To The Daily Sun,
In 1978, my family purchased Lakeport Landing Marina. They sold everything they had, including a vehicle, just for the down payment. My father came from less than nothing, but what he lacked in education and money, he made up for with hard work and determination. My parents struggled for years working every day to turn a boatyard, which looked more like a junkyard, into a marina. My father had a vision.
His vision was hindered in 1983 after he rightfully purchased the property located at 21 Elm St. from the City of Laconia for $25,000. An error was made by the city and Irwin Marine sued to block the sale. The mistake resulted in the city having to undo the transaction and return the money to my father. We ended up with a 30-year lease instead, which at the time was our only option.
My father always believed that there was an understanding with the city that he had the first right to purchase the property at the end of the lease. My father passed away on April 10, 2013. For most of my life, I have known how important obtaining this property was to him. I saw how disappointed he was at the end when he realized that his time was running out and this part of his vision from way back in 1978 had not been achieved.
Over the years we invested over $500,000 in the property in the form of improvements, taxes and lease payments. Last fall we offered to purchase the property for $331,400, which is the assessed value. By this offer, we were essentially purchasing the showroom twice. We had made the lease payments for the last 30 years and also paid to build the building, which in 1983 was in excess of $200,000. It was the deal my father had to take 30 years ago, and 30 years later; this is what the City of Laconia felt the property was worth.
I became aware that Irwin Marine also still wanted the property and intended to move aggressively to do whatever it took to obtain it. They are already the largest marina in the state of New Hampshire so obtaining this property, which is a long narrow strip of land less than one acre, was not going to give them any more exposure and very little additional space. I couldn't help but think that it must be some sort of power play when their representatives bluntly told me that they would acquire the property and have much deeper pockets than Lakeport Landing to do so.
They informed me that it "wasn't personal, it was business". After 37 years of being their neighbor it was both personal and business, bad business.
I was shocked when the City Council unexpectedly made their decision during a time where I felt we were still in the negotiation process. I believe there was a rush to judgement and lack of consideration when the final decision was made roughly 30 minutes after looking at the two offers. Sure, the Irwin Maine offer was in excess of any reasonable value for the property, but I question whether the City Council really had time to consider the fairness of the two offers.
Without committing to a final price, my offer included an agreement to keep a taxable building of the existing size on the property for a period of 50 years. I also agreed to substantially increase the size of another building on Park Street which would have added to the city's tax roll. In the long run, the city would be making much more money with Lakeport Landing's commitment to expand, than Irwin Marine's one time over-payment.
The City Council took something special away from me to give to Irwin Marine, because they felt this was in the best interest of the city. Who is the city? Am I not part of the city? Is my family's taxpaying dollars since 1978 not part of the city? Are my employees who live here not part of the city?
Was it fair to view both parties as identical even though Lakeport Landing has invested hundreds of thousands into the property and Irwin Marine has invested nothing?
The City Council still has the opportunity to "get it right", if any one of the four councilors (Bownes, Doyle, Hamel or Lipman) would move to reconsider Monday's vote to sell the property to Irwin Marine and acknowledge that the process of our negotiations may not have been properly followed.