By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Erica Blizzard, who owns and operates Lakeport Landing Marina, has offered to purchase the Lakeport Fire Station on Elm Street, along with one abutting and another nearby lot, where the company would construct its showroom and offices.
Since 1985, Lakeport Landing has operated on an adjacent lot fronting on Union Avenue owned by the city and leased to the company under an agreement that expired on Nov. 1, 2015, when ownership reverted to the city. Blizzard sought to purchase the property, but when the City Council invited bids for the lot, Irwin Marine, which owns the abutting property, submitted the highest offer. In agreeing to sell the property to Irwin Marine, the city stipulated that that it would not be transferred for two years to allow Blizzard time to relocate her business and granted her a two-year lease, which will expire on Nov. 1, 2017.
Meanwhile, Blizzard brought suit against the city, claiming that a prior city council granted her father, the late Paul Blizzard, a right of first refusal to purchase the property when the lease expired, and that City Manager Scott Myers exceeded his authority by offering the property to competitive bidders.
The court granted Irwin Marine's petition to intervene in the litigation then ordered all three parties to seek to settle their dispute through mediation. Last month, the mediator informed the court that a "tentative settlement" had been reached and the city asked the court to stay the trial scheduled for December.
Although the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, the city said that it would require review by "the City Council, city boards and state agencies," which could take "many months, if not a year."
Mayor Ed Engler declined to comment, saying that the matter is in litigation.
This week, the City Council was presented with Blizzard's offer. She offered $127,700 for three lots, which together amount to less than an acre. The lot housing the Lakeport Fire Station is 0.32 acres, and the lot abutting it to the rear of the building is 0.195 acres. Blizzard, in her offer to the City Council, said that the company would like to preserve the fire station, but indicated that it would not be feasible to convert it to commercial uses. Instead, she proposed to demolish the fire station and construct a 10,000-square-foot building on the cleared lot. What remains of the 0.81 lot formerly leased by Lakeport Landing, a narrow strip between Union Avenue and the railroad track, would be used for parking.
The Lakeport Association has long resisted the demolition of the fire station. Blizzard agreed that if the fire station were demolished, the company would place a permanent memorial, displaying a photograph of the building with an explanation of its significance to the city, at an appropriate location on the site.
The two lots include about 132 feet of municipal right-of-way — Railroad Avenue. Blizzard would grant an easement to the city confirming its right to Railroad Avenue and, to the extent possible, make parking spaces on the north side of the street available to the general public for parking.
The council scheduled a public hearing on Blizzard's offer at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The first step in the process is for the council to declare the property surplus and eligible for sale.
The outlined area is encompasses the Lakeport Fire Station and abutting property being considered for sale to Erica Blizzard for the relocation of her Lakeport Landing Marina boat business. It is located at the corner of Elm and Union streets. (Courtesy Google Maps)
The Lakeport Fire Station, as shown on the city of Laconia's website. (Courtesy photo)
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