By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The City Council this week took the first step toward selling the former Lakeport Fire Station, along with one abutting and another nearby lot, by first scuttling a proposal to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places then declaring the properties surplus.
The prospect of selling the properties arose in September when Erica Blizzard, who owns and operates Lakeport Landing Marina, offered to purchase them, with the intention of building offices and a showroom on the site. Her offer came on the heels of a tentative settlement of a lawsuit she brought against the city after the council agreed to sell property Lakeport Landing Marina had leased from the city for 30 years to neighboring Irwin Marine. Alluding to the litigation, Blizzard told the council this week that "The city approached me about buying the fire station. I didn't come to you guys. I was approached to buy the fire station to square everything away and try to move on."
The first steps in offering the property for sale are for the council to hold a public hearing and afterwards decide whether to declare the property "surplus." At the public hearing earlier this month, nearly a dozen people, many of them residents of Lakeport, urged the council to retain ownership of the properties and preserve the building. Following the hearing, the council deferred its decision.
In the meantime, Councilor Bolduc (Ward 6) proposed applying to list the former Lakeport Fire Station on the National Register of Historic Places. When Bolduc presented his proposal to the council this week, he said that it represented "the feeling of the Lakeport community."
Speaking against the proposal, Blizzard said that listing the fire station would be "a disservice to the city," explaining that as a protected property, its commercial potential would be severely limited. She recalled that when her father, Paul, purchased the marina in 1978, "It wasn't even a boatyard. It was a junkyard," and the development and growth of the marina improved the neighborhood. She said that the offices and showroom she plans would do the same and return the property to the tax rolls.
After Bolduc's motion to list fire station failed for lack of a second, the council unanimously voted to declare the three properties surplus. 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. The two lots include some 132 feet of municipal right-of-way — Railroad Avenue. The third lot, an approximately 0.27-acre strip between Union Avenue and the railroad is what the city retained of an 0.81-acre parcel, which the city had leased to Lakeport Landing Marina, but agreed to sell to Irwin Marine when the lease expired.
City Manager Scott Myers said that before the properties can be offered for sale, the boundaries must be more precisely defined. The two largest lots include some 132 feet of municipal right-of-way — Railroad Avenue — while a memorial to Wanda Tibbetts stands on the smallest lot at the corner of Union Avenue and Elm Street. Once the lot lines are clearly delineated, the properties will be appraised. At the same time, Myers said that the council may choose to place conditions on the sale of the fire station itself, including restrictions on what can be done with the building.
Meanwhile, apart from Blizzard's formal offer, a handful of other parties have expressed interest in purchasing the properties. Blizzard has offered $127,700, which represents the assessed value of the land, exclusive of the fire station.
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