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Court decision casts shadow over plans for yacht club on former Burger King site

LACONIA — A plan to develop a yacht club on a lot fronting Paugus Bay that once served as a parking lot for Burger King was thrown into limbo when Justice James D. O'Neill, III recently upheld a decision by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) denying the property owner a permit to install a docking system.

The former Burger King along upper Union Avenue property consisted of three lots, one of 1.1-acres where the restaurant stood and two smaller parcels to its south, one of 0.56-acres on the water and another of 0.05-acres on the street, which provided space for the drive-through window and customer parking. The three lots had two owners, both of whom leased to Erin Food Services, Inc., which owned and operated the Burger King franchise.

In 1974, DES granted Erin a permit to install a "seasonal modular floating dock" with 52 boat slips on the two smaller lots, which extended across the waterfront of both parcels.

When the leases held by Erin expired the three lots changed hands. Ownership of the larger of the two lots passed to Legacy Realty Trust while the Mastoran Corporation, a restaurant management firm headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, took ownership of the remaining lots.

Plans to redevelop the abutting properties kindled the dispute over docking rights. In 2009 local attorney Paul Bordeau and Bill Contardo, a member of the Planning Board, together doing business as P & B Realty Ventures, LLC proposed building a private yacht club on the Mastoran property, which has 258 feet of shoreline. The project would include a docking system with 52 boat slips, mirroring the original dock installed in 1974.

Two years later Watermark Marine Systems, LLC of Gilford leased the adjacent lot with its 364 feet of shoreline with an option to buy, intending to construct a commercial marina with 14 boat slips.

In 2012 both Watermark and Mastoran applied to DES for permits to install docking systems. The agency granted a permit to Watermark but denied a permit to Mastoran. DES found that Mastoran forfeited its right to the dock by failing "for a period of five years to maintain the existing structure in a condition so that it is functional and intact." Moreover, DES ruled that the dock system approved in 1974 was contingent on including, the shorefront of both lots — altogether 622 feet — in calculating the number of slips permitted.

Mastoran filed suit, asking the court to affirm its right to the docking system approved in 1974 and void DES's approval of the docking system proposed by Watermark to the extent it interferes with that right. In court Mastoran argued that when the governor and Executive Council approved the docking system in 1974 it issued "a grant of right" to Erin, which inhered in the property. Moreover, the firm claimed that the approval was not contingent on the inclusion of the shorefront of the adjoining lot.

Watermark countered that since any authority to install the original or a similar docking system expired with Erin's lease on the abutting parcel since the approval of the dock hinged on the company's control of both properties.

In ruling against Mastoran, O'Neill rejected the contention that Erin was awarded a "grant of right," first because the docking system was a seasonal structure that required no dredge or fill and second because, as a lessee rather than an owner, the company was not entitled to such a grant. O'Neill held that Mastoran cannot rely on the permission granted Erin for authority to install a docking system.

Without authority to install a docking system, the prospect of developing a yacht club on the Mastoran property, which is currently assessed for $204,000, is diminished. Mastoran has appealed DES's denial of a dock permit within the agency where a decision is pending.

Contardo said yesterday that he expects Mastoran will also appeal O'Neill's ruling the New Hampshire Supreme Court, but in the meantime he acknowledged that plans for a yacht club are "in limbo."

Watermark is proceeding with construction of the commercial marina where the renovated and expanded restaurant building will house its corporate offices and a retail store.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 02:25

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Jail committee talks of selling real need for action

LACONIA — ''We need a conversation about this project. We have to have a dialogue. Last year we never got past the numbers,'' Belknap County Jail Planning Committee Chairman and Belknap County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) told members of the committee as they discussed a proposal last night to seek a $3.5 million bond issue from the County Convention next year for temporary steps to deal with crowding issues at the county jail.
The bond issue would include a 48-bed temporary housing unit, which would cost $1,584,681 for a three-year contract; $500,000 for a schematic design for a new facility and $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail.
Calling the problems at the jail ''massive and mounting,'' Philpot said that committee members and the commission will be working to develop a persuasive case for the necessity of taking temporary measures to deal with overcrowding and the lack of program space at the current facility.
Alida Millham of Gilford, a committee member and the former chairman of the Belknap County Convention, said that the county will need the temporary housing in the near future no matter what happens with the jail committee's plan to ultimately build a new facility.
''This will have to happen no matter where you go,'' said Millham.
Miller Lovett, former Meredith selectmen and a member of the committee, said ''I know what the political situation is'' and asked if the any of the $3.5 million would be used as part of a future solution.
Philpot said that it would all go to a temporary solution and that down the road there would need to be a plan for an adequate facility.
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) asked if the currently proposed county budget for 2014 includes funds for staffing a temporary facility and was told that it did not.
When he and others questioned Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward on whether Ward had adequate staff to run an additional, temporary facility and Ward said that he did not although some use might be made of the facility with current staffing levels.
Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett showed figures on the impact of a $3.5 million bond issues, which she said would raise the average county tax rate from $1.39 to $1.48 and add $28.84 to the average annual tax bill on a $300,000 home.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 02:21

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LRCC president asks Laconia schools for help in getting students to look at what his college offers

LACONIA — Lakes Region Community College President Scott Kalicki last night asked the School Board for their help in encouraging city students to consider the college as an option for their continuing education.

Kalicki, speaking for his first time before the Laconia board, noted that LRCC is "clearly affordable," is accessible, and offers a good pathway to higher education or to a career.

"We seek your support to allow the community college to be part of the dialogue," he said.

Kalicki noted that nationally, statistics show that of the graduating students who go on to a public higher education, 50 percent of them will attend a community college. In New Hampshire, Kalicki said, that percentage is just 25-percent.

He said he thinks people still think of Lakes Region Community College as "Voc-Tech" — one of the former nicknames for the two-year college on Prescott Hill when it offered degrees for trade careers only.

He also said many people think going to community college is "not the sexy thing to do."

He said while he is Laconia-centric, the state has seven community colleges and they are working on the ability to get much of their individual on-line classes available to all community college students.

Kalicki noted that for those who want a "campus" experience, there is New Hampshire Technical College in Concord and for those who want to save some money, he said that LRCC tuition is about half that of Keene State College or Plymouth State University and all of the credits are transferable.

He said the average class size is about 13 and there are 1,500 students enrolled at LRCC.

"We hope to be part of the communication," he said.

School Board member Mike Persson and Superintendent Terri Forsten are both members of the LRCC Board of Directors.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 02:05

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Happy Cow! People still enjoy ice cream after Columbus Day

LACONIA — Calise Houle is only six years out of Laconia High School but she's already started her second business at the same Union Avenue location just up the street from the school where she was president of the Key Club in her senior year.
The Happy Cow Ice Cream Shop proved an instant hit this summer, so much so that she's added indoor seating and kept it open through the fall and into the early winter, proving that in the Happy Cow's case anyway, ice cream isn't just for summer anymore.
She serves up large portions of delicious ice cream, including soft serve, in a large variety of flavors in both sugar and waffle cones, huge hot sundaes, frappes and flurries.
The Happy Cow features an outdoor seating area of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs on our front lawn where customers enjoy watching the cars and bikes while relaxing with their favorite treats during the warmer months of the year.
She says that business has been good this fall and that many nights she's been busy right up until 10 p.m.
''It's really important to be a part of the community and we're getting that now with a lot of regular customers who stop by a couple of times a week,'' says Houle.
Happy Cow was recently voted as the top ice cream place in the Lakes Region and she and her staff recently raised enough money in their "Tips for Turkeys" jar to buy 18 Thanksgiving turkeys for the Salvation Army. Last Saturday she encouraged people to shop local by giving a 10 percent discount to customers who brought in a receipt from local businesses.
Houle says she attended Sierra Nevada College at Lake Tahoe, majoring in business, for two years after graduating from LHS in 2007, before she decided to plunge into the business world, partnering with her father, Don, who ran Pemi Glass, to open the Maui Oasis tanning salon, which she ran for four years.
''It was a good experience. You learn a lot more about business with the actual hands on experience. There are things you'd never learn in school. But it was time to move on and do something different.'' says Houle.
She established a business relationship with Blake's Creamery in Manchester, which supplies all of her ice cream, and opened for business in June. She says her business employs six people during the busy summer months and is down to half that now. She plans to remain open through December and close for two months before reopening in March.
Happy Cow's new hours run from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.


ice cream

Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith are frequent customers at the Happy Cow Ice Cream Shop, which Calise Houle (rear) opened on Union Avenue this summer. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

ice cream turkey

Happy Cow Ice Cream Shop waitresses raised enough money from their tips to buy 18 turkeys which were donated to the Salvation Army. Shown are Felicia and Calise Houle. (Courtesy photo)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 01:47

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