Owner of former St. Helena church building seeking zoning variance

LACONIA — The owner of the former St.Helena Mission Church property at the Weirs has applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance to use the building for indoor storage, a use that is not permitted in the shorefront residential district.

REM Real Estate, LLC, acquired the 3.38-acre property last December for $185,000. At the time, Peter Morrissette, the principal partner of the company, said the partners had no specific plans for the property, but intended to explore its residential development. The zoning ordinance would permit six single-family homes or 20 condominium units to be built on the lot.

In February, the City Council denied a request made by REM Real Estate to change the city's zoning ordinance to allow boat and watercraft storage in the shorefront residential district. The company argued that such a use would be complimentary to the area because so many residents there own boats.

As a storage facility, the exterior of the building would be maintained without change, the owner says. Nor would there be an office or signage on the site. At the same time, the site would continue to serve as a stopping place and turnaround for school buses as well as impound lot for Police Department during Motorcycle Week.

The building does not lend itself to conversion to either a residential use or to the commercial uses as a "neighborhood store" or "hotel/motel/inn" permitted in the zone. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester, the prior owner of the property, limited its future use by placing permanent restrictions on the deed that run with the land. Without the authorization of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester the property cannot be used as a place of worship or to house the performance or promotion of services, such as abortion, sterilization and euthanasia, contrary to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Likewise, the property cannot be used to sell pornographic material, offer massage or tattooing, operate a restaurant serving alcohol, as a bar night club, dance hall, or as a venue for live performances "inconsistent with the faith and morals of the Roman Catholic Church" catering to an adult audience.

Student leads successful drive to make room for music classes within the regular Inter-Lakes HS day

MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board unanimously agreed Tuesday night to adopt a proposed class schedule change for the high school which will allow the band, chorus and jazz band to hold practices during the normal school day.
Currently those groups are limited to one hour after-school practices, which are cut short by the need for half of their members to leave on the junior high school bus, which cuts practice time by 20 minutes.
The schedule change which will be implemented by the school administration will see the block schedule changed from four to five blocks by shortening the current "blocks" and creating a 40-minute ''Office Hours'' period each day which students will use for competency completion, mentoring and the band and music programs.
The proposed change was outline in a report to the board by I-L High School Senior Hannah Crosby and was accompanied by a petition signed by over 100 high school students supportive of the change.
Crosby, who was invited by Superintendent of Schools Mary Ellen Ormond to sit at the table with school board members during the discussion, wrote that her research had shown that sports practices meet for an average of 10 hours a week while the entirety of the music program meets for only three hours a week.
She said that participation drops in the music programs offered by the school district after middle school because there are conflicts on after school rehearsals and there is not enough time for the students to become well prepared as musicians.
Her proposal was strongly endorsed by Ormond, who said she couldn't think of a program she would like to see implemented more than the one proposed by Crosby. ''It brings us one step closer to helping kids direct their own learning path. It's one of the best steps forward we can take at the high school.''
High School Principal Patti Kennelly wrote a memo outlining how the so-called ''Office Hours'' program would work and said that she could see great benefits to adopting the program, which she said would meet the needs and interests of all students, not just those in the music programs.
She said that all of the details haven't been finalized and that she is sure that adjustments will be required along the way but that is a worthwhile program which will work well for the students and the staff.
School Board Chairman Richard Hanson said that he was at first reluctant to bring the proposal to a vote at the meeting but realized that it meant either scheduling a summer board meeting or delaying its implementation into the next school year.
He congratulated Crosby for her proposal and said that ''it may bring significant positive change in our high school.''
Her proposal was strongly supported by fellow students and parents who turned out for the meeting.
I-L student Allie Smith said the school's jazz band needs the change in order to attract more students and said that the way the schedule change works will depend on each student's needs.
Another student, Jackson Williams, said that his research had shown that over 60 percent of the students wanted to see arts programs like music offered during the school day.
Crosby wrote that her research had shown that other schools in the area like Laconia, Franklin, Moultonborough and Kennett all have music classes during the normal school day.


Hannah Crosby, Inter-Lakes High School senior, discusses a proposed schedule change at Inter-Lakes High School which would add a 40-minute period which would allow band and chorus practice during the school day. The Inter-Lakes School Board unanimously adopted her proposal. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Irwin Marine offer for Lakeport property tops competitors by nearly $200,000

LACONIA — In an unexpected turn of events, a divided City Council on Monday night decided to sell the city property on Elm Street leased to Lakeport Landing marina for the past 30 years to Irwin Marine, its neighbor and competitor, for $528,000.

Taken aback by the decision, Erica Blizzard, the owner of Lakeport Landing, said that "the City Council has shown tonight that in this city you can buy whatever you want is you have enough money."

Councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1), David Bownes (Ward 2), Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Bob Hamel (Ward 5) voted to sell to Irwin Marine while Councilors Brenda Baer (Ward 4) and Arman Bolduc (Ward 6) dissented.

"I'm truly disappointed," said Baer after the vote. "I've been beaten many times on many subjects, but this time I'm truly disappointed." She was echoed by Bolduc who expressed his disappointment and remarked "we have to live with it".

The property, a 0.81 acre strip between the roadway and railway was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods. The lease will expire on October 31, 2015 and the tenant has no renewal rights. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot. Under the terms of the lease, ownership of building will go to the city at the expiration date.

The City Council has wrestled with the issue since last October when Blizzard first asked about the future of the property. Councilors searched for a means of ensuring the firm retained control or gained ownership of the lot and building. At the same time, Irwin Marine, which abuts Lakeport Landing, expressed its interest and insisted the land and building should be sold by an open, competitive bidding process.

An independent appraiser pegged the value of the property at $480,000, well above the $331,400 initially offered by Lakeport Landing and $335,000 offered by Irwin Marine. After receiving the two offers the council asked City Manager Scott Myers to hold "informal conversations" with both parties to gauge their reactions to four conditions the council expected to attach to the sale of the property and report to the council when on Monday, June 8.

First, the city required the sale price to match or exceed the appraised value of the property.
The city sought an assurance that the owner of the property will not alter or demolish the existing building unless the change sustains or increases the existing taxable value of the property. If the current tenant is displaced by the sale, the city the date of possession by the new owner would be deferred for up to two years from the date of the closing to provide time for Lakeport Landing to secure new quarters. Should this provision be invoked, from when the lease expires, Lakeport Landing would pay a monthly rent consistent with the appraised value of the property. Finally, the property must be conveyed with easements enabling the city to maintain water and sewer lines as well as the retaining paralleling Union Avenue.

Myers wrote to both parties on June 1 and, in addition to outlining the conditions specified by council, asked each to submit their "highest and best offers" for the property to his office by 4 p.m. on Monday, June 8, the day of the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.
On June 4, Attorney Rod Dyer, representing Lakeport Landing, advised Myers that Blizzard questioned the independent appraisal of the property and said she would ask the council for an opportunity to commission a second appraisal, which would be presented to the council by the end of the month. He repeated the request when the council met on Monday and asked that any decision be deferred until the second appraisal was presented.

Instead, the council spent some 40 minutes in a non-public session, under the exception to the Right-to-Know permitting private discussion of the purchase, lease or sale of real property. When the public meeting reconvened, Mayor Ed Engler reviewed the process and said that the responses of both parties to the conditions set by the council were "accommodating". Then he announced that the highest and best offer submitted by Lakeport Landing matched its original bid of $331,400, without referring to its request for a second appraisal, while Irwin Marine had offered $528,000.
"Councilors, the floor is yours," the mayor then remarked and Lipman moved to accept the offer of Irwin Marine and authorize the city manger to enter a purchase and sales agreement. Bownes seconded the motion and the vote was taken.
"I'm shocked at the outcome," Dyer said, "and disappointed that the council did not allow us the opportunity to come forward with a more realistic appraisal."