LACONIA — The Planning Board this week endorsed the proposal of the Zoning Task Force to redraw the boundaries and revise the uses of the Commercial Resort (CR) District, which it will recommend to the City Council.
The Commercial Resort District begins on Lake Street, just south of its junction with White Oaks Road, extends northward along Weirs Boulevard, includes the center of The Weirs and runs either side of Route 3 to the Meredith town line. It also includes property along both sides of Route 11B, including the former Surf Coaster property. The zoning ordinance describes the district as intended to accommodate dining, lodging and recreation entities for both occasional tourists and seasonal residents as well as apartments and condominiums.
The proposal recommends rezoning two areas. First, the southernmost part of the CR District from the Bayside Cemetery to the junction of Weirs Boulevard and White Oaks Road, would be added to the commercial district that extends southward along Union Avenue. Second, the eastern shore of Paugus Bay northward to the Naswa Resort, would be removed from the CR District and added to the Shorefront Residential (SFR) District. The remaining boundaries of the CR District would remain unchanged.
Cynthia Makris, who owns and operates the Naswa Resort, questioned removing Weirs Boulevard from the CR District. She said that Weirs Boulevard has always been associated with Weirs Beach and the neighborhood is home to nearly a dozen businesses. Although existing businesses would be grandfathered, a variance would be required to put property to commercial use in the SFR District.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that in recent years many commercial properties along the boulevard, particularly cottages and motels, have been converted to condominiums. The neighborhood, she said, has grown less commercial and more residential and the proposal was intended accommodate its changing character.
Unconvinced, Makris said, "When you buy in a resort you should have an expectation of excitement and noise. It is a resort," she continued. "If you want peace and quiet, you don't buy in a resort area. You go to a secluded area."
Fred Clausen, who owns a condominium unit at Eastern Shores on Lakes, expressed concern that the area would be rezoned from CR to Commercial. Apart from Eastern Shores the area includes the Margate Resort and two single-family homes. Saunders said that Zoning Task Force chose to extend the commercial district to the south of the Margate Resort rather than leave "an island" designated CR but isolated from most of the CR District either side of the Weirs Channel. She acknowledged that a greater number of commercial uses would be permitted than in the CR District and noted that commercial uses line the opposite side of Lake Street in Gilford. However, she said that she would understand if the City Council chose to add the four properties to the SFR District to the north.
The task force recommended changing 10 land uses in the Commercial Resort District. Accessory apartments and greenhouses, which are not permitted, would be permitted, but would require a conditional use permit.
Granted by the Planning Board, conditional use permits require that the use will not endanger public health or safety, adversely affect the value of abutting properties, is compatible with the neighborhood and nearby uses and will not impair either vehicular or pedestrian safety or natural resources.
Storage of trailers, campers and boats on residential properties, sexually oriented businesses, car washes and detailing, nightclubs and dance halls and agricultural uses, all of which are currently permitted by right, would require a special exception.
Special exceptions are granted by the ZBA, which must find the use will not create traffic congestion or impair pedestrian safety, not overburden water, sewer or drainage systems, generate excessive demand for emergency or disposal services, pose hazards to pubic health, safety and welfare, is suited to the location and consistent with the Master Plan.
Bed and breakfast establishments, which currently require a conditional use permit, would be permitted by right. Indoor self-storage, which is currently permitted, would no longer be permitted in the district. Automobile sales and service, which is permitted by special exception, would also be prohibited.
There was no discussion of the proposed changes in uses.