Expert advises city on Union Ave. oak tree

LACONIA — The pending request of Gregg Nolan of Cafua Management Company , the owner of the Dunking Donuts an developer of the commercial building on Union Avenue, to remove the oak tree shading the northeast corner of the property quickly stirred interest in preserving the tree.

Nolan has yet to explain the reason for his request. However, the proximity of the tree to the curb cut entering and exiting the commercial lot has raised questions about the adequacy of the sight line for motorists turning on to Union Avenue. At the same time, because an asphalt sidewalk has been laid over the roots of the tree, there is concern about the heath of the tree itself.

This week Arthur Costonis of the Environmental Defense Fund, who has spent half-a-century saving large venerable trees around the country and the world, read about the threat to the oak, took time to asses it and shared his findings with Planning Director Shanna Saunders.

Cotonis estimated the tree, the trunk of which measures 14 feet around, at between 45 and 60 years old. On a scale of one, dead or dying, to five, excellent, he rated its "vigor" as three, or fair. He said that the vigor of the tree can be improved by taking several steps before winter. The central leader, or extension of the trunk, and some dead branches should be pruned and other limbs thinned.

The asphalt covering the root sytem, Costonis said, must be "immediately and carefully removed" and replaced with rich loam. Porous cement pavers should be atop the soil to permit the aeration required for root growth. Finally, in October the tree should be fertilized by injecting nutrients into the soil around its roots.

"This is a wonderful old specimen that in my opinion deserves to be preserved for posterity," Costonis wrote to Saunders, adding that he offered his recommendations "as a professional courtesy and civic duty."

Meanwhile, Paul Moynihan, director of public works, accompanied by City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), the council's liaison to the Planning Board, toured the site yesterday. Moynihan noted that if the curb cut were moved to spare the tree and improve the site line, parking spaces would be foregone.

When the Planning Board approved the site plan for the commercial building stipulated that "the large oak tree near the northeast corner of the property is a monumental shade tree, and as such shall be protected and maintain(ed) during and after construction." Saunders said that Nolan spoke to her about removing the tree, but has yet to submit a written request to do so. She said that any request remove the tree would be be submitted to the Planning Board, which could grant or deny it.

As Moynihan and Bownes eyed the situation yesterday, several passing motorists urged them not to cut down the oak.

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Penguin gas station receives approvals from Belmont planning and zoning boards

BELMONT — The Zoning Board of Adjustments granted Belmont Penguin Real Estate Holdings, LLC a variance to to build a gas pump canopy closer to the front property line on Route 106 than the 50-feet allowed by existing zoning ordinances.

Penguin engineer Matthew Moore told a 4-member ZBA that the company wants to move the canopy closer to the road to improve the turning radius and to provide fire trucks better access and maneuverability to reduce the risk they will collide with the canopy.

He said the entrance will remain one-way as will the exit to the south of the former D & D County Market and Deli.

In a meeting held earlier in August, the Planning Board approved a site plan that would relocate the diesel fuel pumps, pave and reconfigure the parking area, add fuel pumps, remove the propane filling tank, add a retaining wall, add a drive-through canopy and enlarge a walk-in cooler.

The reconfiguration of the parking lot and the addition of a 4-foot chain-link fence is necessary because Penguin was unable to come to financial terms with abutter George Condodemetraky about renting land previously used by D & D Market for parking and snow removal.

Minutes of the August 24 Planning Board meeting reflect the Condodemetrakys had numerous concerns with the latest site plan including storm-water runoff, the number of parking spaces and doubling the number of gas pumps.

Town Planner Candace Daigle said engineers designed the storm-water runoff and it has always worked in the past. She said there were no new gas tanks being added so the pumping capacity has not changed and the Planning Board can adjust the number of parking spaces, which actually increased from 20 to 21 without using the six spaces along the berm that separates Route 106 from the property. Daigle added that parking spaces are within the purview of the Planning Board and can be adjusted by them during the site plan review.

Site plan conditions include obtaining all DOT permits, swapping the location of the dumpster, adding one parking space, adding a 4-foot chain link fence along the property line, filling the opening of the of the existing guardrail on the southern border, striping the "no parking loading zone" south of the new fuel island, eliminating the six spaces along the Route 106 berm, and adding gas pumps that take credit and debit cards to reduce foot traffic to the store.

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32 years of public service - Pattison served critical role for State House, Laconia parks

LACONIA — The state and the city will soon bid farewell to a an exemplary public servant with the retirement of Jeff Pattison after 32 years with Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant (LBA) at the State House, the last six of them at its helm, and 14 years as a member of the Laconia Parks and Recreation Commission, a decade of them as its chairman.

Pattison and his wife Judy, who have lived in Laconia since 1977, intend to move to San Diego, California, where his brother has lived for some time and close to both their sons, A.J. and Tyler.

"Jeff has been a big asset to the community," said Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, "and we're going to miss him." During Pattison's tenure the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, where he donated the dugouts on the baseball diamond in memory of his father, came to fruition. Pattison contributed to bringing the New England Collegiate Baseball League to Laconia and served as a director of the Laconia Muskrats. A number of city parks and playing fields were renovated and improved under his direction. Dunleavy recalled that Pattison would come to commission meetings at 7 p.m., still dressed for work, and return to the State House when the meeting adjourned. "Jeff brought a lot to the table and there was lots of change on his watch," Dunleavy remarked.

Pattison joined the LBA in 1983 after working for seven years at Pike Industries, and in 2009, after serving with three of his four predecessors, became the fifth Legislative Budget Assistant since the position was established in 1947. The LBA consists of two divisions, the budget division, which provides technical assistance to the Legislature on all fiscal issues, and the audit division, which conducts financial, compliance and performance audits of state departments, agencies, commissions and programs.

A non-partisan office, the LBA works for the House and the Senate, the Republicans and the Democrats, the majority and the minority as well as with the many departments, agencies, boards and commissions throughout state government. "We work for them all," Pattison said, "and we walk a fine line." The position is a demanding one, particularly every other year when the Legislature prepares the biennial budget. The LBA staff often works late into the evening — even into the next morning — Pattison routinely went to his office on Sundays.

Recalling that he first stepped into the State House the day he began work 32 years ago, Pattison said "it's been my second home ever since.'" When he began he worked without a computer, only IBM Selectric typewriters and Monroe calculators. "That was our automation," he said.

Pattison said that in three decades there has been significant turnover in the office, but took pride that more than 20 former employees of the LBA are at work in other state agencies today. The experience, he said, "is all about the people I've dealt with. I would say thousands when you think about it over 32 years."

Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), who has worked closely with Pattison as both Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and President of the Senate, described him as "truly one of the people who really cares about New Hampshire." Stressing his professionalism, he said that "Jeff served both the Senate and the House, Republicans as well as Democrats and treated all of us just the same. " He noted that "he can take a complicated subject and make it work for every member of our legislature. Everybody agrees," he continued, "the level of integrity of the LBA is top notch."

Representative Neal Kurk (R-Weare), whose career on the House Finance Committee, paralleled Pattison's at the LBA prized his "unflappability" and described him as "evenhanded" and "exceptionally competent."

Representative Mary Jane Wallner (D-Conocrd), one of only two Democrats to chair the House Finance Committee in the last century, called Pattison "a great teacher," who tutored lawmakers not only about the budget but also about leadership.

Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, also underlined Pattison's professional approach to his responsibilities. "He could navigate the waters of politics," she said, adding that "anybody can swim about in calm waters, but its the stormy seas that take an exceptional person."

Matt Lahey recalled that he and his wife Chris went to dinner with the Pattisons virtually every Saturday night for years. Pattison's sons were contemporaries, classmates and friends of the Lahey children. "Jeff really took that job very seriously," Lahey said, "but, he was a great father who was always involved with the boys, helping with their academics and coaching their sports. This city will miss them."

"It's really been a great run," Pattison said, characteristically adding that he was confident he was leaving the LBA in position to serve the Legislature in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

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