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Gilmanton settles suit over 'Peyton Place' homestead

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent

November 29. 2017 11:28PM
The former home of Grace Metalious, seen here in 1990, is now a winery and inn that was the subject of a recent zoning dispute. (UNION LEADER FILE)

LACONIA — The town of Gilmanton has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit with local business owners.

Marshall and Carol Bishop, the owners of Gilmanton Winery and Vineyard, filed for a declaratory judgment in Belknap County Superior Court in Nov. of 2016 against the Gilmanton Planning Board after the land use board challenged whether they were operating with an appropriate and approved site plan.

Such legal action asks a judge to analyze the controversy and decide the present and future rights of the parties involved.

After Marshall Bishop asserted that his business, based in the home of the late “Peyton Place” author Grace Metalious, was in compliance and that no further action on his part was needed, the Planning Board issued a cease-and-desist order.

The order required the immediate cessation of all commercial operations, including the winery, wine tasting and other functions as well as the restaurant and all dining until a site plan review application had been submitted and approved.

Among the allegations made in Bishop’s suit was that after he defeated Brett Currier in the 2016 election for a one-year selectman’s seat, Currier and his wife took out their personal grudges on him and his business. He also claimed that Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni is a friend of the Curriers.

In September 2016, in a 4-1 vote, the ZBA granted Bishop a special exception to have a restaurant in an existing building in a rural zone.

On Tuesday, the day a court hearing was scheduled to be held on the town’s motion to dismiss the litigation, the parties settled and agreed to file “neither party” docket markings, meaning the case is terminated from the date it was signed in accordance with its terms.

Bishop declined to comment on the terms of the settlement as he left the courthouse, but in response to a Right-to-Know request the town administrator released a draft copy of the agreement that will be filed with the town clerk.

It details that the $30,000 payment is in exchange for a general release of the town, town officials and its boards and members and that both sides agree to not disparage the other.

The Bishops were also given leave to “publish a press release” announcing satisfactory site plan approval.

Each side further agreed to pay one-half of the mediation fee.

Attorney Paul Fitzgerald of Laconia, who represented the Planning Board, said as part of the settlement the land use board agreed to withdraw its enforcement action as the Bishops “have submitted to a new site plan review process which was completed to the satisfaction of the board and the applicant.”


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