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Planners wrestling with standards for city acceptance of privately built streets

LACONIA — The Planning Board this week unanimously endorsed a proposal to accelerate the acceptance of new, privately built city streets, which will be presented to a public hearing at the regularly scheduled meeting of the board on February. While loosening the current standard somewhat, the proposal still requires that 20 percent of the house lots on a street be built on and occupied before acceptance can be considered.

Until a roadway — constructed to serve a residential subdivision, for example — can be maintained and plowed by the city and its residents served by trash collection and school buses, it must be accepted as a city street. To be accepted as a city street, the roadway must be built to municipal standards.

The process begins with the Department of Public Works (DPW), which determines that streets are built to the required standards., then proceeds to the Planning Board. The Planning Board makes a recommendation to the City Council, which is vested with the authority to accept a street.

The current subdivision regulations prescribe that a newly built street must undergo a "performance observation period" of one year after the base pavement is laid before it can be accepted. During the year, the street goes through a complete cycle of freezing and thawing, which reveals any deficiencies in its construction, which can be corrected before its acceptance. At the same time, approximately half the house lots must be developed and occupied prior to acceptance to provide the tax base to support the extension of municipal services.

The proposal approved by the Planning Board would retain the 12-month "performance observation period" and require that certificates of occupancy be issued for 20 percent of the proposed homes on the roadway before the DPW could evaluate the street for acceptance. However, the board provided that a developer could expedite the process by retaining a third party inspector reporting to the DPW.

In November, the City Council asked the Planning Board to consider a plan to foreshorten the acceptance process by enabling a developer to forego the "performance observation period" as long as the roadway satisfied nearly a dozen other criteria specified by the city.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the board that she consulted with officials of Frankilin, Rochester, Dover, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith, Derry, Barrington and Bow and found most required a 12-month observation period. Only Franklin, she said, allowed a waiver. Both Meredith and Gilford required the development and occupancy of half the house lots prior to acceptance.

Planning Board member Hamilton McLean suggested that to expedite the process the observation period could be waived in return for posting a performance bond in an amount equivalent to the value of the road. He explained that if the road fails during the 12 months, the bond would defray the cost of repairs. If it fails after 12 months, he remarked "you're shot for a sheep or a lamb either way. Twelve months is an indicator, not a guarantee," he continued. It's just an option."

Saunders said that the city has found performance bonds a cumbersome means of providing performance surety, particularly if the bondholder operates in another state, and prefers to require escrow in the form of cash or letters of credit. At the same time, the board showed no interest in relaxing or foregoing the "performance observation period."

The board originally proposed requiring half the lots be developed and occupied prior to acceptance. But, Kevin Morrissette, the local developer who initiated the proposal to accelerate the acceptance process, said while he did not object to the 12-month observation period, the 50-percent threshold would undermine the effect of the proposal. He pointed out that vacant lots generated tax revenue for the city without imposing corresponding costs. As the lots are developed and their occupants receive services, the cost to the city rises, but at the same time the property values increase and with it the tax receipts to the city.

Morrissette said it could take four or five years to sell and develop half the lots in a subdivision, or even longer in a sluggish market. Early acceptance of the street, he explained, represents a selling point to potential homebuyers.

City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), who represents the council on the Planning Board, said "I'm not seeing any downside to eliminating the 50 percent." The requirement, he explained, effectively eliminates any opportunity to expedite the acceptance of the street. "It makes no sense to me," he remarked.

Saunders stressed that all the cities and towns she consulted required a share of the lots to be developed and occupied before acceptance and noted that the New Hampshire Municipal Association considered some threshold essential to ensure that residents of the street paid their fair share of the cost of the municipal services they enjoyed.

Although Bownes's motion to reduce the 50-percent threshold to 10 percent failed on a tie vote, Bill Contardo's motion to reduce it to 20 percent carried five-to-three.

NOTES: The city's Zoning Task Force will discuss a proposed zoning ordinance to regulate a medical marijuana dispensary when it meets on Thursday, February 15 at 11 a.m. at City Hall. Planning Director Shanna Saunders explained that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has invited requests for proposals to operate facilities in four geographic zones, one of which consists of Belknap, Strafford and Rockingham counties. She said that there was a small chance an applicant would seek to operate in Laconia, but she recalled that in 2008, when Metro Treatment of New Hampshire sought to operate a methadone clinic in the city, "we found ourselves behind the eight ball." Saunders said that DHHS has issued 70 pages of rules governing the ownership and operation of the facilities, but where and under what conditions such a facility could operate are questions for the city to address.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 12:18

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010915 WesleyWoodsVA (54)

GILFORD — On January 14 at 10:30 a.m. in the Wesley Woods Community Room a program on veterans' benefits will be offered.

A representative from the VA Public Affairs office will be present to answer all questions.

This event is open to the public and free of charge.  For more information contact Stace at 603-528-2555 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 10:37

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Concord says alleged Opechee Park flasher have violated reporting requirement

CONCORD — Police confirmed yesterday they are investigating a register sex offender who allegedly exposed himself to children at Opechee Park last summer for reporting requirement violations.

Lt. Timothy O'Malley said that Daniel King, who is a tier III registered sex offender, was a homeless resident in Concord who may have violated the reporting requirements for sex offenders.

"If we find he violated his reporting requirements we will be bringing forth charges," said O'Malley.

King is being held on $50,000 cash bail in the Belknap County House of Corrections for allegedly after being arrested in Hot Springs, Arkansas by U.S. Federal Marshals on an arrest warrant issued by the Laconia Police for felony indecent exposure and lewdness.

King is scheduled to appear for a probable cause hearing in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on January 15 at 1 p.m.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:59

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DWI arrest in aftermath of Monday wreck on bypass

GILFORD — A Northfield man was charged with driving while intoxicated after the three car head-on accident on the Laconia Bypass Monday at 3:19 p.m.

Police said yesterday that James Corriveau, 22, of 29 Summer St. was charged with DWI by police after being transported by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital.

Police said that although Corriveau was allegedly drinking and driving, they have yet to determine the cause of the crash or if he was at fault.

Four people were transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries after the crash and the Laconia Bypass from Route 107 to Route 11-A (Gilford Ave.) was closed for about 90 minutes.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:53

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