To The Daily Sun,
I gave very emotional testimony this week at the Laconia Planning Board meeting against the mayor's proposal for a new zoning corridor for Route 3 — or Endicott North — from White Oaks Road to the Meredith Line for commercial growth. We live in the Weirs and have owned here for 37 years. We have seen it good times mobbed with families and the bad times.
— There has been no great demand for commercial growth or a zoning corridor as it is. Why is this? Ten-plus parcels are currently for sale. Why put more restrictions on what they could be used for? There are currently not enough year-round customers to justify commercial uses.
— Laconia's Charter would prevent anyone from developing these properties until after all the new zoning regulations are complete. Once a public meeting has been announced for a change in zoning, which will happen in a week or two, no one can present a new development to the Planning Board, by City Charter. By law you cannot cherry pick changes dependent on the mayor's approval.
— Years ago, Laconia's Planning Department proudly won a competitive grant by the EPA to study and to report on a very professional assessment of Laconia. Their experts spent weeks researching everything about Laconia; "the books," its charter, what residents, business owners, government and departments of Laconia, various volunteer boards and anyone else interested. The result was a very comprehensive report re. their professional recommendations for future growth for the three major areas of Laconia — downtown; Lakeport and The Weirs. Each one is very different in its character and needs. EPA had many experts of land planning, economists, engineers , marketing, etc... . This report was never mentioned. The mayor created a plan just on his own thoughts, bypassing the usual Laconia professionals and volunteer boards with their expertise and the specified ways to change zoning (Planning Department ,Planning Board, ZBA, professional city departments etc..) or even to show there is any demand.
— The mayor's proposal (he who has no expertise in these areas) ignored the report and wants to put all new taxes on The Weirs for all of Laconia. This area is the main entryways to the Weirs Beach Resort area. We are again treated as the ugly stepchild of Laconia. If the proposal sounds too good to be true (for tax relief), it usually is!
— Laconia has industrial parks where his football size buildings are appropriate, and there is space available, but in actuality how much demand has there been?
— I disagree that this is the only area for commercial growth in Laconia. Other parts of the city are great for commercial growth. Downtown Laconia has many empty buildings on Main Street. Union Avenue is already mostly commercial and there are for rent/sale signs.
— I disagree that there should be no residential building in this area, unless above the first floor. There is tremendous residential property there already. Why bring this commercial-only corridor into a place where it could devalue all their property as well as risk the success of the current resort type businesses and rentals.
— Driving through a major entryway to the Weirs with football field size buildings and commercial business plus the added truck and traffic would certainly change The Weirs and add a stark negative contrast to the resort of Meredith.
— The Weirs and its entryways are currently designated for resort commercial. Not once did the mayor comment on the value of Lake Winnipesaukee. It is not just the gem of Laconia and the Lakes Region, but all New Hampshire. This area represents one of the largest tourist areas of this region. Located together we have the Mt Washington boat, the mail boats, the Hobo Railroad, stately Victorian buildings and boardwalk, arcades, the best beach of any town or city around the lake and beautiful views of the lake and the mountains.
We have a very large business of family rental cottages and motels in the Weirs. Currently Laconia is paying big money for renovations to the Weirs that should help with demand and growth. Making this area year-round should be a priority, as the EPA recommended. The son of a large property owner stated they are considering a large wedding/conference center and hotel with incredible views of Winnipesaukee and the mountains. This is the way to grow and improve our image and tax base.
— The proposal wants no green space requirements. Green areas help prevent flooding and destruction. Someone stated a green requirement would prevent a current prospect from buying the Weirs Drive In movie property. This spot shouts out for green space since the front can drain into Winnipesaukee the back drains into the channel and Paugus Bay, Laconia's water supply. Maintaining its current use is a wonderful tourist attraction and part of the history of the Weirs. Special consideration could help. Green space could hide less desirable uses and people come to N.H. expecting to see woods, and trees.
— The mayor did not discuss the future of Bike Week. Every year attendance has gone down. This and its success or failure represents the Weirs and all Laconia. It is the silent elephant in any discussion of the Weirs that must be addressed.
— The mayor would like to rush his proposal through. The last time the Mayor and City Council rushed something through was LaconiaFest ... which failed and the city lost money, protests from residents of the blaring harsh music for miles and miles. If it sounds too good to be true ... it usually is. Another black eye for the Weirs resort image.
— A previous mayor and City Council tried to ignore the resort quality. The Weirs revolted and almost won the succession of The Weirs from Laconia. The cash cow was almost lost. This could happen again.