Photo: 190320-news-castle

The former summer estate of railroad magnate Benjamin Ames Kimball, the medieval-style castle atop Lockes Hill in Gilford, has new owners who plan to use it as a wedding and event venue.

GILFORD — Residents packed a meeting hall Monday night to hear development plans for Kimball Castle but left without learning any details after the planning board voted to deny the application as incomplete.

“It’s a technicality,” Planning Director John Ayers said, explaining that David Doland, who surveyed the property for a prior owner, had not consented to his work being used by the applicant, Lockes Hill LLC.

“Essentially it is not an endorsed survey,” Ayer told the board.

The new owners of the castle, who didn’t speak during Monday’s meeting, have said their goal is to save it from further ruin and make it a wedding and event venue.

Howard Epstein, who was among those who attended, said outside the meeting he opposed commercial development of the property because of the negative impact he believes the associated traffic and noise would have on an abutting nature preserve.

Several audience members told the board they’d come to learn about the development plans and expressed frustration that as a result of the vote they would remain in the dark. The board briefly discussed waiving its rules to allow the applicants to speak, noting they were under no obligation to do so.

Patrick Starkey and Melissa Robbins purchased the medieval-style castle and the 20 acres it occupies atop Lockes Hill this spring. They have already restored a stone gazebo and are renovating the caretaker’s cottage that is served by a five-bedroom septic system, into three guest suites with 3-1/2 bathrooms.

They are proposing to purchase a high-tech tent, 40 by 80 feet in size, with clear view panels that slide into channels in a ridged frame. It would be oriented to allow event guests to take in the panoramic view of Lake Winnipesaukee.

“It’s such a unique and historic property in N.H. it would be a shame to see it crumble. We fell in love with it,” said Starkey.

To be heard at the planning board’s April 15 meeting, the couple will have to resolve the survey issue and submit other materials to make their application complete.

Future plans call for a small outbuilding to be renovated into another guest suite. The barn/garage would remain for use as storage. If the venture proves successful, the ultimate goal would be to restore the original five bedrooms in the castle and make four others on the ground floor, plus a catering kitchen.

Charlotte Kimball, the last occupant of the castle, died in 1960 and instructed in her will that the property be used as a natural preserve and left $400,000 for its maintenance. But the money disappeared and the property became a popular party spot.

Trespassers left the windows and doors open, exposing the interior to the weather, speeding its fall into ruin.