To The Daily Sun,
I have an historic postcard depicting Union Avenue at a time when it was lined with large shade trees and stately homes. It bears a caption declaring the avenue as one of the loveliest in the country. Today, Union Avenue has only a very few isolated images of beauty left to enrich the soul of the city.
One of the most recent graces, the Hathaway House, is now gone despite assurances from the owner that much would be done to save it. Now, this same developer/owner is looking to "renegotiate" binding terms of preservation in order to destroy yet another image of beauty on Union Avenue. Gregg Nolin of Cafua Management is looking to cut down one of the last giant shade trees on Union Avenue, an oak that may be over 800 years old based upon calculations using an on-line tool from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
As I understand it, he is looking to cut it down just months after he submitted, and agreed to, a site plan that included preserving it. Is there a lack of discussion to simply switch the direction of traffic flow to make the curb cut near the tree an entrance rather than an exit in order to address concerns of line of sight for oncoming traffic? Mr. Nolin's action revisits what I read in The Laconia Daily Sun as his approach to the management of the Hathaway House and discussions with the city about his intention to conserve the structure.
His actions prompt me to appeal to the City of Laconia to not only deny his request to remove this tree, but to further protect it by paying for a third party, independent tree specialist to look after the tree to ensure it remains in good health. I would also ask the city to create and maintain a list of developers who have acted in 'bad faith' with regard to site plan violations and/or revisions that are an attempt to significantly reverse the Planning Board's intent for a development.
City officials could start the creation of this list by holding a public meeting for Laconia residents to help inform them of the city's procedure and legal obligations in reviewing development plans and gather input from the meeting attendees on what types of violations they would consider bad faith. The outcome of this information would then be the foundation of a policy written and adopted by the city to legally address actions deemed to be made in bad faith.
In addition to the adoption of this policy, the advisory role of the Laconia Heritage Commission should be strengthened to include city-sponsored access to legal counsel to develop some real teeth to employ in their role of conservation and protection of our historical resources. We have allowed our history and heritage to be gobbled up, and in some cases squandered, by private interests to the point where we have precious few identifying characteristics left. This city is predominately a collection of short-term box stores, empty paved lots, neglected buildings, and late 20th century residential housing. We need to look to the examples of cities where they have integrated modern business and personal lifestyles into historic buildings/settlements and green spaces because it is these places where a healthier and more balanced civic mindset is bred.