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State covenes committee to facilitate sale of State School property


CONCORD — The governor and Executive Council this week created a committee charged with advising the Department of Administrative how to proceed with the sale of the former Laconia State School property as required by the companion bill to the 2016-2017 state budget.

The city has been contemplating acquisition of the property since 2010, and in 2012 offered to purchase it for its appraised value of $2.16 million. The state rejected the offer and hawked the property on the open market without receiving another offer. Last year, Gov. Maggie Hassan included the sale of the property in the state budget and projected $2 million in revenue from the transaction.

In June, Commissioner of Administrative Services Vicki Quiram informed the governor and Executive Council of a number of outstanding issues associated with the property that would need to be addressed before it could be offered for sale. For example, there is a water tower on the property that supplies state buildings on a parcel that was carved out of the larger tract. The Department of Health and Human Services operates a "designated receiving facility," or DRF, two buildings that house sexual offenders with developmental disabilities, at the northwest corner of the property. The property is criss-crossed by easements for sewer lines and snowmobile trails. These and other encumbrances on the property must be removed or incorporated into the terms of the sale.

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney suggested the governor and Executive Council convene a committee to review the issues and recommend how the property should be marketed. Kenney said Friday that "the Legislature acted more than a year ago. This can't just be hanging out there. I wanted to push it."

"I want to thank Councilor Kenney for his attention to this issue," said Mayor Ed Engler. "In part the formation of the committee is due to his effort. We still have faith in the process outlined by the Legislature in 2015."

The resolution to convene the committee specifies it shall hold its first meeting on Aug. 31. Kenney expected the committee would meet periodically, but anticipated it would require only two or three meetings to provide Quiram with appropriate language for a request for proposals to purchase the property.

"Whether it is the city of Laconia or some other buyer," he said, "they have to know what they're purchasing."

The committee will consist of representatives of the departments of Administrative Services, Health and Human Services, Environmental Services, and Resources and Economic Development, as well as a member of the House of Representatives designated by the Speaker and a member of the Senate designated by the Senate President. In addition, the city will be represented by an designee of the mayor and the Belknap Economic Development Council by a designee of its chairman.

Engler said Friday that he will appoint former mayor and city councilor Matt Lahey to represent the city.

"Matt Lahey is the most knowledgeable person in Laconia about the property," he said.

In 2009, after the closure of the Lakes Region Region Facility, a medium security prison, the Legislature formed the Commission to Evaluate the Long-Term Uses of the Lakes Region Facility. Lahey chaired the commission and drafted its report, perhaps the most thorough assessment of the property ever undertaken. Earlier, in the late 1990s, when the state reneged on its undertaking to close the prison, Lahey, as the mayor, contributed to negotiating the lease with the state for what became Robbie Mills Sports Complex, adjacent to the Laconia State School property, to compensate the city for not closing the prison.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to move the "designated receiving facility" from Laconia to the campus of the Glencliff Home for the Elderly in Warren and has requested $1,325,000 in the 2017-2018 capital budget to build a new secure facility. The department made a similar request in 2012, when then Commissioner of Health and Human Services chose Glencliff over sites in Concord and Stewartstown. At the time he said that the ideal site would be distant from residential neighborhoods but close to support and medical services.

Mayor proposes commercial corridor at The Weirs


LACONIA — In a bid to reopen discussion of zoning and development at The Weirs, which has languished for the past year, Mayor Ed Engler will offer a specific proposal to redefine the Commercial Resort District when the City Council meets on Monday.

The Commercial Resort District now begins on Lake Street, just south of its junction with White Oaks Road, extends northward along Weirs Boulevard, includes the center of the Weirs and runs either side of Endicott Street North (US Route 3) to the Meredith town line. It also includes property along both sides of Endicott Street East (NH Route 11-B) east of the roundabout to just beyond the Weirs Community Center.

The zoning ordinance describes the district as intended to accommodate dining, lodging, retail shops and recreation entities for both occasional tourists and seasonal residents as well as apartments and condominiums. Both specified commercial and residential uses are permitted throughout the district.

Nearly two years ago the City Council asked the Planning Board to reconsider the mix of uses within the Commercial Resort District, Last year, the Planning Board proposed changes that would have encouraged residential development and excluded commercial development in the southern reach of the district along Weirs Boulevard, but left the remainder of the district unchanged. The proposal met with resistance from commercial interests and the proposal was abandoned.

Engler suggests dividing the district into two parts by carving a Commercial Resort Corridor District out from the existing Commercial Resort District. The corridor would be defined as "the area extending 400 feet from either side of the center line of the right-of-way for Endicott Street North (US Route 3) and Endicott Street East (NH Route 11-B" between the Meredith town line to the west and the center of the intersection with White Oaks Road to the east.

Within the corridor residential development, which is currently permitted throughout the Commercial Resort District, would be confined to spaces "not less than 20 feet above ground level, provided that at least a single, ground-level floor of the same building, with the same or larger footprint, is devoted to a permitted commercial use." In other words, along the corridor residential development would be restricted to the upper level of buildings and then only if the ground floor of the same building is put to commercial use.

The Commercial Resort District, where both commercial and residential uses are permitted, would remain unchanged beyond the borders of the corridor.

Two indicted for March home invasion in Meredith


LACONIA — Two of four people allegedly involved in a home invasion in Meredith in March have been indicted by the Belknap County grand jury for their alleged roles in the incident.

Tyler Best, 37, of 35 Woodrow Ave. in Franklin faces two separate counts of armed robbery. The first is for allegedly pointing a gun at three people inside a Livingston Road home on March 6 and ordering them to the floor, or words to that effect.

The second armed robbery charge alleges Best pulled one of the female victims from her bed and struck her in the head with the butt of the gun.

Meghan Tighe, 24, of 95 Winter St. in Tilton faces one count of being an accomplice to armed robbery for allegedly accompanying Best to Livingston Road.

The female victim was able to help police identify Best by drawing a tattoo that matched one on Best's forearm. Other victims recognized one of the four people who allegedly entered the home at 4:10 a.m. by some clothing they were wearing when they were there earlier.

Police got a lead in the case on March 11 when a woman called them to report she had overheard the four people "bragging" about what they had done and that their comments included statements about assaulting people and stealing several things.

Meredith Police obtained a search warrant for the Franklin home that they were staying in at the time. During a search of the home, police found four credit cards belonging to the the female victim in a shed behind the house and one debit card in the home.

Best is being held on $5,000 cash only bail in the Belknap County House of Corrections and has been there since his arrest. Tighe is not incarcerated at this time.