior Court alleging Right-to-Know law violations by the Belknap County Delegation in its approval of a collective bargaining agreement with the unionized employees of the Belknap County Corrections Department.
The approval came at an April 8 meeting of the Belknap County Convention, which was held after the convention had recessed two meetings that week, on April 4 and April 6, due to the lack of a quorum.
Tardif maintains that no discussion took place at the first two meetings which justified either a recess or a continuation and that the Right-to-Know law's provision for a seven-day notice before a meeting can be held was violated by the convention's action.
He has asked for a declaratory judgment from the court, which would prevent the convention from recessing a meeting at which a quorum had not been attained and prevent it from taking any action at that meeting other than setting a date, time and place for a subsequent meeting.

The delegation also authorized the transfer of $50,013 to cover the cost items of the contract with the Corrections Department union at the April 8 meeting. Tardif has asked that court prevent the commissioners from encumbering the funds to pay for the increased cost of the contract.
Tardif maintains that the Belknap County Commissioners were also present at all three meetings and that they too violated the Right-to-Know law by failing to provide notice of the second two meetings.
Tardif has filed many legal actions against both the county and City of Laconia in recent years.
• Last year, he filed a suit charging that the City Council violated the state Right-to-Know law (RSA 91-A) on two occasions in October 2014, when it discussed behind closed doors the possible purchase of the Belknap Mill and the course of unrelated pending litigation was denied by Justice Charles Temple of Carroll County Superior Court.
Originally filed in Belknap County Superior Court, the case was transferred to Carroll County when Justice James D. O'Neill III recused himself.
• The Belknap County Delegation in 2013 had to hold a second vote to elect its officers for 2013-2014 after Tardif and Dave Gammon charged that the original election in December 2012 by secret paper ballot violated the Right-to-Know law. Tardif and Gammon had brought suit against the convention in Belknap County Superior Court, arguing that there is no basis in New Hampshire law for conducting any secret ballot vote during a meeting of a public board and that, in fact, RSA 91-A, specially prohibits such a practice.
• Tardif and Lambert also challenged the Belknap County Delegation's vote when it hired Craig Wiggin as sheriff in 2007 to replace Dan Collis. They maintained that the vote to hire him was not taken in public and they won a state Supreme Court decision which forced the county to have recorded public votes by convention members.

Council seeks panel to review Weirs zoning plan


LACONIA — The City Council has requested the Planning Board convene what City Manager Scott Myers called a "focus group" to consider a proposal to redraw the zoning boundaries and change the permitted uses in much Commercial Resort District encompassing The Weirs. The plan was devised to encourage commercial development.

The group will consist of Mayor Ed Engler, the architect of the proposal, and one city councilor, Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board and one member of the board, and Suzanne Perley, who chairs the Zoning Task Force, a panel created by the Planning Board to draft changes to the zoning ordinance, and one member of the task force.

The council asks that the focus group meet in September to prepare a recommendation which would be presented to the Planning Board at its regularly scheduled meeting in October. If, when it meets in October, the Planning Board posts the recommendation and schedules a public hearing, applications for projects conforming to the existing ordinance would be forestalled.

The Commercial Resort District begins on Lake Street, just south of its junction with White Oaks Road, extends northward along Weirs Boulevard, includes the center of the Weirs and runs either side of Endicott Street North (US Route 3) to the Meredith town line. It also includes property along both sides of Endicott Street East (NH Route 11-B) east of the roundabout to just beyond the Weirs Community Center. Both specified commercial and residential uses are permitted throughout the district.

The proposal would divide the district into two parts by carving a Commercial Resort Corridor District, designated CR2, out from the existing Commercial Resort District, which would become CR1. The corridor would be defined as the area extending 400 feet from either side of the center line of Endicott Street North (US Route 3) and Endicott Street East (NH Route 11-B) between the Meredith town line to the west and the center of the intersection with White Oaks Road to the east. Within the corridor residential development would be restricted to the upper level of buildings and then only if the ground floor of the same building were put to commercial use.

In both the Commercial Resort Corridor and Commercial Resort districts there would be no requirement to set aside a portion of lots as green space when the property is put to commercial use. The minimum of 60 percent of green space would remain for residential uses in the Commercial Resort District (CR1). The maximum height of buildings in the Commercial Resort Corridor District would due raised from 60 feet to 100 feet while the maximum height of residential and commercial structures would remain 35 feet and 60 feet respectively in the Commercial Resort District. The proposal also includes a table uses for the Commercial Resort Corridor District and number of changes to the table of permitted uses in the Commercial Resort District.