LACONIA — St. Helena Mission Church, which had stood on Endicott Street South at The Weirs since 1955, was demolished yesterday by Peter Morrissette of PEM Real Estate, LLC, who acquired the property in 2014.
Morrissette said yesterday that he intends to build a residential development of modular homes on the 3.38-acre parcel "with as many units as I can put on the lot." The property lies in the shorefront resident district. where six single-family homes or 20 condominium units would be permitted. He said the development of the property would be undertaken in partnership with his brother Kevin Morrissette of N.W. Morrissette & Sons, a well known local contractor.
"We'll build every inch of housing we can get," Morrissette said.
Earlier this year, Morrissette applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance that would entitle him to use the property as a storage facility. He said the property would be fenced and the exterior of the building would not be altered. Nor would there be an office or signs on the site. Instead, the space would be leased to one or two commercial entities for a relatively long-term to store seasonal inventory.
At a stormy public hearing before the ZBA in July, the request met stiff opposition from homeowners on Pendleton Beach Road, including Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board, who made it very clear he was speaking strictly as an interested property owner, not as chairman of the Planning Board. The abutters and neighbors urged the ZBA to deny the requested variance, claiming that using the abandoned church as a storage facility would have adverse impacts on the character of their neighborhood and the value of their properties. In August, Morrissette withdrew his request.
Morrissette said that during the controversy he invited city officials to suggest what he might do with the property.
"I would loved to have someone call me," he said, "but all I ever heard was crickets. Most of the people who want to reimagine Laconia," he said, "can't reimagine it."
He added that when he presents a proposal to develop the property to the Planning Board he will ask Hutchins to recuse himself.
"He has a conflict of interest," Morrissette said. "I'll take it to court if necessary."
Meanwhile, John Remington, who was among the abutters opposed to using the church as a storage facility, owns the 30 acres surrounding Morrissette's property, where the Planning Board has approved a cluster subdivision, including four waterfront lots.The one home built in the subdivision is priced at $1.7 million.
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