LACONIA — The City Council has referred the proposal presented by downtown business owner Charlie St. Clair to erect signage designating Court Street and Union Avenue, from one end of the city to the other, as Business Route 3 to the Department of Public Works (DPW).
St. Clair noted that the corridor is designated as "Business 3" on Google maps.
Since the 1990s St. Clair has sought to add the signage along the stretch of roadway through the city, which prior to the construction of U.S. Route 3 and NH Route 11 Bypass was designated at Route 3 but since has been designated as NH Route 11A and NH Route 107. He contends that visitors unfamiliar with the area would be more likely to travel into the city knowing that they would ultimately be routed back to U.S. Route 3. Motorists are directed to business route in other parts of the country and the state, he said, particularly where bypasses circumventing downtowns have been constructed.
Authority over signage within the so-called "urban compact zone," the area where the city maintains, manages and polices state highways, rests with the city. However, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) has jurisdiction at the beginning of the bypass on Route 3 in Belmont and at the junction of Route 3 and Route 107.
In the past St. Clair appealed to city officials, who have consulted with the DOT. In March, 2007 when city and state officials discussed the issue, representatives of the DOT explained that the agency's policy is to minimize the number of designations for a single roadway, but indicated they would consider signage directing motorists to Route 3.
Now St. Clair has urged city officials to circumvent the DOT by confining the signage within the urban compact zone. He has suggested erecting 19 signs at seven locations along the corridor defined by Court Street and Union Avenue between the Belmont town line near the entrance to the bypass to the east and McInyre Circle, where Union Avenue, Lake Street and Lakeshore Road intersect at the Gilford town line, to the north. Signs would be erected at the east end of Court Street, the Court Street Main Street intersection, the intersections of Union Avenue with Church Street, Gilford Avenue, Messer Street and Elm Street and at McIntyre Circle.
The council has asked the DPW to report on the cost of making or buying the signs as well as erecting them. Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) suggested that the cost of the signage could be met by the Downtown and Lakeport Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds.
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