LACONIA — The recommendation to rezone about 2 1/2 miles of Weirs Boulevard from the Commercial Resort (CR) district to the Shorefront Residential (SFR) district has rankled a number of Weirs business owners, who will urge the City Council to ask the Planning Board to reconsider the proposal.
The proposal, prepared by the Zoning Task Force and endorsed by the Planning Board, will be presented to the City Council when it meets on Monday, May 11 at 7 p.m.
Attorney Paul Fitzgerald yesterday confirmed that he represents the Naswa Resort and will address the City Council on behalf of the Makris family, who he said are "seriously concerned about the impacts of creating a predominantly residential zone compared to what has been allowed and encourage up and down the boulevard in the past. " He said that the owners of other business entities share these concerns and he expected they would express them to the council..
Fitzgerald said that the rezoning, along with several changes in the uses permitted in the CR zone, appear "at variance with discussions with property owners at the Weirs during the past 20 years in so far as they are more, not less, restrictive."
The proposal would designate the length of Weirs Boulevard from just south of the Naswa to the junction with White Oaks Road, which is currently in the CR district, as SFR. The change would alter the mix of permitted and prohibited uses significantly.
Properties sharing residential and commercial uses, which are permitted in the CR zone would not be permitted in the SFR zone. Likewise, a number of commercial uses permitted in the CR district — restaurants, flea markets, retail outlets, sexually oriented businesses, shopping centers, appliance repair, banks, laundromats, personal services, professional offices — would also be prohibited. Entertainment and recreational uses permitted in the CR district — arcades, amusement parks, art centers, movie theaters and nightclubs — would not be permitted in the SFR district. Car washes, taxi services, auto dealerships and fueling station, permitted in the CR district, would be prohibited in the SFR district.
However, hotels, motels and inns as well as neighborhood stores are permitted in both the CR and SFR zones.
Don Richards, a resident of the Weirs and longtime member of the Planning Board, said the proposal recognizes that Weirs Boulevard has become a predominantly residential neighborhood and future development is likely to increase the number of residential units. He noted that Brady Sullivan seeks to build some 300 residential units at Langley Cove while "no new commercial projects are planned on the boulevard".
The owners of these residential units, Richards described as seasonal and weekend residents, who "pay heavy taxes, use few services, have few if any children in the schools. " He said because they are occasional residents "they don't have a voice here. They want to sleep when they want to sleep," he continued. "And they don't want loud outdoor music screaming at them when they're trying to sleep."
Richards was echoed by Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board, who also lives at the Weirs. The proposal, he said, "recognizes what has taken place and reflects what it is. You have to respect that Weirs Boulevard is a residential zone and one of the most scenic roads in the city." Hutchins described the proposal as "a very pro-property owner change" that provide predictability to owners of residential units.
There are 10 businesses operating now or opening soon in the affected area of the boulevard: four motels, two restaurants, an ice cream shop, security firm, insurance agency and real estate office. Richards stressed that the existing businesses would be "grandfathered" and insisted that the proposed change "does not effect anybody on Weirs Boulevard in business who wants to stay in the business they're in. Nobody should have an issue."
However, Fitzgerald suggested that because a variance or special exception would be required to change the existing use of a commercial property, the encumbrance could impair its value.
John Ganong, who has operated several businesses on the boulevard over the years, declined to comment on the merits of the proposal, but said "my concern is the people who don't know what is going on. There are people returning from Florida," he continued, "who will ask 'what's going on here?' They should have been notified as property owners and property taxpayers."
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