Surf Coaster lots may be rezoned to increase appeal to buyers

LACONIA — A change in the zoning for the old Surf Coaster USA lots could make the land easier to sell. The City Council this week asked the Planning Board to rezone the two parcels at the corner of White Oaks Road and NH Route 11B at The Weirs by making them part of the Commercial Resort district. The water park, which featured a variety of slides and a wave pool, opened in 1983 and closed in 2006, according to weirsbeach.com.
The two lots are in three different zoning districts. The largest lot, 6.7-acres at the corner of White Oaks Road and Endicott Street East (Route 11B) that houses the pools and slides, is in three districts — Commercial Resort, Residential Single Family and Residential Rural II. The second lot of 4.6-acres, where the parking lot is located, lies south of the first along White Oaks Road in the Residential Single Family and Residential Rural II districts.
Each zoning district not only has a specific mix of permissible uses but also a different set of dimensional requirements, including minimum lot sizes, frontage, setbacks and open space and maximum densities and building heights, which together would hamstring any plans to redevelop the properties.
City Manager Scott Myers explained that the zoning of the property has hindered efforts to sell or redevelop it. He said yesterday that several parties have recently shown interest in the property.
In 2007, Rick Hassler of Weirs Beach Management LLC, which purchased the property in 2001, was granted a variance by the Zoning Board of Adjustment that enabled him to treat the two lots as one, which would be governed by the stipulations of the Commercial Resort District. At the time, Hassler sought a partner to redevelop the property as a resort hotel.
Since then, the property has lain fallow and the variance has expired. This spring, when the Planning Board proposed changes to the boundaries of the Commercial Resort and Shorefront Residential zones, both lots were included in the redrawn Commercial Resort district. However, the City Council tabled the proposal.
If the Planning Board grants the council's request to include both lots in the Commercial Resort district, the issue would be referred back to the council for final approval.

NOTE: The City Council will reopen discussion about zoning regulations at The Weirs in January. Mayor Ed Engler said time will be allotted to the issue at four consecutive council meetings. He explained that attention will be primarily focused on the uses permitted and requirement applied along US Route 3/NH Route 11B corridor, which lies within the Commercial Resort district. He stressed that while the discussion is open to all, 25 significant property owners have been identified and will be invited to participate in the discussions.

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Gilford Police Station to show off new facility

GILFORD — The Police Department invites the general public to tour the newly reconstructed and expanded station from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday night.
Police officers will be on hand so they can meet with the general public, explain about policing in Gilford and provide tours of the new station. Light snacks and beverages will be offered.
The meet-and-greet will begin in the Emergency Operations Center, which will be accessible from the main lobby of the Gilford Town Hall.
In 2014, voters approved by a 60 percent margin to spend $1.2 million on the renovation and expansion of the police department. A special grant from Homeland Security provided the money for the Emergency Operations Center.
Attempts to build a new stand-alone station in 2006 and two other recently attempts to expand this one had failed before the 2014 vote.
Acording to Lt. Kristian Kelley, the new station is about 99 percent complete with just a few punch list items remaining.
The renovation adds a sally port, a new dispatch center with new consoles, a meeting and training space for the officers, and improved security measures as well as the Emergency Operations Center – some thing that used to be in the town meeting officers that were very difficult to secure.
With the entrance on the outside of the building, Kelley said people who need to conduct police business can do so with more privacy and security than before when all had to enter through the main door to the town offices.

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Pot plan - Belmont rep wants to make having small amounts of marijuana legal

CONCORD — When the New Hampshire Legislature meets in January, the long-running campaign to legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for any use will be championed by Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont).

Sylvia, who moved to New Hampshire with the Free State Project in 2010 and is serving his second term in the House of Representatives, said "I'd rather drink a beer than smoke a joint," then added, "As a supporter of liberty, I believe in supporting everybody's liberty."

Sylvia's legislation, House Bill 1610, permit those 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate no more than six marijuana plants — three or fewer if mature — on property the grower owns, leases or controls. The bill would permit the transfer of one ounce of marijuana from one adult to another so long as no money changes hands.

Sylvia said that much of the opposition to legislation that would legalize or decriminalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for personal use arises from a reluctance to adopt a state statute that violates the federal law. He explained that to overcome this objection, he modeled his bill on the law adopted in the District of Columbia in February after nearly two-thirds of voters approved a ballot initiative in November 2014.

"Congress has the authority to prevent it," Sylvia said, "but didn't."

About a dozen bills seeking to decriminalize or legalize marijuana have come before the New Hampshire Legislature in the past decade. While these efforts have found increasing support and even majorities in the House, they have failed, most often by voice vote, in the Senate. Bills to decriminalize possession of a quarter-ounce or less of marijuana carried the House in 2009, 2012 and 2013, but failed in the Senate. In 2014, a bill to license the cultivation, regulate the distribution and tax the sale of marijuana failed in the House by a 192 to 140 vote. This year, legislation establishing a commission to study legitimizing the sale of marijuana passed the House by a voice vote and died by a voice vote in the Senate.

"I'm confident my bill will pass the House," Sylvia said, "and that the Senate will do its things. But, it's another shot across the bow."

He claimed that "the war on drugs is a failure" and "pushing drugs onto the black market makes the situation much worse." He said that his bill would encourage individual freedom while diminishing the traffic in illicit drugs and the crime associated with it.

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