LACONIA — The City Council struck a blow for peace and quiet this week by denying the request of The Margate Resort to extend the hours for amplified music outdoors from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, then by a single vote agreed to let the music play until 10 p.m.
The lakeside resort is hosting MISTI-Con, which describes itself as "an immersive Harry Potter fan convention" held every other year, over the Memorial Day weekend from Thursday 21 to Sunday May 24. Kyle Parisi, general manager of the Margate, said Tuesday that this will be the third time MISTI-Con has visited the resort. He said that in 2011 the event drew some 400 people and two years later the number grew to 600.
This year, Parisi said that organizers expected between 800 and 1,000 to attend. The Margate resort is fully booked and the downtown Landmark Inn, owned by the same company, is accepting reservations. Parisi said the conventioneers are mostly affluent young professionals aged between 25 and 35, many from New York and Boston.
This year MISTI-Con has opened the event to local residents by offering individual and family passes to "The Wizarding World's Fair" without requiring registration for the convention itself.
The event closes with a Sunday night "Ministry Masquerade Ball" beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at midnight in a tent pitched on the West Lawn of the resort. The city's loudspeaker ordinance limits the use of outdoor sound equipment to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, except during Motorcycle Week.
Two weeks ago, Caroline Snyder, event manager, first presented the request for later hours to the council, but offered few details and acknowledged that nearby property owners had not been informed of the event. The council advised her to canvas the neighbors and tabled the request pending their response. When Snyder returned this week she told the councilors that a letter explaining the request to extend the hours of amplified music was sent to the 22 property owners at Eastern Shores Condominiums as well as Shaw's, China Bistro and the Paugus Bay Plaza Condominium Association, all of which are across Lake Street in Gilford. She said there has been one response from a woman who said she was "excited".
Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and David Bownes (Ward 2) spoke in favor of granting the request to extend the deadline until 11 p.m. Lipman said that there was no evidence the sound would have adverse impacts on others and granting the extension would be in keeping with the city's interest in supporting its hospitality industry and encouraging tourism.
However, Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) reminded his colleagues that some years ago when the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound made a similar request, the council denied it. Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) warned against making exceptions for some but not others. Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) expressed concern that the sound would carry across Paugus Bay.
After the council voted three-to-two to deny the request, Lipman suggested granting a one hour extension, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., which won over Hamel's vote and carried by a majority of three-to-two.
"I guess that's the best they can do," Parisi said of the compromise. " They may not be overly happy, but they will manage with 10 p.m."