LACONIA — When the City Council meets next on July 13, it will consider the request of Erica Blizzard, who owns and operates Lakeport Landing Marina, to reconsider its decision to sell the property her firm has leased from the city for the past 30 years to its neighbor and competitor, Irwin Marine.
When the council met earlier this week, Blizzard reminded councilors of the process leading to the decision. After receiving offers from both Lakeport Landing and Irwin Marine, the council asked City Manager Scott Myers to hold "informal conversations" with the two parties to gauge their reactions to terms and conditions the council expected to attach to the sale of the property and report to the council when it met on Monday, June 8.
Myers wrote to both parties on June 1 and, in addition to outlining the conditions specified by council, asked each to submit their "highest and best offers" for the property to his office by 4 p.m. on June 8. Blizzard said that she understood that the council would weigh all aspects of the responses, but continue negotiations without making a final decision, much less a decision based solely on the offers submitted, on June 8.
But, after meeting privately for 40 minutes the councilors voted 4-2 to accept Irwin Marine's offer of $528,000 for the property. Blizzard said that had she known the council would accept the highest offer she would not have submitted her original offer of $331,400, but a higher one.
After Blizzard addressed the council, Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4), who with Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) voted not to sell to Irwin Marine, asked the council to suspend its rules in order to create an opportunity to reconsider its decision. The council's rules of procedure stipulate that motions to reconsider votes be made at the same meeting the votes are taken, or by written notice at the next meeting. In this case, neither deadline was met. Reconsideration motions must be made by a councilor who voted with the prevailing side.
A two-thirds majority of the six councilors is required to suspend rules. Suspending the rule is the first of two hurdles that must be cleared before reconsidering the original vote. In addition, a councilor who voted to sell the property to Irwin Marine must offer the motion to reconsider the vote and that vote would have to pass by a a majority vote.
Mayor Ed Engler asked City Manager Scott Myers if he believed Baer's motion was in order. Myers replied that no substantial event, such as entering a purchase and sales agreement, had occurred since the council voted on June 8 that would forestall reconsideration of the vote, but suggested seeking the advice of legal counsel. Myers subsequently informed the councilors that a motion to suspend rules would be in order when the council meets on July 13. At the same time, he explained that if the council chooses to suspend its rule, then one of the four councilors who voted in the majority when the decision was made — Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), David Bownes (Ward 2), Henry Lipman (Ward 3) or Bob Hamel (Ward 5) — must offer a motion to reconsider that vote. Any of the six councilors could second the motion to enable he council to debate whether to rescind its vote to sell the property to Irwin Marine, which would require a simple majority vote.
The property, a 0.81 acre strip between the roadway and railway, was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods. The lease will expire this Oct. 31, and the tenant has no renewal rights. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot. Under the terms of the lease, ownership of building will go to the city at the expiration date. An independent appraiser pegged the value of the property at $480,000
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