Sportsmen’s club negotiating to buy property from airport authority


GILFORD — After 30 years of leasing its land on Lily Pond Road, the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association has a purchase and sales agreement with the Laconia Airport Authority, but some major steps need to take place before the club can own that land outright.
According to airport manager Marv Everson, the Gilford Planning Board must approve the subdivision, which was on its agenda for Monday night. Should the subdivision be approved, an appraiser needs to get a “Yellow Book” appraisal, or one that meets the terms set by the Federal Aviation Administration.
After that, the appraisal goes to the state Department of Transportation Bureau of Aeronautics for review. If approved, it will be sent to the FAA for approval.
“I’ve been told that it could take as little as one month or as many as six or seven months to get an answer from the FAA,” he said, noting that all have agreed this piece of land is not needed nor will it ever be needed for airport use.
Time is of the essence because the 30-year lease between the Airport Authority and the association expires on Oct. 1. While the lease price has been $100 a year, Everson said the FAA has insisted on getting a fair-market value should a lease arrangement continue, which he has estimated to be $5,000 a year.
According to the association’s attorney, Mike Persson, it has formed the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Charitable Fund and has achieved a 501(c)(3) tax status as a nonprofit.
Originally, Persson said, the Sportsmen’s Association was at the end of the runway. Thirty years ago the FAA and the airport asked them to move so the runway could be lengthened.
“The 30-year lease at $100 a year was the cost to (the airport) for expanding the runway,” Persson said.
But now that the lease is up, Everson said the FAA not only wants fair value for a future lease but needs to know that the money is being reinvested into the airport.
Everson said the decision to sell the property to the association makes more sense for both entities.
“All the revenue we take in is reinvested in the airport,” Everson said.
Persson said he is happy that the airport authority has recognized the value of the sportsmen’s association to area residents and that so far, all of the relations and negotiations have been positive.
Association member and Gilford Selectmen’s Chairman Richard “Rags” Grenier said the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association is the only legitimate sportsmen’s club in the area, unless one were to go to Canterbury or Holderness.
He said the club offers fishing trips for children, hunting classes, archery classes, firearms safety classes, and outdoorsmanship classes for young and old.
Grenier said firearms safety and training has become one of the fastest growing segments of the industry and having a safe club with property trained instructors in the area is a great benefit to the citizenry.


Page Pond Forest on Meredith Neck grows by 200 acres


MEREDITH — Selectmen gave their blessing Monday to the effort of the Conservation Commission to add approximately 200 acres to the Page Pond Town Forest, which sprawls over 562 acres, including prime wetlands, on Meredith Neck.

Mark Billings, who chairs the commission, told selectmen that the commission has agreed to a letter of intent and is in the process of entering a purchase and sales agreement to acquire the property for $980,000 in a transaction which, including the cost of services and fees, is expected to close at a cost of $1,125,000.

The property consists of two tracts, one of 117.5 acres and another of 84.5 acres on the east side of Barnard Ridge Road south to its junction with Pleasant Street. It includes 2,500 feet of frontage on the west side of Page Pond and 1,500 feet of frontage along Page Brook while another 1,577 feet abuts land protected by a conservation easement. The property contains 35 acres of prime wetland as well as 3,850 feet along an important tributary to Meredith Bay.

"It is as ecologically relevant as Page," Billings said, emphasizing that safeguarding what he called "a large wetland complex" will serve to protect both water quality and wildlife habitat. He stressed that two natural inventories found that the area support " a broad diversity of wildlife with a unique depth and breadth of species."

At the same time, Billings noted that a part of the property was long a working farm, laden with rich agricultural soils, while remains of grist mill testify to historical and cultural significance of the land to the town of Meredith.

Pointing out that the sidewalk along Pleasant Street leads directly to the property, Billings said that it will provide "an urban park and town forest within walking distance of downtown." A short distance from the schools, he said that the property will also serve as "an outdoor science lab." Finally, he said a 4.5-acre parcel at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Barnard Ridge Road has been "carved out" as a site for a new library should the trustees of the library, who have voted to relocate the library, choose to avail themselves of it.

Billings said that like the acquisition of Page Pond in 2010, the purchase will be undertaken in partnership with the the Trust for Public Lands and draw upon a mix of conservation funds and grants supplemented by a private contributions and a town appropriation. He said that Land and Community Heritage Program has expressed interest in the project and the conservation commission intends to approach the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Natural Resource Conservation Service, a federal program, both of which distribute funding for protecting natural resources and water quality.

Billings anticipated that financing for the project could be arranged before Town Meeting in March. "I'm optimistic," he said. "My experience of this town allows me to be optimistic."

County rental market relatively balanced


LACONIA — The market for rental housing remains tight as demand outpaces supply to raise rents and shrink vacancies throughout much of the state, according to the annual rent survey released by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority last week. However, the same survey indicates that Belknap County is among a handful of the 10 counties where the market is relatively balanced, with relatively stable rents and high vacancy rates.

Statewide, the median monthly gross rent, including utilities, for a two-bedroom unit is $1,206, which reflects a 15 percent increase in the five years since 2011. In Belknap County, the rent for a comparable unit rose from $975 to $1,005 between 2011 and 2012, then fell to $997 before slipping to $996 this year to to post an increase of 4 percent during the past five years.

While the vacancy rate for two-bedroom units is 1.5 percent across the state and below 2 percent in seven of its 10 counties, which Dean Christon, executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority suggests that demand has outrun supply. By contrast, the vacancy rate in Belknap County is 4.9 percent, which is the third highest in the state, trailing only Coos County at 6.9 percent and Sullivan County at 6.4 percent.

Christon said that vacancy rates below 2 percent reflect routine turnover of units rather than genuine vacancies while a rate of 4 percent to 5 percent A vacancy rate of near 5 percent indicates a rental market where supply and demand are reasonably balanced.

The survey found that in Belknap County 22 percent of two-bedroom units are within the means of households earning the median family income of $36,690. Or, put another way, a household in the county would require 109 percent of the median household income to afford the median rent of a two-bedroom unit. Only Grafton County and Rockingham County have larger stocks of affordable rental housing with 27 percent and 23 percent of units within the means of households earning the median incomes.

Statewide, only 14 percent of two-bedroom units are affordable to those with an estimated median household income of $37,949. In all 10 counties, the income required to afford a two-bedroom unit offered at the median rent exceeds 100 percent of the median income household earned by renters in the county.