By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Faced with two offers from two private parties to purchase parts of two lots owned by the city on Davis Place, the City Council this week declined to declare the properties surplus and directed City Manager Scott Myers to explore the offers with the prospective buyers.
At a public hearing, both the Planning Board and the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Board urged the council not to sell any or all of either lot, but instead to retain the properties to provide public access to the Winnipesaukee River.
Harry Bean seeks to purchase 9,810 square feet of untended woodland straddling Jewett Brook, which adjoins the house lot he owns at 32 Davis Place. Most of this land lies within a sprawling 1.67-acre lot owned by the city that fronts on Davis Place, stretches along the north bank of the Jewett Brook to the Winnipesaukee River and includes a sliver of land reaching from the south bank of the brook to Howard Street. Bean also seeks to acquire a strip of land, approximately 10 feet by 131 feet along the east side of a 0.15-acre lot, also owned by the city, that lies within the larger lot, which he would attach to the other parcel.
Bean told the council that he does not want to develop the lot, but merely to "clean up" what has become a "dumping ground" where people loiter. Because of its size and proximity to Jewett Brook, the parcel he seeks to acquire could not be built upon.
Meanwhile, Lloyd Wylie, who owns the lot at the far end of Davis Place that houses an apartment building, has made two offers to purchase portions of the 1.67-acre lot, which abuts his property to the east and south. One offer would include the portion of the lot abutting his lot to the south and fronting the Winnipesaukee River and Jewett Brook. Alternatively, he has offered to acquire the entire lot, except for the portion Bean has requested and the stretch on the south bank of Jewett Brook leading to Howard Street.
Like Bean, Wylie said that he wished only to maintain "a clean and safe environment for the community" by landscaping and policing the property as well as address a drainage problem without developing the lot.
In a letter to the council, the TIF Advisory Board said the property "offers an area for a potential trail and new public riverfront park, beach and car-top boat launch on the Winnipesaukee River." The board noted that the riverwalk "is an important part of the overall Downtown economic development and all the connected neighborhoods."
Likewise, the Planning Board described the lots as "a potential major extension of the river walk, park for residents of the area and city, and a parking lot that can be a satellite facility for those parking downtown and a possible park and ride." The board reminded the council that the process of updating the Master Plan is underway and the city has invested significantly in improving downtown, concluding that "it is premature to divest a major piece of real estate in the downtown area that could support these plans."
Myers said Monday that he considers the offers "two completely different scenarios." The land Bean seeks to purchase would not include either the strip leading from Howard Street to or the bridge crossing Jewett, which provide access to the larger of the two lots with frontage on the river. On the other hand, Wylie seeks to purchase all or part of the lot that fronts the river. Moreover, he said that Wylie indicated that if he owned the property, he would be unwilling to grant the city an easement to extend the riverwalk across it.
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