Skeptics warn of noise, traffic due to Meadowbrook


GILFORD — First the voters and now the Planning Board have cleared the way for the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook to install a swimming pool and a "lazy river" float feature.
But some members of the board and the public are worried about noise and other unintended consequences.
The Planning Board ultimately added one condition, a stipulation that the venue's exemption from the town noise ordinance ends at 11 p.m.
Article 23, a new noise ordinance approved by voters on March 14 by a vote of 542-361, limits noise from equipment between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and otherwise prohibits "unreasonable noise." But the ordinance exempts Meadowbrook Pavilion, as well as several other locations, including schools, churches, medical facilities, Gunstock Recreation Area, Ellacoya State Park, Marine Patrol at Glendale, Lake Winnipesaukee and Laconia Airport. The 1995 ordinance which this article supersedes did not exempt locations but allowed the use of sound projection devices by town-licensed functions or activities.
R.J. Harding, president of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, reminded the board that the venue operates under an 11 p.m. curfew for live performances.
The pool and the lazy river will be located out behind the pavilion in a backstage area, said Peter Howard, consultant with Steve Smith and Associates. The lazy river will be about 350 feet long, 170 feet each way, he said.
Howard said the proposed pool and lazy river plaza straddles a newly rezoned 9.44-acre parcel being sold by Barry Dame to Meadowbrook Farm LLC.
On the town warrant, Zoning Article 2, to change the zoning of the property, passed 670-305 on March 14.
Groups as large as 150 people often accompany performers, Howard said, and the new pool and lazy river feature will be used by the performers and their entourages, not the public.

"Meadowbrook is trying to promote the groups staying longer than a day," he said.
Planning Board member Jerry Gagnon said he wanted to make sure speakers would not blast music from poolside.
"No, nothing tied to the big system, no," Harding said. "We may have a distributable system, like small, little speakers so that if they're sunbathing they can listen to music, but it certainly won't be anything with any volume."
Harding said the location features woods and foliage around it with at least 200 feet of buffer separating the pool and lazy river from the nearest neighbor.
Planning Board member Carolyn Scattergood said, "I assume after a performance, the performers and their entourage can go up and use this, and is there going to be an outside limit, like 2 in the morning that it would shut down, or is it going to be open all night?"
Harding said, "We haven't taken the conversation that far about a specific curfew, but we certainly wouldn't want to disturb anybody's peace. I'm hoping that we have enough coverage and space there where it won't bother anybody because there's not going to be any volume or loud music or anything like that. But these are nightcrawlers, these people, they start their day at 3 in the afternoon."
Most of the use should happen during the day, particularly when crews have finished setting up the stage and have down time, Harding said.
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission oversees alcohol consumption at the site, so it won't be a "free for all," he said.
With 22 years in the community, Harding said, "if there's a problem we'll fix it," he said.
Mark Lariviere, president of Yacht Club Vista Condominium Association, said members of the association shared concerns about hours of operation.
"At night, you can hear people talking like they're standing right next to you," Lariviere said.
"If they're out there having parties and drinking beer and raising hell, that's the concern that the people at Yacht Club Vista have," he said.
The bands operate under an 11 p.m. curfew, Harding reiterated, and he said the parties typically won't project as much sound as a concert.
Lariviere said he's a volunteer board president and doesn't want to field constant complaints. "They'll be calling me, saying, 'There's a lot of noise up there,' and what do I do?"
Dame attended the meeting and asked what was apparently a rhetorical question about how large the parcel would be to house the pool and lazy river, noting that less than half an acre would be developed in nearly a 10-acre parcel.
But Lariviere warned of "secondary effects" from changes, such as parking fees that he said prompted foot traffic to spill into neighboring lots.
When the concerts end, attendees come down through Misty Harbor Barefoot Beach Resort and cross the condo association lot, "urinating in the bushes, throwing stuff around," he said.
Noting the flow of foot traffic onto Route 11B, Lariviere said, "People are crossing that street. I saw little kids almost get killed last year."
The problems could only escalate with changes, he said.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," Lariviere warned of the new development.
"That's the first I've heard that that's an actual serious issue," Harding said of the parking problems, noting that other abutters could account for the overflow.
The Planning Board approved the upgrades with the noise ordinance notation. Other site improvements include a patio and walkway, security fencing, retaining walls, drainage, landscaping and an arched footbridge over the lazy river.

City teachers concerned over new PACE system of testing


LACONIA — A new way of teaching and testing planned for the Laconia School District has become a concern for some of the teachers who will have to make it work.

Students would be asked to demonstrate knowledge through performance. A chemistry student might be asked to form a compound in a lab, rather than answer a question on a test, or a math student might have to calculate the dollar-and-cents effect of a merchandise discount.

At a Saturday budget work session, some teacher representatives asked about the practicalities of doing this and the time that would be required of already-busy instructors.

School Board member Mal Murray has also expressed concerns about paperwork increases for teachers under the system, which is called "Performance Assessment of Competency Education," or PACE.

"We keep piling more things on our teachers," he said.

The New Hampshire Education Department describes PACE as "a first-in-the-nation accountability strategy" that would allow for a reduced level of standardized testing. The U.S. Education Department gave the state permission to pilot the system, and the Laconia School District is one of a number of districts that will be participating statewide.

Laconia Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said Wednesday he has heard concerns from some people about how much effort and work will be required of teachers.

"But all indications are that structures are in place to account for that," he said.

Time could be made available during the work day for teachers to implement the system, or pay could be given to teachers for work after school or during the summer.

Minnihan also said many people like the ideas behind PACE, which is intended to offer students greater opportunities to acquire critical knowledge and practical skills.

"Most people are fairly supportive while recognizing it is a shift and will require a degree of work," he said.

The system will be accompanied by competency-based approaches to instruction and learning aimed at preparing students to enroll in a higher educational institution or begin the pursuit of a career.

PACE is to be implemented next year at the elementary level in Laconia. It will be rolled out at the middle- and high-school level at a time to be determined, possibly after a year of training and support work.

Deborah Clarke-Tivey, president of the Laconia Education Association and a middle-school teacher, declined to discuss PACE, saying it would be inappropriate to do so at this time because labor contract negotiations are under way.


What is PACE?

According to the state Department of Education, "PACE is a learning system designed to capitalize on the latest advances in understanding of how people learn.The goal is to structure learning opportunities that allow students to grapple with gaining meaningful knowledge and skills at a depth of understanding that they can transfer to new real-world situations. As a coherent system, NH PACE is designed to foster positive organizational learning and change by supporting the internally-driven motivation of educators instead of the all-too-common top-down accountability approaches where the goals and methods of the accountability system are defined at the state or federal levels and districts are simply expected to comply."

PACE eliminates over-testing, according to the state.
"Teachers use every assessment except the six state assessments to inform day-to-day student learning, provide data for student grades, and help determine students' levels of competency. Legitimate concerns about over-testing arise when students take tests with no direct benefit to the students or the school but are required for accountability purposes. NH PACE avoids the problem of over-testing because the same performance assessments used for local grading also serve accountability purposes."

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Gilford Airport Plaza wins approval for new entryway

03 22 gilford airport plaza

A planning narrative states that WJP Development “is in the process of considering renovations and expansion" at the Gilford Airport Plaza, where a new driveway should help with tenant recruitment. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)



GILFORD — Owners of the Gilford Airport Plaza received Planning Board approval Monday to build an access road from the end of the Laconia Bypass to the plaza's parking lot.
A 600-foot driveway will link the end of the Laconia Bypass to the edge of the parking lot, according to the plans.
The board unanimously approved an amended site plan. The plaza includes a movie theater, an electrical supply company and the Gilford House of Pizza.
"The center is only 50 percent occupied and in need of upgrade and improvements to the infrastructure and building," read a narrative before the Gilford Planning Board, citing the need for a second access.
The "entrance only" driveway to the plaza "is located for safety, ease of access and least impactive option to the existing highway system," the applicant, WJP Development LLC, wrote. The company narrative states that WJP Development "is in the process of considering renovations and expansion," adding, "Discussions with prospective tenants have been difficult, due to access being limited to the one entrance point."
William Stack with Steve Smith and Associates, consultant to WJP Development, said on Sept. 22, 2016, the company received a driveway permit from the state. On Oct. 11, 2016, the company received a state wetland permit, he said. New lighting will be downcast to limit light pollution, he said.
In an elaboration of the project narrative, a left-turn "pocket" on Route 11/Lake Shore Drive will allow turns into the new driveway by westbound traffic, Stack said. The narrative presented to the town describes only access via the bypass and via right turn off Route 11/Lake Shore Drive by eastbound traffic.
"You will not have a full dedicated left-turn signal," Stack told planners. "It will let this person wait longer for a gap that will be sensed in the signal, and it will give him a green arrow and cut the other one short."
Stack said most motorists familiar with the area would choose to turn left at the Route 11 and Route 11C signalized intersection and use the existing access to the plaza from Old Lake Shore Drive. But for those new to the area, the left turn would be an option at the intersection on Lake Shore Drive at the end of the bypass, he said.
The highway plan includes "no exit" signs in the plaza parking lot to prevent motorists from trying to use the new entrance as an exit from the parking lot to Route 11.
The only vendor space anticipated is a nonprofit Rotary Club sale of Christmas trees, he said.