Mitchell backs off plan to build large self-storage compound at Weirs

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.

Monday night crash on Hurricane Road in Belmont claims a life

BELMONT — At Daily Sun press time on Monday night, police and fire rescue teams from three communities were on the scene of a single car rollover on Hurricane Road where at least one person has died.

Fire Chief Dave Parenti said four ambulances — two from Belmont, one from Tilton-Northfield and one from Laconia — had transported the injured to area hospitals.

He said he knows at least one ambulance went either to Concord or Franklin because the emergency crews at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laoconia were temporarily overwhelmed.

The Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid recorded the Belmont crash, a serious medical call in Gilmanton and a serious medical call in Laconia at the same time.

A Gilford ambulance came to Laconia to assist with a man who apparently fell down the stairs on Union Avenue.

Accused said to have been drunk when he entered court

DISTRICT COURT — A transient man who was arrested in November of 2013 for criminal threatening and two counts of simple assault was held in contempt of court for allegedly being intoxicated when he came to court on February 26 to answer the charges.

Paperwork obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said that Robert Stone, 43, was drunk when he appeared before Judge Jim Carroll.

He was escorted from court room by security officers and Laconia Police Capt. Matt Canfield said he was taken by city police to the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Records indicate his blood alcohol content, when tested, was a .29 — meaning nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08.

Carroll rescheduled Stone's arraignment for the above charges to be done at 2 p.m., however Stone's blood alcohol content still allegedly registered at .19 and Carroll determined he was too intoxicated to understand the court proceedings.

Carroll entered "not guilty" to the above three charges and ordered that Stone stay in jail until the next morning.

He was released on $3,000 personal recognizance bail and ordered not to consume alcohol until the cases related to the pending charges are rectified.

Gilford School Board to hold special meeting to deal with vacancy at top of Middle School administration

GILFORD — The School Board will meet next week to decide how the leadership of the Middle School will be handled in light of the sudden resignation of Sydney Leggett, the school's first-year principal.

The board, last evening, scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, March 19, at 6 p.m. when it will consider recommendations from Superintendent Kent Hemmingway on how to deal with the vacancy.

Hemmingway told the board that he and other members of the School District's leadership team have been discussing changes to the district's "leadership structure." He provided no details, but said discussion of those potential changes were taking into account staffing levels and the district's declining enrollment. Hemmingway said that he and the leadership team planned to meet again today to further consider the matter. He said he planned to have recommendations to bring to the board in time for next week's special meeting.

Leggett, who became Middle School principal last fall, announced last month that she would resign at the end of the current school year. Leggett is joining YET — a newly formed education consulting firm — headed by William Lander, who is stepping down as part-time superintendent in Alton. Prior to becoming Gilford Middle School principal, Leggett served as curriculum coordinator in Alton.

In early February, Alton School Board voted to pay YET $125,000 for one year of services for a superintendent and a curriculum director. But the board rescinded the decision after protests against the action.

In other business, Hemmingway told the board that the district is preparing for the coming Smarter Balanced Assessment tests which will be given to students in grades three through eight and to high school juniors to determine their knowledge in English language arts and mathematics. Students will take the tests on computer.

Hemmingway said one option in the future would be to have the Scholastic Aptitude Test replace the Smarter Balanced test for high school juniors. But he said such a move would require approval at the state level. He said that if the SATs became the standardized test for high school juniors the fee for the test would be covered by federal funds.

NOTES: The board heard a presentation by the Gilford High Schools robotics team which placed fourth among 40 schools in a state-level competition on Saturday. The team now goes on another competition on March 20-22 at the University of New Hampshire. About 25 Gilford High students are members of the team. . . . . . The board gave its blessing to a plan by the Thompson-Ames Historical Society to sponsor a farmers market on the grounds of the Benjamin Rowe House. The market would take place on Saturdays starting in June and continue through September or October. The society asked for the board's endorsement because the Rowe House sits on School District land. However, the building, built in the 1830s, is owed by the town, and the Historical Society leases it for $1 a year and maintains the single-story Cape-style house, and opens it for public tours and other events. . . . . . The board heard a presentation by the Gilford High School business and wood-shop classes on a project to make shadow boxes used to display the American flags used at the funeral or burial ceremonies of deceased residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton. Sean Walsh, the school woodshop teacher is hoping the students will be able to make 65 boxes a year. Funds for the project were raised by students in the business program who sold their own make of brownie mix.