Bridge to Parish House: Congregational Church begins work on project to connect buildings via elevagted walkway

LACONIA — Two downtown buildings that have been neighbors for nearly 50 years are soon to be married. The Congregational Church of Laconia - UCC broke ground yesterday on a project to build a second-floor bridge joining the gothic, century-old church, located at the corner of Pleasant Street and Veterans Square, with the next-door Parish House. The project is the third of four capital improvements the church is undertaking, which will cost a cumulative $800,000.

"About three years ago we realized that there were certain capital projects we needed to accomplish," said Rev. Dr. Warren Bouton. The church has already renovated its kitchen and upgraded its elevator, and plans to improve the foyer at the church's entrance from Pleasant Street. The enclosed bridge between the two buildings, which is expected to cost $425,000, will allow for parishioners to travel from from the church to the Parish House, for programs such as Sunday school, without having to go outside and cross a driveway. Also included in the project will be what Bouton calls a "welcome center," a ground-level entrance that will enhance the safety and comfort of people using the elevator to enter the church.

Because the circa 1959 Parish House does not have an elevator, the bridge will allow less mobile church members and visitors to access the second floor of the Parish House by taking the elevator to the second floor and then crossing the bridge across the driveway.

Bouton said that the church's building team wanted to connect the two buildings without blocking the foot traffic that often flows between the church and the Parish House. People often use the driveway to walk to the farmers' market held in the municipal parking lot behind the two buildings, or from the lot to access nearby restaurants. "This driveway is a thoroughfare for the community," he said. The passageway will no longer be open to vehicle traffic, however.

The church has hired Bauen Corporation of Meredith to complete the work.




A ceremonial ground-breaking was held for the project to connect the Congregational Church of Laconia - UCC to the Parish House next door via a second-story bridge. Shown here, left to right in the back row, are church members Bob Bengtson, Ted Tunnicliffe, Dan Tinkham, Ray Vercoe, Alida Millham, site superintendent Wayne Dale, and church member John Kreitler. In the front row, left to right, are church members Sandy Brallier and Peg Petrie, Associate Pastor Paula Gile, Rev. Dr. Warren Bouton, and project manager Greg Smith. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

Gardner asks for appointment to historic district board

GILMANTON — A man who wants his property removed from the Gilmanton Historic District has asked selectmen to appoint him to fill a vacancy on the commission that overseas that district.

Craig Gardner of 533 Meetinghouse Road petitioned the town to be allowed to leave the the Corner Meetinghouse historic district after he was told by the former board that he must tear down the vinyl fence he uses to keep his dogs contained because he didn't use materials consistent with the time period the district is trying to conserve. His petition was supported by a majority of voters but not the super-majority it later turned out was required under N.H. law.

Gardner said his home was built in the 1970s using many vinyl products so his fence actually does comply with the intent of the district's rules.

Former member Deb Chase has decided not to seek a new 3-year term.

Selectmen say they are seeking one regular commission member and two alternates. No other candidates were mentioned at last night's Selectboard meeting.

The board voted to table Gardner's request for appointment because he has also posed a few questions to the town of attorney about the results of the referendum on his petition.

Selectman Chair Don Guarino said the town should wait on appointing or not appointing him to the commission until the town attorney has answered his questions.

Specifically, Gardner notes that his petition was favored by a majority of voters but a "protest" petition was filed by some abutters that would have made it necessary to get a two-thirds majority for his warrant article to pass.

What didn't happen was any notification to the public from the town that the protest petition had been filed. By state law, it should have been posted at the polling place stating the petitioners needed to comprise a certain percentage of voters to withdraw from the district.

Gardner's question to attorney Laura Morgan-Spector is why she later classified failure of the town to post the notice and for the town moderator failure to announce it a "minor procedural error".

"The omission of public notice meant that the petitioners of the legal petitions filed for the zoning changes did not know until after the election that a two-thirds majority would have been necessary," wrote Gardner in a letter to selectmen.

He said that it is reasonable to expect that if the petitioners knew they needed a super majority, then they would have changed their pre-election strategy to address it.

He claims the law gives equal weight to the mathematics of the petition as it does to the posting requirements and because certain portions of the law were ignored appears to mean that one part of the law is not as important as the other.
Town Administrator Arther Capello said Gardner came to the last selectman's meeting and submitted a list of questions for Spector-Morgan to answer. He said the questions have been forward to her and the selectmen await her answers.

Paugus Bay Marina to open showroom on Union Ave.

LACONIA — Paugus Bay Marina of Lakeport has begun operating a second showroom at 1258 Union Ave., the waterfront property that formerly housed Fitzgerald Motorsports, which was recently acquired by an investor who leased it to the marina.

Kevin Keenan, who owns and operates Paugus Bay Marina, said yesterday that the business has undergone rapid growth, especially since becoming the only Formula dealership in northern New England five years ago. He said that the property was on the market for more than a decade before it was sold and when the buyer cast about for a tenant "I was in the right place at the right time."

Keenan said that the property includes three boat slips and can be reached by boat from the marina's facility to the south. Apart from the greater visibility afforded by a building of more than 7,000 square feet, which was constructed as a showroom of steel and glass, he said that being next door to Watermark Marine Construction is a "win-win. The two businesses complement one another," he said. "We couldn't have a better neighbor."