GILFORD — In a effort to allow farm-to-table events, wedding and other functions on his Gunstock Hill Road farm, the family at the center of the debate has filed two petitioned zoning warrant articles that, if either or both passes, they believe will give them that right.
In the first attempt, Andrew and Martina Howe and the other signatories of the warrant would rewrite Article 3 of the Gilford Town Ordinance to include cultivation, conservation and tillage of the soil; the storage, use and spreading of fertilizer; the use of and application of agricultural chemicals; the raising and sale of livestock and poultry; farm stands; farmer's markets, orchards, plant or tree nurseries, dairy farming and maple syrup production; and subsistence farming and farming for personal and family use.
This article would also add "Agritourism uses as set forth or referred to in RSA 21:34-a (vi) and other commercial activities on a farm that are intended or designed to attract visitors to a working farm; and shall include the terms 'farm' 'agriculture,' and 'farming.'"
A second portion of the warrant article asks voters to add the definition of agritourism as defined in state law RSA 21:34-a (vi) and specifically include farm-to-table events, corn mazes, agricultural-based educational activities; fairs; on-farm weddings and similar events, hay rides, petting zoos, nature walks, bird watching, historical agricultural exhibits and museums, as well as other commercial activities on a working farm that are intended or designed to attract visitors to that working farm.
The warrant article would also amend town ordinance 4.7.1(a) to read that agritourism and agriculture as defined in Article 3 uses shall be permitted on any property where the primary use is for agriculture. Home farming is allowed in all zones.
The Howes have also submitted a petitioned warrant article that would make their four contiguous properties part of the resort commercial zone as opposed to a single-family residence zone.
At least one of the Howes' properties lies along Old Lakeshore Road, and the north side is zoned resort commercial. To the west of the resort commercial zone lies the commercial zone that contains all of the various retail entities on Lakeshore Road.
The total amount of acreage the Howes wish to see rezoned is 252.12 acres of Howe family property.
The immediate goal is to allow the Howes the ability to host farm-to-table events, hay rides and weddings and other similar activities on all four of their pieces of property on Gunstock Hill Road.
A "yes" vote on the first article means support for a redefinition of agriculture to include agritourism as well as a definition of agritourism consistent with state law.
A "yes" vote on rezoning the four Howe family properties means that the single-family restrictions on agritourism, as explained last week by a majority of the Planning Board, would no longer apply to their property.
The reason for the petitioned warrant articles is that one of the abutters filed a complaint about the wedding and farm-to-table activities, saying the noise from them is disturbing and has the potential to drop her property value by about $200,000. She is not alone in her sentiments but is the lead objector to the activities. Monique Twomey has said she has no objection to the activities as long as they are held at the Beans and Greens Farm stand operated by the Howes.
Last week the Planning Board said that agritourism use is inappropriate in this instance because the area is zoned single-family residential, despite the fact that New Hampshire is a right-to-farm state and that agriculture, as it is presently defined, is permitted in all zones in Gilford.
The Howes have appealed the Planning Board ruling to the ZBA, which should meet next on Dec. 22 in the Town Offices.
Correction: The petitioned warrant article that, if passed, would re-zone property owned by the Howe family on Gunstock Hill Road was generated by the Gilford Planning Board. It was incorrectly reported in an article that ran on page 1 on the Dec. 18 edition of the Laconia Daily Sun.
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