By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — As work continues at the Airport Commons retail plaza, which is the home of the Gilford Cinemas, the project developers got another piece of good news Tuesday night when the Conservation Commission voted to allow a new entrance to cross some wetlands along Route 11.
According to the wetland application passed by the Conservation Commission, the proposed new entrance is directly across from the eastern most exit of the Laconia Bypass.
Applications indicate that the crossing is at the highest point in the field and that a culvert will run underneath the entrance so the field will not be divided into two separate wetlands.
Project designer William Stack, who is with Steven Smith Associates, said the impact to the "functions and values of the total wetlands" will be insignificant as a roadway, a sewer main and other utility services have been installed through this area in the past.
The town has long supported the upgrade and future expansion of the newly named Airport Commons and considers it beneficial for the community and the commercial district.
WJP Development LLC of Portsmouth plans on purchasing the property but said last year that improving what is there and potentially adding to the shopping center was contingent on getting a new entrance directly off Route 11.
Initially the state Department of Transportation balked at the idea but in September of 2015 it approved the new entrance and also secured the agreement of the governor and Executive Council.
The ongoing improvements do not involve any additions to the existing footprint so a site plan review was not needed.
Planning Director John Ayer said that should Airport Commons expand in the future, a site plan will need to be filed and approved by the Planning Board. Any special exceptions or variances, should they be needed, would go before the Zoning Board of Adjustments.
The project has also been given a green light from the state Division of Historical Resources and the state Natural Heritage Bureau.
The current renovation is expected to be completed this fall. The Gilford Cinemas have remained open during construction as has the Gilford House of Pizza.
This map shows the proposed new entrance to Airport Commons (at top left), as approved by the Gilford Conservation Commission Tuesday night. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)