No rezone - City council scuttles bid to allow seasonal camp on Big Island


LACONIA — In the teeth of opposition from residents of Paugus Park Road, the City Council flatly refused to refer a request by the owner of Big Island in Paugus Bay, which is in the residential single family district, to rezone the property by adding it to the commercial resort district.

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) abstained from what otherwise was a unanimous vote.

Of the three islands in Paugus Bay — Plummer, Big and Little — Big is the second largest at 2.9 acres. It sits about 400 yards east of the marina at South Down Shores and some 1,500 feet north of Paugus Park Road.

Scott Everett, the founder and president of Supreme Lending, a mortgage lender headquartered in Dallas, Texas, who owns a seasonal home on Paugus Park Road, purchased the island in 2012 for $725,000. In 2014 he conveyed the island to NH-Big Island Co. with the intention of developing a seasonal camp, owned and operated by a charitable corporation, which he would endow. Since a camp is not a permitted use in the single-family district, Everett applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance, but withdrew the request when it met with stiff opposition from mainland residents, particularly property owners on Paugus Park Road.

The Zoning Ordinance provides that property owners may petition the City Council to change the boundaries of zoning districts if they represent "50 percent or more of the land area affected by a petition." Since Everett, as the sole owner of the island, represents 100 percent of the owners of the property that would be affected, he is entitled to present a petition. In turn, the ordinance prescribes that the City Council must refer the petition to the Planning Board, which must make a recommendation to the council within 90 days of receiving it.

Attorney Pat Wood, representing Everett, told the council that he seeks to develop a seasonal camp for girls aged between 8 and 14. A camp is not permitted in the residential single-family district, but would be permitted in the commercial resort district. He said that Everett has invested in bringing municipal water and sewer along with electricity, telephone and cable television to the island.

"Is there some reason this should not be referred to the Planning Board?" Wood asked.

He explained that the Planning Board would consider the use as well as the site plan for a camp and all aspects of the project. On the other hand, he said if application was made to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance, the opportunity to throughly review the proposed use of the proposed would be restricted.

Almost at once Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) suggested Wood ask his client to withdraw his request in light of the opposition voiced by neighboring residents. When repeated that his client was seeking an opportunity to make a presentation to the Planning Board, Lipman replied "I don't know that I want to be a part of that."

Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1) said that however the current owner used the property, if it were rezoned the next owner would be able to pick from all the permitted uses in the commercial resort district. Wood countered that a covenant, limiting the use of the island to a seasonal camp, could be incorporated in the deed to the property.

Earlier, a half dozen property owners from Paugus Park Road urged the council to scuttle the petition. Ben Gamache said the only person to benefit from rezoning the island would be the owner while "the harm would be to the whole city." Given the range of permitted uses in the commercial resort district, he said, "we have no idea of what would become of the property and residents would have no control."

Fouad Youssef called the request "ridiculous" and "unfeasible" and said "if you approve it for his island, you might as well as approve it for me." His son Josh described the island as "the heart and nucleus of Paugus Bay, a quaint representation of island life in Laconia" and warned that putting it to commercial use would only cause problems. His brother Travis said developing the island would devalue neighboring properties.

09-14 Big Island map

Big Island in Paugus Bay near South Down Shores was considered for rezoning to allow a girls summer camp. On Monday night, the Laconia City Council voted against rezoning after protests from those living in the area. (Graphic courtesy Google Maps)

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Light up - Laconia to replace city street lights with LEDs


LACONIA — Laconia's streets will soon be lit at a lower cost to taxpayers.

The City Council this week endorsed the recommendation of City Manager Scott Myers to convert the fixtures of the 1,345 streetlights lining the city street from high pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which will improve the quality and lower the cost of street lighting.

The estimated cost of purchasing and installing the new fixtures is $350 apiece, or $470,750. The city currently budgets $214,735 for street lighting, which would be approximately halved by replacing HPS bulbs with wattages ranging between 50 watts and 400 watts with LED bulbs of 25 watts, 65 watts and 100 watts that provide the same amount of light. In addition, by converting, the city could qualify for a rebate of $100 per fixture to a maximum of $100,000 from Eversource.

Myers described the project as "self-financing," explaining that by applying the savings to service the debt incurred to install the lights, the project, with the $100,000 rebate, would pay for itself in less than four years without without requiring an upfront cost or increasing the operating budget. Alternatively, by extending the term of the borrowing, the project would generate a positive cash flow from the outset rather than require three or four years to realize any savings.

The council directed Myers to solicit bids for the project in anticipation of designing of arranging the financing for the project, which will include creating a fund to maintain street lighting, based on the pricing of the best bid.

LED lighting consumes less energy and has a life span of 10 to 15 years, two to four times longer than conventional street lighting, which spares maintenance costs. LED lights turn on and off quickly and restart immediately after a power outage. By directing light downward on to the roadway, LED lights cast less glare into the eyes of motorists.

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City to acquire lot at Busy Corner for $1


LACONIA — The City Council this week agreed to purchase the triangular, postage stamp-size lot at Busy Corner, the junction of Union Avenue and Church Street, for $1 and to accept a donation of $20,000 from CVS Pharmacy, the owner of the property, to design and landscape the parcel.

The lot, a mere 0.058 of an acre, is nearly a perfect isosceles triangle with two sides of 94.12 feet and 94.85 feet and a third of 55.81 feet. The building, topped by the sign proclaiming "Busy Corner,"which has stood on the lot and undergone a skein of uses since 1917, will be demolished.
Originally, CVS planned to develop it and submitted a sketch showing a paved doughnut with a planted center in the middle of the triangle bounded on three sides by perennial grasses and shrubs. However, City Manager Scott Myers said that the city will likely develop a fresh design, which will not contain elements that would obscure the view of the CVS pharmacy itself. At the same time, Myers said that the city has granted the request of CVS to move its sign from the entrance to the pharmacy on Union Avenue to the edge of its parking lot nearer Busy Corner.

Busy Corner front

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