To The Daily Sun,
Readers will appreciate the irony of me writing a letter that's critical of a newspaper headline but Friday's "Mayor makes case for commercial development at The Weirs" has me doing just that.
On Oct. 11, I made a short, numerical presentation to City Council that was intended to bolster the case that a healthy amount of commercial property to tax lessens the burden on residences located within a municipality, thereby reducing the cost of housing. My presentation did not mention the Weirs nor was it meant in any way to suggest that the Weirs has a duty to carry the commercial property tax burden for the rest of the city.
The council has been advised by the city manager that Laconia's current ratio of residential to commercial property is in the 84 to 16 percent range and that a "healthy" range is something more like 65 to 35 percent. We know that almost all of the significant tracts of undeveloped Laconia land that are currently zoned commercial lie in the Rte. 3 corridor at the Weirs and preserving that option was certainly a major factor in crafting the Weirs rezoning proposal that the council has passed on to the Planning Board for review and comment. But that is not to say that most or all of future commercial development in the city should be restricted to the Weirs. The periodic review of our overall zoning plan should be examining the potential viability of new sites for commercial development.
There is no question that Laconia, as is true for much of New Hampshire, is facing a long-term demographic crisis. One look at declining school enrollment and the rising poverty level among the students who remain provides the graphic evidence. We are losing and not replacing our middle and upper-middle class families and the high cost of housing is unquestionably a major reason.
As far as solutions are concerned, I certainly do not need to have my way on all the details but we need to start this conversation.
Mayor Ed Engler
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