LACONIA — On the eve of a so-called design review before the Planning Board, Al Mitchell, principal of the A.E. Mitchell Corporation of Belmont, said last night that he will withdraw his proposal to build a large self-storage facility at Weirs Beach in light of the opposition the project has aroused among business owners and residents of the summer resort community.
Acknowledging "it's the use", Mitchell said he is abandoning his plans "for the people who don't want to it there. I don't want to be the one to do that to the Weirs. I don't want it to be my legacy."
Mitchell planned to develop the 6.8-acre lot on the north side of Endicott Street North (Rte. 3 North) across the highway from the Meredith Bridge condominium community and next door to the Cumberland Farms convenience store. The land, which was cleared several years ago, backs up to the New.Hampshire Veteran's Association compound that fronts on Lakeside Ave.
As proposed, the facility would consist of 296 storage units divided among 17 buildings. It would include a two-story office building, constructed to a colonial design, facing Route 3. The south, east and west borders of the site would be ringed by trees.
The use is permitted in the commercial resort zone where the property lies. However, Mitchell expected that with the abandonment of his plan, the zoning ordinance will be amended to prohibit storage facilities in that zoning district.
Mitchell, who acquired the lot six years ago, said "I tried to do all kinds of things with the property. Is a storage facility the highest and best use?" he asked. "Of course, not. But, there is a need for storage space and it's the only thing I could do to get income from the property 12 months of the year." He doubted that there would be any significant investment in hotels, restaurants or attractions at the Weirs as long as property owners remain satisfied with the returns from a short season highlighted by Motorcycle Week. He noted that since the storage facility would consist of metal buildings on concrete slabs with no underground infrastructure, it could be dismantled in two weeks in order to redevelop the property if an opportunity arose.
"It's not something they want to see at the Weirs," Mitchell continued, "and more are against it than for it." He explained that Jon Rokeh of Rokeh Consulting of Chichester, who engineered the project, forwarded him some of the correspondence received by the Planning Department voicing objections to his plan. "I want to be a good neighbor," he said.
Mitchell, who grew up in Laconia, said that to put put the property to a higher use it would have to be combined with abutting properties. "In order to develop the property you have to come from Lakeside Avenue, you have to start at the lake and work up the hill, not start on the hill and work down." He estimated the cost of acquiring and developing the properties at between $20 million and $25 million. Moreover, there is no assurance that the Veteran's Compound could be redeveloped. "If anyone deserves to be there, Mitchell remarked, it's the veterans. They've earned the right."
Mitchell said that although the property has been used as a parking lot during Motorcycle Week in the past, this year it will be closed to the public.
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