Public criticizes mayor’s proposal but Planning Board hearings will go aheadPush back on Weirs rezoning -


LACONIA — The Planning Board this week voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on a proposal by the City Council at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 1, but only after Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board, urged the council to rescind its proposal, and several speakers, Hutchin's wife, Mary, chief among them, roundly criticized it.

The council has proposed dividing the Commercial Resort District, which encompasses The Weirs, by delineating a corridor along either side of US Route 3 from the Meredith town line to White Oaks Road, within which residential development would be confined to the upper stories of buildings with commercial space on the ground floor. Mayor Ed Engler, the principal architect of the proposal, said that the aim of the proposal is to encourage commercial development on the remaining undeveloped and underdeveloped land in the city, virtually all of which lies in the Commercial Resort District, by restricting residential development in general and prohibiting manufactured housing in particular in the corridor.

Engler, supported by five of the six councilors, had pressed the board to schedule the hearing in order, as the mayor put it, "to stop the clock," or forestall property owners from applying to develop land under the provisions of the current zoning ordinance. Although Hutchins initially sought to defer a public hearing until the proposal was thoroughly reviewed by the board, city departments, other boards and commissions and the Lakes Region Planning Commission, the Planning Board is bound by the city code. The code stipulates that upon receipt of a proposal from the council, the Planning Board shall schedule a public hearing within 30 days and, moreover, forward a recommendation to the council within 90 days.

The mayor repeatedly reminded the board that the council is not seeking the board's "immediate approval" of the proposal, acknowledging that "many of its specifics are arbitrary and all are subject to discussion and change." He told the board "We're willing to work with you in any way possible" and "We can take our time."

Engler was echoed by City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) who said that "As long as we have cooperation, we can take as long as we want." He explained that since the Planning Board is required to make a recommendation to the council within 90 days, if the there were an understanding that the council would not approve but remand it for further consideration, then the board could hold more public hearings.

However, there was scant sign of a willingness to cooperate when Hutchins opened the floor to the public. City Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), who as a councilor voted in favor of referring the proposal to the Planning Board, called it "merely a starting point" and suggested deferring rezoning until the Master Plan is complete and in the meantime letting the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Conservation Commission and others "do their job." In particular, Doyle expressed concern about increasing storm water runoff as well as stifling the growth of small businesses, especially bed and breakfast establishments, by prohibiting ground floor residential units. She also questioned the impact on a resort destination of prohibiting campgrounds in the corridor.

"It looks like a money thing," said Joe Driscoll III, owner of the Cozy Inn and Lakeview House and Cottages. "More revenue to the city." While skeptical of the proposal, he remarked, "I will look forward to the conversation."

Chris Duprey of Southworth Development LLC, the developer of Meredith Bay and one of the largest property owners affected by the proposal, said that the goal is "worthwhile," cautioned that restricting the permitted uses along US Route 3 could further limit the demand and lower the value of the property along the corridor. He counted ten significant properties for sale between the roundabout at The Weirs and the Meredith town line, commenting that demand for them is weak and could be weakened further by changing the zoning.

"The mayor forgets where he is," began Mary Hutchins who claimed that the mayor and city council had contributed to the decline of The Weirs, apparently by enabling the owners of cottage colonies to convert to condominium ownership, which has shrunk the number of summer visitors. Then she charged that "You're adding another death threat to that."

Referring to the expertise of boards and commissions, along with the report of a team sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Hutchins told the mayor "You've ignored all their ideas. I'm very offended by your presentation.

"Your plan is hurting the city. There is no reason to jump into this," she closed, apologizing for her "passion."

Her husband said that "No one should be sorry for expressing passion about Laconia."

During her remarks, Mary Hutchins claimed that in the past the mayor and city council had discouraged Rusty McLear of Hampshire Hospitality Holdings from investing at The Weirs and he turned to Meredith. She said that while Meredith has thrived, The Weirs "is going from a rich area to slum."

McLear called allegations that city officials discouraged him from investing in The Weirs "absolutely not true." he recalled that in 1986 he and two partners purchased the operations of the M/S Mt. Washington and invested $4 million in building the train station and ticket office on the boardwalk. He said the project was undertaken in partnership with the city, which agreed to rebuild and landscape the boardwalk.

"The city did everything they said they would do," McLear said, adding that while he has since sold business, "I'm very proud of our long relationship with the city."

McLear acknowledged that he explored other projects at The Weirs but chose not to pursue them because of factors having nothing to do with the city.

Warren Hutchins, who had said little, conceded that the Planning Board is required to hold a public hearing, which would curtail all development inconsistent with the council's proposal. But, he went on to suggest the Lakes Region Planning Commission undertake a study of the potential for commercial development and defer any rezoning until the Master Plan is completed next spring. Finally he asked the council to rescind its proposal while saying "I'm not making a motion or calling for a vote."

Interim Planning Director Brandee Loughlin said Wednesday that once the legal notice announcing the public hearing on Nov. 1 is properly posted the clock will stop and the Planning Department will accept but not act on applications that fail to conform to the provisions of the council's proposal.

The Apple Project - Program finds Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple, the Spitzenburg, growing in NH (546+2pics).


SANDWICH — More than 40 people showed up at Range View Farm here last Saturday and brought with them over 150 different types of apples as part of the Sandwich Apple Project, which has a goal of finding and preserving lost heirloom apples.
Martha Carlson, who along with her husband, Rudy, hosted the gathering, said that Ben Watson of Francestown, author of Cider, Hard and Sweet, helped people identify the apples by shape, color, taste, texture and even fragrance. Watson also brought along samples of 10 different heirloom varieties.
One heirloom apple which was brought to Saturday's event by Eleanor Jenkins of Eaton was tentatively identified as Spitzenburg, which was Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple. An aromatic apple with a sweet, spicy taste, the Spitzenburg was the ancestor of the Jonathan, which is the ancestor of today's popular Idared variety.
Carlson said that another one of the apples which was brought in and sampled was identified by Watson as most likely being a Smokehouse, a variety first identified in Pennsylvania in 1837. The local Smokehouse apple came from a twisted old tree on Image Hill, a historic dance hall in the Lower Corners. The tree, which is giving away to heart rot, still produces crisp red and tasty apples each fall, which Carlson says make great pies.
The tree was first brought to the attention of the town by Maggie Constantine and is one of nine old, unidentified apple trees whose twigs were grafted onto rootstock trees earlier this year after Constantine invited the Sandwich Agricultural Commission to take cuttings from the Image Hill tree.
The grafting session was the first step in the Agricultural Commission 's Sandwich Apple Project, which seeks to identify and preserve heirloom varieties which at one time flourished on farms throughout the town.
Carlson said she and her husband were assisted by in organizing Saturday's event by John Pries, a former information technology professional and entrepreneur, who last year left behind his corporate life in Boston and moved into a hill-side home on a dirt road in town and discovered an ancient orchard full of several varieties of apples unlike anything seen in the supermarket.
"Some of them are spectacular," Pries said. He was inspired to learn more about them and joined the town's agricultural commission, where he and Carlson created the Sandwich Apple Project.
Carlson said another variety which was identified was a Snow Drift crabapple, a small yellow apple with a red blush. She said that crabapples were frequently planted in orchards featuring other varieties in order to attract bees and other pollinators.
She said another heirloom apple, a very large red sauce apple that grows in veterinarian Julie Dolan's North Sandwich orchard, is also one of great interest.
Apples that were brought to the workshop were passed around for sampling, and many were pressed into cider. Late in the coming winter, scions will be cut from the trees that produced the preferred apples, and in April they'll be grafted onto root stock.


Jean Robichaud and Rudy Carlson make cider at Range View Farm in Sandwich. (Courtesy/Martha Carlson)


Ben Watson examines an apple found by Anne Hackl which she brought to the Sandwich Agricultural Committee's Apple Project Saturday at Range View Farm in Sandwich. (Courtesy/Martha Carlson)

Paroled or not? - Data entry error could throw out charge for man caught with gun


LACONIA — A computer entry error on the part of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections may be the reason the evidence in two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm will never be heard by a jury.

Steven Moy, 29, of or formerly of 398 Elm St. in Laconia, claims the discovery of two guns found by his parole officer should not be used against him because he has since learned his parole had already ended when they were found.

According to pleadings in the Belknap County Superior Court, Moy, who thought he was on parole, admitted to his parole office in April 2016 that he had used methamphetamine. His punishment was to go to jail for seven days but local corrections authorities arranged for him to go to a recovery home for those days.

Moy was told by his parole officer to report to him by 3 p.m. on the date of his scheduled entry into recovery but Moy never showed. When the parole officer went to Moy's home, he found Moy and decided to detain him again in the local jail. When the parole officer examined Moy's phone, he found a picture of a handgun in it.

The next day, April 22, Moy was questioned by his parole officer about the gun and eventually told him where it could be found. The parole officer returned to Moy's home and found a gun where he had said it would be, but realized immediately it was not the same gun as the one pictured in the cell phone.

The parole officer went to see Moy again and learned the location of another gun, which was the one in the picture, and recovered it from Moy's residence.

In all three cases, the parole officer was accompanied by a deputy sheriff for safety reasons.

Moy argues that because of the incorrect entry regarding his sentences for previous crimes, he and his lawyer learned his parole should have ended in early 2016 and not in 2017.

Both Moy and his parole officer were unaware of this until after the discovery of the guns.

Moy's legal argument is that the search of his cell phone without a warrant was unlawful and that he was never read his Miranda or Fifth Amendment rights by the parole officer or the accompanying sheriff's deputies. He said that because he was not on parole, the parole officer had no authority over him and that any police search would have had to include the above warnings and included probable cause to get a search warrant to protect his rights against unlawful search and seizure.

Moy was indicted for two counts of being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon one of which was reported stolen. The indictments indicate Moy knew or should have known it was stolen and he is also facing one count of receiving stolen property.

The state argues that the weapons should be allowed to be presented to a jury because the mistake in the sentence entry and the subsequent confusion over parole could not and was not know by the parole officer who acted in good faith.

The state went on to give multiple examples of cases where the "good faith exception" was applied to the discovery of evidence that was still allowed to be presented at trial.

The court has yet to issue a ruling.