Residents complain to city about crowded conditions on Walker St.

LACONIA — Residents of Walker Street have appealed to city officials to address the congestion and appearance near its junction with Union Avenue where three businesses — Laconia Refrigeration, Lake City Auto Body and the 405 Pub & Grill — operate on three small lots on opposite sides of the street.

"It's just become too crowded," said Matt Lahey of Cottonwood Avenue, who routinely travels the street to and from home and work. "It's a failure of the planning process."

"It's awfiul," echoed Jane McFadzen, who has lived on Walker Street since 1984. "You can't even get up your own street and it's a blatant eyesore."

The problems arose in the summer of 2010. At the time, the 0.36-acre lot at 11 Walker St., at the corner with Butler Street, housed Lake City Auto Body and a rented apartment while the Galley Restaurant operated on the abutting 0.18-acre lot at 405 Union Ave. The restaurant also owned the 0.32-acre lot across the street, which served as parking for its patrons.

In the summer, Laconia Refrigeration moved from its rented space a block south on Union Avenue to share the building at 11 Walker St., then owned by William Hawkins, with Lake City Auto Body. Lahey noticed the firm moving into the building and notified the Planning Department. Kris Snow of the Planning Department wrote to Hawkins, explaining, "It has come to our attention that Laconia Refrigeration is operating at the rear of 11 Walker Street" and reminded him that the additional use required approval by the department. In particular, since there was a auto body shop and apartment already in the building, the additional use would require eight parking spaces, bringing the total parking spaces on the lot to 22.

In December 2010, over the misgivings of several residents of the neighborhood, Planning Director Shanna Saunders approved the new use of the property after the required number of parking spaces was apparently reduced to 18. The approval prescribed that all loading and unloading occur during business hours and any outdoor storage and parking be screened from neighboring residences.

In 2011, Steve Olson, the principal of Laconia Refrigeration, doing business as Fat Boy Kole LLC, purchased the lot at 11 Walker St. A year later, when the Galley Restaurant closed, Fat Boy Kole LLC acquired the lot on Union Avenue housing the restaurant and the parking lot on Walker Street at auction.

In December 2013, Fat Boy Kole LLC applied to build a 1,680 square foot storage building at the rear of the parking lot on Walker Street, informing the Planning Department that "the 23 (parking) spaces on the lot are used for the restaurant across the street."

Soon residents began encountering congestion as delivery trucks blocked the travel lanes and forklift trucks ferried heavy equipment back and forth across the street. Intended for patrons of the restaurant, portions of the parking lot have been used for outdoor storage, leaving diners to park on the street, adding to the congestion. Parking areas were not screened and fenced as prescribed and trucks and trailers were parked on Butler Street.

Earlier this month the Planning Department found Fat Boy Kole LLC in violation of city ordinances for failing to provide screening, fencing and landscaping at 11 Walker St. and for using the parking lot across the street for outdoor storage without approval.

"The decision to grant any of the three businesses permits to operate without ample parking and/or storage was irresponsible," wrote one resident.

"It is like a small industrial park. It is becoming more and more embarrassing and a definite eyesore," added McFadzen.

City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he expects to meet with the property owner to address the issues cited by the Planning Department and raised by the residents.

Blizzard offers city $331,400 for Lakeport property

LACONIA — Erica Blizzard, the owner and operator of Lakeport Landing marina on Paugus Bay, has made a formal offer to purchase the property on Union Avenue, which the marina has leased from the city for the past 30 years.
City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council on Monday that attorney Rod Dyer, representing Blizzard, has presented an offer to purchase the 0.81-acre strip between Union Avenue and the railway line, just north of Elm Street, for $331,400, the assessed value of the property as calculated by the city.

Paul Blizzard, Ms. Blizzard's late father, leased the lot from the city in 1985 for 10 years with the option to renew the lease for two further periods of 10 years. The lease will expire on November 1, 2015. Two years after entering the lease, Blizzard constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot, which represents about two-thirds of the assessed value of the property. Upon termination of the lease the building and other improvements to the property become the property of the city.
The city has been advised by legal council that it cannot negotiate exclusively with Blizzard to either sell or lease the property, but may either let the lease expire and take ownership of the improvements on the property or lease or sell the property to the private party bidding the highest price or offering the most favorable terms.
In November, Dyer suggested a third option. He explained that the city purchased the lot from the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1958 rather than acquired it by tax deed. In that case provision of the city code (183-8) provides that if the City Council declares the property surplus and "available for sale," the city manager may entertain written offers from any private party. Either the manager or the council may negotiate the terms of sale, which must be approved by two-thirds of the councilors. Dyer likened the process to that followed when selling lots in the Lake Business Park, which he described as an alternative to competitive bidding.
This week City Manager Scott Myers told the councilors that he will recommend they declare the property surplus when they meet on February 9 and schedule a public hearing on the issue for February 23, when they may either affirm or reverse their decision. Once the property is declared surplus, he said that any interested party may make an offer for it.
In the 1980s, when Blizzard sought to purchase the lot from the city, Irwin Marine successfully challenged the transaction when the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the city failed to inform all prospective bidders that the property was for sale.

Gilmanton's historic Bosiak Farm burns during storm

GILMANTON — One of the town's historic farm houses, the Bosiak Farm at 125 Upper City Road, was destroyed yesterday in a 3-alarm fire that began at 11:06 a.m.

Fire Chief Joe Hempel said the first call resulted in his on-duty lieutenant immediately calling for a first alarm because of the weather and distance to the property.

He said when the first firefighters arrived they found the 2 1/2 story house engulfed in flames and right awaycalled for a third alarm that brought firefighters from as far away as Meredith, Tilton, and Chichester to the property.

Hempel said all four people in the home were able to get out of the house including two people who had to jump out of a window. All were uninjured.

"They got out with the clothes on their back," he said. "I'm glad this was a day time fire because otherwise it could have been a fatal one."

Hempel said the biggest challenges yesterday was the snowy roads that slowed arrivals and the biting cold and wind that inhibited the flow of water through the hoses.

"Our biggest issue was to keep the water moving," Hempel said, saying the Bosiak Farm is on a narrow road near a Rollins Pond, which they used as a water source.

Hempel said hoses and fittings can freeze in an instant in conditions like yesterday and the trick is not to shut off any of them.

George Roberts knew Frank Bosiak well before he died in 2012. He said Bosiak was a dairy farmer who served on the town's Budget Committee and the Historic District Commission.

Following Frank Bosiak's death, Roberts said the two boys in the family gave up dairy farming and are employed as woodworkers and carpenters.

Roberts estimated the farm house was built in the Federal Period of American architecture, or between the late 1700s to the mid 1800s and that it had double chimneys. He said his father was a friend of Bosiak who remembered when he came to Gilmanton and began dairy farmer.

"It's a sad thing to have at a time when people would call it a show piece," Roberts said.

Roberts said before the Bosiaks purchased the farm, he believes that a different family from eastern Massachusetts ran it as a Cleveland Bay horse farm.

"I heard they had 40 or 50 horses there," Roberts said. He described the Cleveland Bay as a horse with a unusually smooth gate much like a trotter. The Cleveland Bay was the preferred horse of English royalty and wealthy Americans and was used primarily for pulling carriages because of its smooth gate.

Online articles said the breed was nearly extinct in modern-day America but in the 1970s there was a resurgence in its popularity.

Roberts said he is grateful all of the people in the home were able to escape without injury.

Hempel said the Red Cross is temporarily helping the family. He said the home is insured and from information he gathered from the family he believes the fire started in a wood stove that was hooked up to one of the chimneys.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 1066

Selectboard kills roundabout plan after public hearing

MEREDITH — Following a public hearing that began at 6 p.m. and stretched past 10 p.m. Monday night, the Board of Selectmen flatly rejected the recommendation of the Rte. 3/Rte. 25 Advisory Committee to string three roundabouts along the corridor to improve the peak flow of traffic through town.
More than half of between the 400 and 500 people who filled the auditorium of Inter-Lakes High School had left when four of the five selectmen — Carla Horn, who chairs the board, Nate Torr, Peter Brothers and Hillary Seager — voted against a motion to accept the recommendation. Lou Kahn, the fifth selectman who chaired the committee and pitched its report, abstained.
"There is no way to prevent traffic from passing through town except a bypass," Kahn said, adding that was "just something that's not going to happen." He explained that the committee weighed any number of alternatives before recommending the three single-lane roundabouts at Lake Street, the 3/25 intersection and Pleasant Street, which it concluded would not adversely affect adjacent properties while easing without overcoming congestion and improving the movement of pedestrians. He acknowledged that "there is no solution, but insisted the plan represented a significant improvement, particularly at Pleasant Street, where the roundabout would enhance the flow of traffic in and out the Hannaford shopping center.
Don Lyford of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) told residents that the agency was seeking an alternative supported by the town and was echoed by Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson, Inc., project manager for the DOT, who stressed that "nothing will be forced on the community".
More than two dozen speakers stepped to the three microphones, all but a handful expressing firm opposition to the plan and virtually all receiving applause from the crowd. Rosemary Landry, who spent the past four weeks mounting a petition drive against the project, presented the Selectboard with the signatures of more than 500 residents in opposition.
Fire Chief Ken Jones ad-libbed when technical problems stalled his 20-minute PowerPoint presentation, stressing that the roundabouts would "handcuff the department" by slowing response times to emergencies. "Speaking of response times," Horn quipped, when the presentation failed to appear on the screen. Jones noted that Stewarts Ambulance Service makes more than 500 trips through the center of Meredith each year, many of which would be slowed by the roundabouts.
One resident presented the selectmen with a critique of the proposal by Steve Pernaw, a engineer well known to planning boards across the state, who was commissioned by a group to evaluate the plan. Pernaw concluded that the roundabouts would not function adequately and have "unintended consequences," warning that it could take hours for the queues of traffic to dissipate.
Former selectman Miller Lovett read a statement urging the Selectboard to brief their counterparts in New Hampton, Holderness, Center Harbor and Moultonborough on the merits bypassing Meredith to the north and urging the board to ask the Lakes Region Planning Commission to undertake a feasibility study.
"It won't work," declared Carl Johnson, Jr., a surveyor, "and it may make it worse. Don't take that risk."
Several residents questioned the wisdom of spending $5 million on a project to address the severe congestion that occurs only on summer weekends. Al Miltner, the owner of Bootleggers, said that the traffic problems in Meredith, like those of other resort communities, were confined to "10 or 12 weekends" and suggested the committee reconsider improving the traffic signals downtown.
Bill Bayard, a longtime member of the Planning Board, was among the few to endorse the plan. He conceded that "it would be very hard to solve this problem," but suggested that the proposal would mitigate the congestion without adversely impacting the town. Another speaker in favor of the plan, describing himself as a member of the "silent minority," said "you have to take some risks" and called the proposal "the best project we can see for now." Both supporters were met with a smattering of applause.
Selectmen Peter Brothers and Nate Torr voiced concern about how the project would affect underground utilities along the corridor. Brothers said that if the project went forward, it should be coordinated with improvements to the water and sewer system and asked if the town could expect any funding for the work. He and Torr noted that the DOT expected to complete the project within three years, but indicated that the town would not be in a position to fund improvements to underground utilities for eight to 10 years.
When Horn asked the selectmen how they wished to proceed, there were several cried of "vote" from those remaining in the auditorium. Brothers said he was no averse to putting the issue to a vote at Town Meeting in March, but Torr said that the Selectboard was elected to make the decision and offered a motion to accept the recommendation of the committee, which Brothers seconded. When Brothersagain suggested deferring to the voters, Kahn interrupted. "Move the question," he said.