Storage craze: Lake Region can't get enough of rent-a-garages

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The view of Gilford Self Storage on East Drive, where Richard Letendre plans to open a newly constructed facility, Gilford Self Storage Toy Box and Climate Controlled Storage. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)


GILFORD — Richard Letendre has gone from receiving stares of confusion when applying for loans to finding himself immersed in demand, filling new storage units almost as fast as he can build them.
"When I first started approaching people and approaching banks to finance that property, I got laughed at," recalled Letendre, who said he's the oldest surviving storage-unit operator in the state.
When he opened in 1983, the concept of financing storage units seemed foreign to banks, he said.
Now, the region is in a mini construction boom for storage units, including Letendre's home base across from the Laconia Airport in Gilford.
"Years ago, when I went into the business, banks didn't know anything about the self-storage business," Letendre said.
Today, the storage business is big business.
Letendre hopes to open a newly constructed facility, Gilford Self Storage Toy Box and Climate Controlled Storage, on the hill behind his Gilford Self Storage on East Drive ( Then, he plans to build boat storage nearby on Lake Shore Drive.
"I'm doing something totally new which is almost unique to the area," Letendre said, referring to the "toy box" concept.
The hillside facility features climate control units in the center of the building with a hallway that is keypad controlled. On the perimeter are "toy boxes," units 15 feet wide and 15 feet high and as deep as 40 feet with individual access. Customers will be able to winterize boats and motor homes in the individual units, rather than in a shared warehouse.
"I expect that within the month I'll be ready to have those units on the market," Letendre said.
Belmont is another place where storage units are gaining traction as a popular development.
The Belmont Zoning Board of Adjustments will hold an abutters' hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m., at Belmont Corner Meeting House, to discuss a request by Vault Motor Storage (, based in Merrimack, to install climate-controlled storage with outdoor covered storage on Higgins Drive.
Candace Daigle, town planner for Belmont, said the Vault Motor Storage project needs a variance because of existing zoning regulations.
"This one, Vault Motor Storage, is in the industrial zone, and our ordinance does not allow boat storage in the industrial zone. That's why Vault is going to the ZBA," she said.
If approved by the Belmont Zoning Board, Vault's proposal would go to the planning board, tentatively as early as April.
The Higgins Drive site is vacant property created in the 1980s when a business park was built, Daigle said. The lot previously was approved for Hangtime Sports, which pursued site plan approval and a special exception for an indoor skate park. The park was never built.
Al Mitchell recently received approval to build climate-controlled self storage on Prescott Hill Road, which has yet to break ground. Mitchell, who owns Belmont Self Storage in Belmont, acquired the property on N.H. Route 106 atop Prescott Hill, which was left vacant following the closure of Lakes Chrysler Jeep, Ltd. in 2010.
Asked about the popularity of storage, Daigle said, "Society has changed, and I think they look for that type of amenity in the region, because of the seasonal housing we have here and because of the lakes."
Winnisquam Storage on Route 3 also has undergone expansion in the last few years, she noted.
"Many people are downsizing, and some of the things they want to keep may not fit in their downsizing plan," Daigle said.
Steven J. Paquin, code enforcement officer, building inspector and health officer for Belmont, has been appointed by the New Hampshire Building Officials Association to be on the International Code Council 2018 Code Committee for Tiny Houses.
Asked if the tiny house phenomenon could account for increased demand for storage, Paquin told the Daily Sun, "Personally I think the demand for storage units has more to do with the region we are in, not so much embracing of tiny homes. We live in a region that is based on tourism and summer homes, we get the same families returning year after year, and the storage unit makes traveling easier. Tiny homes are just starting to make a push, and I cannot imagine the current demand for storage is driven by them. Will we see a larger demand down the road? Time will tell."
Sarah Allaire, manager at Landmark Self Storage (, hears anecdotal evidence of why people want storage.
"When people come in they usually tell a story," she said.
Many customers are selling their second home or condo in the area, and storage allows them to list and show their properties. Shorter-term storage demand can involve projects at a residence, such as renovations, where furniture or vehicles would be in the way and it's easier to store it.
Landmark Self Storage, located across the street from the Laconia Police Station at 206 Fair St. and across from the Court House at 77 Court St., offers more than 300 units combined, with about half for commercial rentals and half for residential storage. The business also offers outside storage for vehicles and boats.
Allaire said in the outside vehicle and boat storage area, she has only three empty spaces right now because two of the renters went south, while one preferred to park their vehicle at home.
"I had to turn a lot of people away," she said of the past year.
"For a good 10 months last year I didn't have a single unit available," Allaire said.
A rash of departures broke this trend late last fall, but in general, Allaire saw an 85 percent occupancy rate increase in the last three years, with occupancy finally hovering at 95 to 97 percent, and last year reaching 100 percent.
Steve Cotran, a real estate agent who has embarked on renting storage units as a second income, said a year ago he hired a consultant to conduct a study and found a need for indoor storage. Cotran installed units and opened Paugus Bay Self Storage ( at the Paugus Bay Plaza in Gilford.
"We have some units rented. We installed 60 units, and we have about a dozen rented. We get a new person every week just about, and we've been open for about 12 weeks," he said.
"There's a whole lot of self storage that's going up as well, I'm not sure what the absorption rate is going to be," Cotran said.
Cotran said his customers include people who were downsizing to fit into a 55-plus community.
"There's a lot of downsizing going on with all the empty-nesters not needing their big homes anymore," Cotran said.
At Four Seasons Self Storage in Meredith, owner Roger Nash said, "It's been a very active year with good occupancy rates."
Four Seasons Self Storage ( answer the need for customers who are renovating their homes or moving, and for summer people, Nash said.
An advertisement he wrote put the need simply: "A place to store your summer stuff during the winter and your winter stuff during the summer."
In Laconia, new boat storage facilities have tried to keep up with demand. Laconia Assistant Planner Brandee Loughlin said no applications are in the review process right now, but that could change.

"What we've been hearing from a lot of the marinas is that there's a greater demand for storage," she said.
Not every project clears the regulatory hurdles. In December, the Laconia Zoning Board of Adjustment voted down a proposal to build a heated indoor storage facility on Watson Road near its intersection with U.S. Route 3 at The Weirs; this request was the second such — both from Vault Storage — to fail to gain relief from a prohibition against indoor motor vehicle storage in the city's Commercial-Resort District. Earlier in 2015, Vault Storage had sought to build on the old Surfcoaster property at the corner of Endicott Street East (Rte. 11-B) and White Oaks Road.
Jeffrey R. Hayes, executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, noted housing trends could explain the demand. "I know that household size continues to decrease and that more people are renting vs. buying homes so that might be a contributor," he reported.
On a personal basis, Letendre said classic cars and boats are high-price investments that people want to protect from the elements, and climate control storage allows customers to park their recreational vehicles without going to the trouble of draining them and removing stockpiles of food from the cabinets.
"I've had a lot of requests from boat dealers because we need additional space for boat storage," Letendre said. "They're dying for space to store boats through the winter months."
Likewise, RV owners will go where they can find storage.
"I've had people here from Gilford who stored their motor homes with us down in Hooksett," Letendre said.
Besides Gilford and Hooksett, Letendre's company, Northeast Self Storage Inc., offers storage in Meredith, Franklin, Wolfeboro and Manchester. Letendre didn't see the demand slowing down.
"We need this, there's no question about it," he said.


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Real estate agent Steve Cotran opened storage units at the Paugus Bay Plaza in Gilford. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Big House majority backs return to state helping towns with pension costs

CONCORD — To the surprise of many, a bill to restore a portion of the state contribution toward the retirement costs of school teachers, police officers and firefighters carried the New Hampshire House of Representative on Wednesday by the convincing margin of 267 to 83.

House Bill 413 would require the state to pay 15 percent of the employer contribution beginning in fiscal year 2018. After contributing 35 percent toward the pensions of school teachers, police officers and firefighters since 1967, the state trimmed its share to 30 percent in 2010, to 25 percent in 2011 and eliminated it altogether in 2012.

The margin of the vote in the House followed was not expected after the bill won the endorsement of the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee by a single vote — 10-to-nine— as the committee divided largely along party lines. Moreover, the Republican leadership of the House opposed the measure and Governor Chris Sununu, after indicating he was open to restoring an unspecified portion of the state contribution, did not include funding for it in his budget.

Laconia city manager Scott Myers estimated that the city and the school district would be spared $240,000 and $300,000 in retirement costs respectively if the bill becomes law. The New Hampshire Municipal Association estimates that the return to school districts in the Lakes Region would be about $86,200 in Alton, $70,600 in Barnstead, $215,3000 in Gilford, $55,100 in Gilmanton, $196,700 in Inter-lakes, $144,000, in Moultonbrough, $202,300, in Newfound, $216,400, in Shaker Regional, $212,000 in Winnisquam Regional and $140,000 in Franklin.

The association estimates that in Belknap County the state contribution of 15 percent to the cost of pensions for police officers and firefighters would represent $40,000 in Alton, $30,400 in Barnstead, $79,000 in Belmont, $9,000 in Center Harbor, $107,300 in Gilford, $22,800 in Gilmanton, $47,600 in Meredith, $14,400 in New Hampton, $18,000 in Sanbornton and $45,000 in Tilton.

The 14 of the 17 representatives from Belknap County who voted were divided, with eight voting in favor and six against. Those in favor were Representative David Huot of Laconia, the lone Democrat in the delegation, who was joined by Republican representatives Glen Aldrich and Norm Silber of Gilford, Dennis Fields and Tim Lang of Sanbornton, Don Flanders of Laconia, Michael Maloney of Gilmanton, John Plumer of Belmont. Six Republicans voted against: Marc Abear and Herb Vadney of Meredith, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton, Ray Howard of Alton, Peter Spanos of Laconia and Michael Sylvia of Belmont. Representatives Barbara Comtois of Barnstead, Robert Fisher of Laconia and Peter Varney of Alton were excused and did not vote.

By passing House Bill 413 the House has made a statement of policy. The bill will be referred to the House Finance Committee, which will address the question of funding it. Altogether a state contribution of 15 percent would represent estimated expenditures of $40.8 million in 2018, $42.1 million in 2019, $43.4 million in 2020 and $44.7 million in 2021.

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Snowstorms created great cover for this weekend's Sled Dog Derby

LACONIA — Jim Lyman, trail boss for the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, says that the recent snowstorm, which dropped about 10 inches of snow in the Lakes Region, has helped create nearly ideal conditions for the 88th Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby.
Lyman and his trail crew were out Tuesday grooming the trail, which has been modified this year so that it won't be crossing any lakes and will be close to 16 miles long. One new section this year will be the former Lyman Rice airport property behind Petal Pushers Farm on Parade Road, where a loop has been constructed which adds a mile to the course.
'We lost over a mile by dropping the part of the course which used to go out onto Lake Winnisquam but lengthening some new loops at Laconia Country Club, so the mileage is pretty much the same as it was when we had the last race in 2015," says Lyman.
He said that the forecast calls for warm weather for the weekend, which will create ideal conditions for spectators.
This year's races is being run in memory of Keith F. Bryar II, a two-time derby winner who died last February. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Keith Bryar Sr., who won three titles in the 1960s.
The starting line will be located in the field across from the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street, at the intersection of Old North Main. The "open"class teams will be following a trail through the Laconia Country Club, which is hosting spectators, with the trail continuing next to Paugus Bay at Southdown Shores, then traveling up the old Hilliard Road, across Route 106 down to Meredith Center Road and returning to the start/finish line. Several spectator vantage points can be found along Parade Road. The open trail will be approximately 16 miles long.
The 6-Dog Classic will follow a trail through a portion of Southdown to the Laconia Country Club, where the teams will do a 3-mile loop at the golf course and return to the finish line. The 6-Dog trail will be a total of 6 miles. There will also be a 3-Dog Junior Class running on Saturday and Sunday and a One-Dog Fun Race on Sunday. One-Dog registration begins at approximately 11 a.m. Sunday.
Thursday at 7 p.m. Mushers will meet at the Country Club at 7 p.m. where there will be a drawing for starting positions. On Friday the six-dog class gets underway at 10 a.m. and the open class will start at 1 p.m.
Saturday the six-dog race starts at 10 a.m., with the three-dog junior class starting at noon and the open class at 1:30 p.m. Sunday will see the six-dog class getting underway at 10 a.m., the three-dog junior race at noon and the open class at 1:30.
An awards ceremony will be held at the Country Cub Sunday at 4 p.m.
Many top Canadian mushers will take part in this year's race, including defending 2015 champion ReJean Therrien. (There was no race last year due to the lack of snow.). Other racers include two-time winner Claude Bellerive and Guy Girard, a three-time top 3 finisher.


Jim Lyman, foreground, trail boss for the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, and other members of the trail grooming team, were at the former Lyman Rice airport at Peal Pushers Farm on Parade Road Wednesday morning, where a new loop was being built on the trail for the 88th Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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