Paving the Winni Trail

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Paving for the Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail was operated by R&D Paving of Franklin during the beginning of last week. The trail stretches from Belmont Town Beach to Osborne's Agway in Belmont, and is expected to be expanded in due time to connect with Tilton and later Concord. Rick Ball, land use technician for the town of Belmont, said that the paving has gone perfectly and according to plan. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)

Storage instead of water slides?

Proposal for old Surf Coaster property meets resistance


LACONIA — A proposal to construct a storage facility for boats, automobiles and recreational vehicles on the property that last housed Surf Coaster USA at The Weirs got short shrift when the Planning Board held a conceptual review of the project this week.

The 11.3-acre lot lies at the junction of White Oaks Road and Endicott Street East overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee in the commercial resort district. The property is owned by Weirs Beach Management LLC, a consortium headed by Rick Hassler of Gilford, which purchased it for $600,000 in 2001. The water park ceased to operate about 10 years ago and ever since Hassler has sought without success to market the property as the site of a resort hotel or recreation complex.

Charlie Morgan, who owns and operates Vault Motor Storage Inc. of Merrimack said there are three elements to his plan for the property. The parking lot, which has 287 spaces, each 10 feet wide, would be used for outdoor boat storage throughout the year. A 140,000-square-foot building, tiered to the sloping terrain, would provide heated storage for boats, cars and RVs. Finally, Morgan said that the remaining two acres fronting on Endicott Street East could be developed as a restaurant or any other use the community found appropriate.

Morgan stressed that the facility would cater to well-to-do patrons storing expensive, exotic and valuable vehicles. Prices for storage at the Merrimack facility start at $175 per month.

Boat storage is a permitted use in the commercial resort district, but the storage of vehicles and RVs is not. Consequently, the project would require a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Planning Board, opened the public hearing by reading a letter from City Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1) describing the project as "disastrous" and "counterproductive." She feared it would have "a negative impact on surrounding properties" and was not in keeping with the Master Plan. The Weirs, Doyle said, "is experiencing a rebirth," which she warned would be jeopardized by building and operating a storage facility on the lot.

Hutchins himself described the property as "pivotal" for the future of The Weirs and advised Morgan there are many other sites in the city more suitable for a storage facility. He said that resort owners at The Weirs have made significant investments in their properties and are intent on sustaining The Weirs as a resort destination.

Fred Clausen of Proctor's Cottages echoed Doyle, then referring to the RV park on the other corner of junction of White Oaks Road and Endicott Street East, said "the trailer park is a big blemish," explaining that the view from the water is particularly unsightly.

"As a 50-year resident, I'm disappointed," said Denise Poirer of Abakee Cottages. "This is the wrong place for storage." She said a hotel or recreational facility would be an appropriate use for the property and would contribute much more to economic vitality of The Weirs.

Bill Contardo of the Planning Board reminded his colleagues that Al Mitchell, who owns property on Endicott Street North, withdrew a proposal to build construct a storage facility when businesses and homeowners at The Weirs expressed their misgivings. Moreover, he said, when Peter Morrissette, who acquired the lot housing St. Helena's Mission Church, proposed using it for storage, the board rejected the plan.

Among the board members, only Mike Limanni questioned dismissing Morgan's proposal out of hand. He pointed out that despite robust property markets in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, the property has not been redeveloped, but has remained vacant. He asked how many resorts have been built on 11 acres in the past 40 years and when told none wondered why the board expected one to be built in the next 10 years.

Ernie Millette, a real estate agent who has spent a decade seeking to market the property, told the board he had dealt with 70 prospects, including hoteliers and developers of recreational facilities. He said that many "ran the numbers" only to find that the season is too short to recoup the investment required to construct a resort hotel or recreational attraction. Trader Joe's, the grocery store chain, found the property "too far off the beaten track."

Hassler recalled one developer who said "Can you imagine someone at the Marriott giving directions, telling a guest to turn left at the trailer park?"

Acting Planning Director Brandee Loughlin reminded the board of the definition of the commercial resort district as expressed by the zoning ordinance. The district, the ordinance reads, "is primarily intended to set aside areas where establishments catering to the dining, lodging and recreational needs of tourists and seasonal residents may be located" and continues to refer to "open space," "attractive landscaping" and "small shops."

Dollar General gets first approvals for new Belmont store near fire station


BELMONT — A new Dollar General may soon be built at 15 Gilmanton Road in Belmont Village if all goes according to plan. Both Belmont Planning Board members and local community members said they are excited for this major store to come to town. Dollar General is a variety store that often serves smaller rural areas with discount merchandise.

When asked what they thought of having a Dollar General come to town, locals outside of the Dunkin' Donuts in Belmont said it is a good thing which will bring more business to town. Other business owners in the area had not heard of the plans but said they thought that any new business is good business. The only concern a few citizens expressed Wednesday was about possible traffic issues with the location near the fire station, especially if heavy traffic were to stop emergency vehicles from leaving as quickly as they need to.

Beginning the application review process at the end of May, the committee has since determined that the plot of land meets general requirements for the proposed infrastructure. Once additional permits are passed and additional zoning requirements are met, the Planning Board will allow demolition and building to begin. On July, 25 an initial outline of what the Dollar General could look like was proposed to the board by Matthew Bombaci of Bohler Engineering, who works in conjunction with Liscotti Development.

After evaluating the property, the lot was approved for parking requirements, with a waiver allowing 31 parking spaces instead of the required 40, and it has been deemed handicap accessible. Additionally, the board passed a motion for a tree buffer that will allow the trees on the plot to be left standing unless one dies or falls down, which will result in all of the surrounding trees' removal.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation a crosswalk cannot be built from the east side of the fire station across 140 to the subject lot that is in direct access to the parking lot. Thus, there are concerns regarding pedestrians crossing the street to get to the store, which are still being evaluated.

Candace Daigle, town planner for Belmont, said the Planning Board has asked to change the evaluation and roofing outline in order to meet requirements, and has been pleased with how accommodating the designers have been with the requested changes.

"We appreciate they put a little extra effort into the roof line," said Daigle.

08-04 Dollar General

This property in Belmont across from the fire station is being considered for demolition as Dollar General proposes a new store there. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)