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City Council approves sign ordinance

LACONIA — Following a public hearing the City Council last night voted unanimously to enact an ordinance regulating the operation and location of electronic signs throughout the city.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) acknowledged the concern of some business owners that the ordinance was unnecessarily restrictive, but feared if the council sought to amend it, it would only further put off the day when firms eager to erect signs could do so.
As proposed by the Zoning Task Force and endorsed by the Planning Board, the ordinance distinguishes between two types of "electronic message center" (EMC) — "static" and "dynamic." Static electronic signs are those on which neither the copy nor pictures change during the message while their dynamic counterparts appear to move or change as they present a stream of images or words that fly in, fade out, rotate and scroll across the face of the sign.
Neither type of electronic sign is permitted in the six residential districts. Where they are permitted, the dimensions and heights of signs must to conform to those of free-standing signs in the specific district. Moreover, the electronic portion of the signs must not exceed 75 percent of the total area of the sign, a provision that ensures that all such signs are framed.
EMC-dynamic display signs are confined to the commercial resort district, which includes The Weirs, and permitted there only by special exception.
EMC-static display signs are excluded from the downtown riverfront district, but permitted in the commercial resort district and permitted by special exception in the professional, business central, business central/industrial, commercial, industrial park, industrial and airport industrial districts. In addition, the display, whether imagery or script, on EMC-static display signs cannot change more frequently than every five minutes.
Suzanne Perley, who chaired the task force, said that seven of the 13 cities — Claremont, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Keene, Lebanon and Portsmouth — in the state prohibit EMCs altogether, three — Manchester, Nashua and Somersworth — permit them, and they are unregulated in Berlin and Rochester.

Several members of the business community spoke against the proposed ordinance, challenging the the requirement for a special exception and the frequency at which messaging can change.

Longtime real estate broker Steve Weeks, who served on the Zoning Task Force, repeated his concern that requiring a special exception for all EMCs placed an unnecessary additional expense and regulatory burden on the applicant. He pointed out that while the current ordinance restricts the districts where EMCs can be placed, it permits them by right, without requiring a special exception. Likewise, Weeks told council that the messages on EMCs should be allowed to change more frequently than every five minutes, which "is just way too long." He proposed a frequency of every 30 seconds.
Jeff Flanders of the Byse Agency Inc., which is in the professional district on Union Avenue, said he has been seeking to erect an EMC for three years. While he welcomed the recommendation to permit electronic signs in the professional district, he echoed Weeks in challenging the need for a special exception.

Brian Gilbert of Gilbert Block on Route 107, who invested $35,000 in an EMC, objected to the five minute limit on messaging.

"These rules aren't allowing anybody to get the best bang for their buck out of their signs," he said. He suggested that "some people have an agenda not to see business succeed in this town" and recalled one business owner told him "'if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't spend a penny here.' It's a tough town to do business in," Gilbert remarked.

On the other hand, Michael Foote, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which grants special exceptions, and the Zoning Task Force, urged the council to adopt the ordinance as proposed. He said that the special exception provided the ZBA with an opportunity to review the proposed sign and did not represent an onerous burden. He said that the task force did not want "to turn Laconia into Las Vegas with flashing lights everywhere."

"Laconia will never be Las Vegas," countered Gilbert. "It'll be lucky not to be taken over by Tilton."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 01:49

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Gilford Memorial Day gathering told to be 'forever grateful'

GILFORD — The clouds broke just in time for the the 300 or so people who attended the annual Memorial Day parade yesterday.

The parade was led by flag bearer and Police Officer Charles Hopkins who has been a local part-time officer for 50 years in both Laconia and Gilford.

Marine Corp Veteran Doug Wall and Army Veteran Wesley DeSousa lead the Gilford Police Department Color Guard and Fire Chief and Deputy Chief Steve Carrier and Brad Ober lead the Fire Department Color Guard.

The Knights of Columbus were there in full-regalia and the Gilford High School marching band brought up the rear with patriotic songs. Also participating were veterans in a white fire truck, veterans, surviving spouses, Blue and Gold Star mothers, members of the Board of Selectmen, town department heads, and the Girl Scouts.

Once at the cemetery, high school trumpeter Hunter Anderson played Taps.

At the route that runs from the Gilford Community Church to the World War I and II Memorial to the Pine Grove Cemetery, Hopkins handed the flag to two members of the military who raised it after a members of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of Troop 243 laid a ceremonial wreath.

Reverend Michael Graham gave a benediction at each of the two sites reminding his audience that "may we never forget what they have done."

Along the parade route, people lined Belknap Mountain Road as the parade progressed along the quarter mile stretch.

The keynote speech at the cemetery was given by Selectman Vice Chair Gus Benevides.

"We cannot allow ourselves to every stop being grateful," Benevides began.

Benevides took yesterday speech as a time to not only honor those who had given their life in battle but to honor those who served but came back wounded both inside and out.

"We should honor our soldiers and their families who served and who are still serving," he continued. "We must encourage and support them."
Benevides encouraged those who were at the ceremony to seek out a veteran and ask what he or she could do to help them.

"It is our opportunity now to serve our veterans," He said. "May we always be grateful to the families of our soldiers."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 12:52

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Police break up teen drinking party in Laconia

LACONIA — Police broke up an under-age drinking party at 1:27 a.m. on Sunday after getting a call about a large party at 197 Province Street.

Austin Kessler, 19, of 197 Province St. has so far been charged with one count of internal possession of alcohol.

Police said the circumstances surrounding the party are still under investigation.

According to police, when officers arrived the saw several people who were on a porch run into the home.

When police went to the door, the said they saw numerous beer cans, bottles and red solo cups strewn on the deck.

Police say many of the party goers ran behind the house into a wooded area and additional officers were called to the scene to assist with the people who were there and to look for those who fled.

Five people so far have been charged with unlawful/internal possession of alcohol. They ranged in age from 17 to 20.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 12:39

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American Motorcyclist Association salutes Laconia Bike Week

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Has named Laconia Motorcycle Week as the Recreational Road Riding Organizer of the Year.

Laconia Motorcycle Week, at 91 years, the oldest Motorcycle event in the country, was up against tough competition for this honor, the Iron Butt Rally and New York's Americade, but the AMA committee voters decided that Laconia deserved the award. AMA Director of Racing Bill Cumbow said, "Laconia's organizers always do a good job of advancing the core values of the AMA. Laconia Motorcycle Week promotes the motorcycle lifestyle in a safe, fun and responsible way, and we're looking forward to another 91 years of this great event."

Charlie St. Clair, Laconia Motorcycle Week Association's executive director accepted the award on behalf of the rally, saying, "It was gratifying to be recognized by the most prestigious national motorcycling organization in the country. Obviously, the "In Laconia We Ride" concept rings true for the AMA as well as rally fans."

Other award winners included Off-Road Organizer of the Year: East Coast Enduro Association; Track Racing Organizer of the Year: American Sportbike Racing Association; ATV Organizer of the Year: Michael Coburn Racing. In addition, the country's best amateur motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle racers from the track, trail, desert and everywhere in between were honored at the American Motorcyclist Association Championship Banquet in January.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 12:37

Hits: 454

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