Meredith Selectboard says yes to Japanese cherry tree in Hesky Park but no to significant memorial

MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen this week approved the planting of a Japanese cherry tree in Hesky Park to mark the 110th anniversary of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905, ending the Russo-Japaese War, but significantly shrank the scale of the memorial.

Earlier this month Miller Lovett, a member of the design committee of the Greater Meredith Program. presented a sketch indicating that the tree would be planted along a path just north of where the spillway from Mill Falls empties into the lake. The tree, projected to reach a height of 30 feet with a canopy 30 feet around, would be the centerpiece of a flagstone patio with two rocks, one either side of the tree serving as resting places. An inscribed granite marker explaining the purpose of the memorial would be embedded in the patio.

Without taking a formal vote, the board expressed its unanimous approval of the project, but specified that a final plan, specifying the measurements of the patio and the two stones, be presented to the next meeting of the board this week. The tree is scheduled to be planted and the memorial dedicated at a ceremony on September 5, which will feature the ringing of church bells marking the day and hour the treaty was signed.

The drawing, prepared by Christopher P. Williams, Architects, showed a triangular stone patio 24 feet across at its base along the pathway and nine-and-a-half feet to its peak where the tree would be planted. The Selectmen Boar of Selectmen balked at the size of the memorial and approved only the planting of the tree and placement of a plaque explaining its significance.

The Japanese-American Society of New Hampshire has chosen Meredith among other towns to receive a Japanese cherry tree to commemorate the occasion.The tree will be a descendant of those in Washington, which the Japanese government gave to the United States in 1912 in appreciation of its role in hosting the peace conference and assisting the treaty negotiations.

Komura Jutaro, the Japanese foreign minister who led his country's delegation in the treaty negotiations, worked on a farm in Meredith while studying law at Harvard.,The son of a samurai family, Komura mastered English as a schoolboy and was the most gifted student of his time at the forerunner of Tokyo University. As a student he persuaded the government to establish a scholarship program to enable students to study abroad and in 1875 was among the first group of 10 to come to America, where he enrolled at Harvard Law School.

During his three years of law school, Komura, who had always tended his uncle's farm during the growing season, did the same in Meredith, working on a farm that Lovett said has yet to be identified. Returning to Japan, Komura joined the foreign service, serving in China and Korea before being named ambassador to the United States in 1898 and foreign minister in 1901.
After the Treaty of Portsmouth was concluded, Komura bequeathed $10,000 to the state of New Hampshire to be put to charitable purposes. The Japanese Charitable Fund remains an active charity to this day.

Weirs storage variance request hearing postponed

LACONIA — Peter Morrissette, the principal of PEM Real Estate, LLC, the owner of the former St. Helena Mission Church at The Weirs, asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment to defer for a month further consideration of his request for a zoning variance entitling him to use the property as a storage facility.

The ZBA was expected to consider the issue discussion when it met this week, but continued the item until September at Morrissette's request.

Neither "indoor storage" or "warehousing, as defined by the zoning ordinance, are permitted uses in the Shoreftont Residential District where the property is located.

Last month Attorney Paul Fitzgerald, representing Morrissette, told the ZBA that the ground floor and basement of the building each provide 5,200-square-feet of undivided space. He assured the board that the exterior of the building would be maintained without change. Nor would there be an office, signage or outdoor storage on the site. Instead, Fitzgerald explained, the space would be leased to one or two commercial entities for a relatively long-term to store seasonal inventory, like motorcycles, jet-skis and snowmobiles. He said that there would be very infrequent comings and goings to and from the site. In particular, Fitzgerald stressed that the building would not be divided into a multiplicity of individual storage units for household belongings with round-the clock access.

However, several residents of the adjacent Pendleton Beach neighborhood, including Warren Hutchins of Boathouse Road, the chairman of the Planning Board who spoke as a private individual, urged the ZBA to deny the request, which they said would have adverse impacts on the character of their neighborhood and the value of their properties.

Motorcycle Week vending fees opposed in Meredith

MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen this week tabled a proposal to levy a fee on vendors during Laconia Motorcycle Week when it met with resistance from Laconia Harley-Davidson, Hart's Turkey Farm restaurant and the American Police Motorcycle Museum, the major hosts to vendors during the rally. The earliest fees could now be introduced in the town would be 2017.

Following the precedent of Laconia, the ordinance would require all transient vendors, other than non-profit organizations soliciting donations toward a charitable purpose, to be licensed by the town at a fee of $450, which would entitle them to operate from noon on the first Friday until midnight on the last Sunday of the rally. Vendors operating without a license would be liable to a fine of failure to obtain a license would carry a fine of up to $500 for each day of unlawful operation.

Town Manager Phil Warren told the board that this year the town incurred expenses of $18,017 during the event, which consisted of $7,149 for police overtime, $5,868 for fire service and $5,000 in dues for the town's membership in the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association (LMWA). Revenues amounted to $660, which represented special use permits issued to Laconia Harley-Davidson and Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant at $330 apiece. The license fees, he said, were intended to offset the cost to the town of providing police and safety services for the event.

Anne Deli, president of Laconia Harley-Davidson, warned that if the town levied a vendor fee "we will lose vendors" and asked "does Meredith really want to put one more nail in the coffin of Motorcycle Week."

She explained that the dealership doubles its payroll to 150 during the rally, stressing that all but 30 of the employees are residents of the Lakes Region.  Deli said that since she and her husband acquired the business in 2008, it has contributed more than $225,000 to local and regional charities.The dealership, she said, paid for hotel rooms in Meredith and a per diem food allowance for those 30 employees. In addition, Deli said that the company invests about $220,000 a year providing the infrastructure and marketing for Motorcycle Week, but collects $145,000 in rents from vendors. She said that vendor fees have not been increased because "vendors would go elsewhere," adding there are many competitors for vendors "ready to pounce on us".

Deli said that if vendors fees sapped income from the dealership, the costs would have to be upset by reducing employment, charitable contributions or marketing expenses, all of which would adversely impact the rally itself.

Doug Frederick of the museum said that he offers space without charge to non-profit organizations and veterans' groups. He said that they are welcome to make donations to the museum, but rent — let alone a $450 licensing fee — would be a significant burden to small operators. He noted that their presence at the site is not intended as a source of income but as an added attraction that draws visitors to the museum.