Laconia considers requests to lease space to businesses at Weirs dock

LACONIA — Faced with two inquiries about leasing space on the municipal dock at The Weirs to operate marine enterprises, which is prohibited by city ordinance, the City Council this week referred the issue to its Government Operations and Ordinances Committee.

City Manager Scott Myers characterized the inquiries "more than tire kicking" and said one of the businesses asked about leasing a significant share of the dock to provide a secure area for managing passengers and storing equipment.

The ordinance stipulates that "operators of boats engaged in commercial enterprise shall not moor such boats at any public wharf" then allows two exceptions, one for the United States mail boat and another for the Queen of Winnipesaukee.

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) suggested taking advantage of the opportunity to attract new offerings for tourists by lifting the prohibition.

The Government Operations and Ordinances Committee will consider the issue when it meets on Monday, March 3, at 6 p.m., before the next regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council.

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Davis Place land sold to Harry Bean

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The City Council this week agreed to sell a small patch untended woodland owned by the city on Davis Place to Harry Bean, but shunned offers from Lloyd Wylie to purchase larger expanses of city property adjoining his own lot on the street.

The Planning Board and Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Board advised the council against any sale, which they said would hinder public access to the Winnipesaukee River while the Conservation Commission said that any transaction should include a easement to protect the natural environment and ensure public access to the riverfront.

Bean will acquire 9,810 square feet of land straddling Jewett Brook, which abuts 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. The remainder consists of 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.

The land has become a dumping ground and gathering place where undesirable activities take place, which frequently require intervention by the police. Bean said he will attach the property to his house lot next door and maintain and police it.

City Manager Scott Myers told the council that Bean's proposal "will not impact any potential future City use for the Riverwalk or other access to the Winnipesaukee River." Nor, he continued, would the parcel qualify as a buildable lot. Almost all the property lies within the 75-foot wetland buffer along Jewett Brook where no vegetation can be removed or altered without a permit from the Planning Board.

Bean He will pay $6,500 for the parcel, which by including the cost of surveying and conveying the property not to exceed $5,000 ensures the city a return of $1,500. Adding the land to the abutting abutting house lot will increase the assessed value of that property by $10,800.

Myers said that along with the sale, the city will merge the 0.15-acre lot into the 1.67-acre lot surrounding it

Only Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) opposed the sale, calling it "premature" and insisting "this is not the way the city should be doing business."

After the sale to Bean was approved, Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) proposed considering Wylie's two offers to purchase portions of the 1.67acre lot, which abuts his property to the east and south. He offered $3,500 for the portion of the lot abutting his property to the south and fronting the Winnipesaukee River and Jewett Brook, an area of 0.40 acres.. Alternatively, he offered $20,000 for the entire lot excluding the parcel Bean purchased and the stretch on the south bank of Jewett Brook leading to Howard Street, an area of 1.43 acres.

Myers noted that the lot is a building lot with approximately 200 feet of frontage on the Winnipesaukee River and is assessed at $60,500. He suggested that if the council accepted either of Wylie's offers, the transaction should include an easement to provide public access to the riverfront.

Baer's motion, seconded by Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) to accept Wylie's first offered failed by a four-to-two vote and her motion to accept his second offer failed for want of a second.

"This is valuable riverfront property," said Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5). "We should not be in rush to sell this property."

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Gilmanton selectmen adjust voters guide on sludge warrant

By Gail Ober - Laconia Daily Sun

GILMANTON — Selectmen Rachel Hatch and Don Guarino continue to be at loggerheads over what rights an individual selectman has to access town services and what duty a selectman owes to inform the board before his or her actions.

At issue this time is the voters guide that is on the Gilmanton website and was distributed at the deliberative session of Town Meeting, which included a petitioned warrant article about sludge.

This year, Gilmanton voters will get to decide on a ban against sludge – or bio-solids that are used by commercial farmers to fertilize their fields. The petition to ban sludge was submitted by petition, and Guarino is one of the signatories.

The board of selectmen has not taken a position on sludge and planning board members decided they didn't support the warrant article. Though Guarino is the selectmen's representative to the planning board, he recused himself and Selectman Michael Jean took over his spot regarding the sludge discussion.

The original voters guide, which is posted on the Gilmanton website as from the selectmen, describes sludge as a fertilizer. In addition, the original guide said "Class 'A' bio-solids do not require any permit. Class 'B' bio-solids require a permit from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services. There is current bio-solid use of both Class A and B bio-solids in Gilmanton."

Guarino objected to the second two sentences in the voters guide that read: "Should this petition warrant article pass, the current activity would, by right, be allowed to continue. The proposed amendment would only apply to future users of bio-solids and could create an enforcement issue for the town."

He characterized the description as "electioneering," and said it isn't proper for the voters guide to propagandize either for or against a petitioned warrant article. Apparently, and unbeknownst to Guarino, Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni felt the same way.

Ogni contacted town attorney Walter Mitchell and was told that Mitchell recommended dropping the last two sentences. Guarino also contacted Mitchell with the same issue. Those sentences are no longer part of the voters guide.

Guarino said he contacted the town attorney not knowing Ogni had contacted him as well. From the sidelines came Steve McWhinnie, who is Guarino's opposition in the upcoming election for the open three-year term on the select board. McWinnie submitted a Right to Know request to the town of Gilmanton requesting a copy of the recording of the Feb. 16 meeting, transcripts of emails Rachel Hatch read at that meeting, and "what was submitted to Walter Mitchell (and) what was submitted to Walter Mitchell by Don Guarino/responses, etc. Full conversation, and documentation pertaining to this situation – bio-solids."

In an interview with McWhinnie about his candidacy last week, McWhinnie, who was accompanied by Hatch, said he had no interest in bio-solids and that it was his brother Bob who is the farmer.

McWhinnie said he is interested in governance and "keeping the ball rolling," by which he meant that Hatch, since she had taken over as chairman, is taking Gilmanton in the right direction. McWhinnie said he also has an interest in overseeing as selectman the upcoming bridge projects.

On Monday night, Hatch called for an emergency selectmen's meeting so the board could give the town administrator some direction that would satisfy McWhinnie's request in a timely fashion.

Hatch and Guarino continued their battle about what Guarino can do without the knowledge and approval of the other two board members. This time, she said, Guarino cost the town money because he reached out to the town attorney.

Jean made a motion to ask the town administrator to release the information requested by McWhinnie and Guarino seconded it.

Hatch accused Guarino of having an agenda regarding the outcome of the sludge vote and using the services of town counsel to further that agenda.

Guarino said his primary interest is that accurate information be distributed by the town, through its selectmen, in the voters guide. He said Tuesday night that he was disappointed that the other two members of the board were not willing to spend as much time as he felt they should on the voters guide, which he said "is owned by the selectmen."

Hatch's reply was that Guarino, once again in her opinion, acted without consulting the other board members. His first offense, according to Hatch, was to contact the former town administrator for input into the reasons why revenue estimates for 2016 were so low.

Guarino said the only reason Hatch called for the emergency selectman's meeting was to publicly shame him. She disagreed, saying she called the meeting to satisfy McWhinnie's request within five days of receiving it.

The board voted unanimously to give McWhinnie all of the information he requested in his Right To Know request.

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