State agrees to ease way for redevelopment of Gilford shopping center with sale of key piece of land

GILFORD — The town and a Portsmouth commercial real estate developer got some good news last week when the N.H. Department of Transportation agreed to sell a parcel of land off Lake Shore Road (Rte. 11) for a second entrance to Gilford Airport Plaza, known locally as the home of Gilford Cinemas 8.

The portion of land is directly opposite the north exit from the Laconia Bypass onto Rte. 11 and there is already a traffic light used to manage left-hand turns.

WJP Development, LLC of Portsmouth plans to purchase and rehab the 62,000-square-foot shopping center — which it refers to as Gilford Commons — but the project almost fell through in December of 2014 when the DOT initially refused to allow them to build a second entrance. Right now, the only way in or out of the property is through a single entrance off Old Lake Shore Road, across from the Airport Country Store.

When Gilford Town Administrator Scott Dunn apprised the Selectboard about the DOT's original decision, selectmen expressed dismay and anger, saying the proposed development at that site is exactly what the town needs and wants. They asked Dunn to contact the DOT and work with local engineer Steve Smith — who is engineering the project — to intervene.

"We are very excited, we love that property," said Stuart Scharff, one of the principals of WJP Development, during an interview with The Daily Sun on Tuesday. "It's in a nice spot."

Scharff said the building was constructed as a Globe Department Store in either the late 1960s or the early 1970s. "The (Globe) had a good sense of location," he said.

He said that the town of Gilford was extremely helpful in securing the desired DOT permission for the new entrance and he is excited about bringing some stores and restaurants to the area. He noted that the Cinema 8 is planning on doing an upgrade on the inside while his company works on the outside.

Scharff said the company bought the property in June.

The final hurdle is for the governor and Executive Council to agree to sell the property for the new entrance to WJP for $36,100, which included an administrative fee of $1,100.

Woman falls off Crystal Lake dam

GILMANTON — An unidentified 26-year-old woman suffered substantial injuries when she fell 15- to 20-feet from the dam on Crystal Lake yesterday.

Fire Chief Joe Hempel said the woman apparently lifted one leg over the guard rail, lost her balance and fell backwards into the deep water as the base of the spillway.

The dam, said Hempel, feeds into the Suncook River. He said locals call it the "horseshoe" dam because its shape.

Hempel said the fall knocked her unconscious but the current carried her to the side of the dam and one of her friends was able to get her out of the water.

"She was conscious, alert and talking when we arrived," said Hempel who added that when the department was first called he feared for the worst.

"We went prepared to get into the water and find her but fortunately she was already on land," he said.

Hempel said a paramedic from the Laconia Fire Department met the Gilmanton ambulance at the Gilmanton School and transported her to Lakes Region General Hospital. He said the paramedic was called because she broke a number of bones and needed pain relief. Hempel said she also sustained a gash on her head.

"This could have been a very tragic day for her," he said.

Contract to sell Elm Street lot to marina still in the works

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that the transaction conveying the city property now leased by Lakeport Landing, LLC to Irwin Marine has not yet been completed.

He said the attorneys for the city and Irwin Marine are "working through the details" of the transaction, which was approved by City Council on June 8. The marina agreed to pay $528,000 for the 0.81-acre strip of land and the 9,840-square-foot building the was constructed on it by Lakeport Landing.

"It (the agreement) is in its final form," Myers said who was given permission from the City Council to negotiate and execute the agreement. "But we have not given the final okay or executed it yet."

The questions about the timing of the actual transfer have become relevant because Erika Blizzard, the owner of Lakeport Landing, LLC., has filed suit in Belknap County Superior Court to ask a judge to review and rescind the City Council's actions in selling the property to Irwin Marine. Blizzard has questioned the legitimacy of the bidding process.

He said some of the conditions of the sale are that Lakeport Landing, despite the fact its 30-year lease on the land expires in October, can continue to use the property and showroom it built for up to two additonal years.

The annual rent of $8,750 which he said was renegotiated about five years ago, will continue to flow into the city coffers from Lakeport Landing in two yearly installments.

Myers said Irwin Marine will have a binding purchase and sales agreement in its possession and will be allowed to close the sale once the property has been vacated. The city will hold an undetermined amount of money in escrow until the final conveyance is completed.