Bill to establish development commission for property in Laconia heads to governor’s desk
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — State land where a school for the developmentally disabled once operated could become the catalyst for economic growth and new jobs in the city, the region and the state under a bill heading to the governor.
Lawmakers adopted a conference committee report Thursday on legislation involving the Laconia State School property, which commands dramatic views and adjoins a park with sweeping lakefront property.
Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to sign House Bill 340, which would establish a seven-member Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission. The panel would investigate development options, including potential public-private partnerships.
The bill would appropriate $250,000 to fund the commission's duties. Another $115,000 would be appropriated for consultants, title work and other preparations.
Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said he is confident the property will be developed.
“I believe there is a huge opportunity on this land,” he said. “We’ve had all kinds of people interested. The sky’s the limit. A lot can be done. It’s a beautiful piece of property.”
Laconia Mayor Ed Engler said the legislation recognizes that this is far more than just surplus property and holds strong potential for boosting the economy.
“This is the most positive development for that property in forever,” he said.
The 200-plus-acre hillside parcel is bounded by North Main Street and Meredith Center Road. It has views to the east of Lake Opechee and Gunstock Mountain and to the west of Lake Winnisquam.
“As an added bonus, the property is contiguous to Ahern State Park and all the amenities that go with that, including 3,500 linear feet of spectacular waterfront property on Lake Winnisquam,” Engler said.
Possibilities for development could include light manufacturing, offices and tourist-oriented businesses, including a hotel.
The Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission will look into whether a state organization should be established to develop the land for commercial purposes along the lines of the Pease Development Authority, which became an economic engine for the state's Seacoast Region after Pease Air Force Base transferred from military to civilian control in 1991.
The governor and executive council would appoint three commission members with business or real estate development experience. They would also appoint one member with business experience who is a resident of Belknap County.
The Laconia mayor and City Council would appoint one member. The speaker of the New Hampshire House and the Senate president would each appoint one member with business experience. The governor would appoint a member to serve as chairman of the commission.
With over 200 acres of land, two dozen buildings, water frontage and mountain views, the state school land is a prime piece of Laconia real estate. (Courtesy photo/Bill Hemmel Aerial Photo NH)