Belmont man petitions to restrict industry zoning in order to protect that town’s drinking water from potential pollution

BELMONT — Protecting Belmont's drinking water is at the heart of a petition to restrict new industrial uses over the town's aquifer, but the result could be a heavier tax burden for some taxpayers.

At least 25 residents of Belmont, led by George Condodemetraky, have petitioned the town to disallow all new industrial uses in the aquifer protection zone.

If passes during the ballot voting portion of the annual Town Meeting, the effect of the article would be to prevent any new industrial uses in any portion of the industrial zone that is overlain by the aquifer protection zone.

"I've been trying to protect the water supply for the last 15 years," said Condodemetraky. "And this is the last time I'm doing it."

According to a printout called Protecting the Tri-Town Aquifer — the three towns in the case being Belmont, Tilton and Northfield — there are 20,427 acres of land in Belmont and 7,053 are in the aquifer protection zone.

"It would mean no industrial uses in about one third of the town," Town Planner Candace Daigle said. "A very unequal tax burden will be placed on the other residents of the community."

She noted that if the warrant article passes, all of the companies that are operating within the industrial zone will continue to operate as they did before; however, any new growth in the currently designated the industrial zone would be limited.

Daigle said there are only 14 named industrial uses in the entire zoning ordinance and eight of them aren't permitted. These six are allowed: accessory building/use, heavy manufacturing, municipal solid waste transfer stations, petroleum and propane gas bulk storage, salvage and junkyards, vehicle and trailer storage, and truck terminals. Two of them, accessory building and vehicle and trailer storage,  are allowable in the commercial zone.
Anything that involves treated soils is by special exception only.

"We [The Planning Department] believe there will be a reduction in the assessed value [of the property in the industrial zone] and an unequal tax burden will be placed on the residents of the community," said Daigle.

Daigle said a blanket warrant article prohibiting all industrial uses in the aquifer protection zone is not the correct way to protect the aquifer.

She said the Tri-Town Aquifer Agreement holds Belmont to high standard.

"We are upstream. We know our responsibility," she said. "For someone to demand that we severely restrict our tax base seems not very well thought out. I don't see why Belmont would so encumber itself."

Condodemetraky disagrees.

"Since they know it's over the aquifer, it seems unreasonable that they wouldn't make it an issue," he said. "We're going to potentially pollute the aquifer without a thought as to where the next water will come from."

He said that Belmont's aquifer is a drift aquifer created by a glacier, leaving a shallow area under the ground that flows from Route 107 to the Tioga River, which flows into the Merrimack River.

"It is a shallow aquifer, which is a plus for a city water supply because it doesn't cost too much to pump," he said. "All three towns benefit."

Condodemetraky agrees that nothing can be done about what's already there, but said he has long contended that the Route 106 corridor is the best place for Belmont's future industrial development.

If something should happen to the aquifer, he said, the town would be forced to put in a water treatment plant, which could bankrupt Belmont.

"I'm at the end of the line," said the 79-year-old engineer. "I would think that some young people who have kids in mind would do something [about protecting the aquifer.]"

The Planning Board is having a special public hearing to discuss the petitioned warrant article on Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. in the Corner Meeting House.

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Laconia woman charged with aggravated DWI after crashing car in Lakeport

LACONIA – Police charged a young North Street woman with one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated after she flipped her car Thursday morning on Belvidere Street.

In a written media statement, police said they responded to area of Jefferson and Belvidere Streets at 3:08 a.m. for a report of a woman screaming, getting in her car and driving toward Elm Street.

When they arrived, they saw a car that had struck a tree and had flipped over, landing in the backyard of 222 Belvidere St. After a brief search of the area and checking the registration of the car, police went to the home of Jillian Vallee, 20, of 57 North St., where they found her. She is the registered owner of the car.

She said she was uninjured in the crash and declined medical treatment.

Police said Vallee allegedly registered more than twice the blood alcohol content legal limit of .08. She was released on personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to appear on Jan. 7 in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

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City to discuss parking garage repairs and options Monday

LACONIA — The Land and Buildings Committee of the City Council will begin its consideration of how to address the condition of the downtown parking garage when it meets on Monday, Dec. 28, at 6:15 p.m., prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the council, which begins at 7 p.m.

The ownership of the garage is unique. The ramps and north end of the second and third levels, including the northernmost stairwell, are owned by the city. The ground floor of the garage, except for the ramps, and the south end of the second and third levels, including the southernmost stairwell, along with seven commercial units on the ground level, are privately owned. The city is responsible for maintaining most of the garage, particularly the ramps to access the the second and third levels.

Genesis Behavioral Health has entered a purchase-and-sales agreement to purchase the privately owned portion of the facility, which includes some 36 of the 228 parking spaces and the commercial space on the ground floor. The agency intends to invest $5.5 million in acquiring the property and converting it to house its administrative and clinical services in the 26,000 square feet currently leased to the Grace Capital Church and two vacant units while continuing to rent units to four other businesses.

When the council discussed the future of the garage two weeks ago, Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, told the councilors that if the city did not repair the garage, Genesis would not acquire the private portion of the structure.

Dubois & King Inc. estimates the cost of repairs required to ensure long-term use of the downtown parking garage at $1.2 million. However, City Manager Scott Myers said that a section of the second level covered by fireproofing material remains to be assessed and suggested increasing the cost of repair to $1.5 million.

Myers said the repairs would extend the life of the ramps between 25 and 30 years and the decks between 30 and 40 years. In addition, he expected annual maintenance costs to average about $10,000 over the life of the facility.

Meanwhile, several downtown property and business owners urged the council to not only repair but also improve the garage by adding an exterior staircase, which would be lighted and glassed, and an elevator while taking steps to make it more welcoming, secure and attractive. Myers ventured that such improvements could raise the cost of the project to between $2 million and $3 million.

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