By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Big Island in Paugus Bay would be home to a conference center, retreat space for nonprofit organizations and a girls camp under a proposal to be considered Monday by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The owner of the 2.2-acre island, which is about 400 yards east of the marina at South Down Shores and some 1,500 feet north of Paugus Park Road, is seeking a special exception to residential zoning to allow the project.
In September of last year, the City Council rejected a request to rezone the property from residential to commercial after neighbors complained that the development would disrupt their privacy and the quiet nature of the area.
The application for special exception said the proposal has been modified.
“In subsequent discussions with the neighbors and city staff, one of the major concerns identified with the rezoning proposal was the potential for a wide variety of commercial uses that could be allowed on the island,” the application says. “In response to that concern, the proposal has been modified to a specific use (conference center) allowed by special exception while keeping the underlying residential single family zoning in place.”
Public utilities are piped to the island, where there is now one residence.
The island is owned by NH-Big Island Company, a nonprofit owned by Scott Everett.
“The development plans include remodeling the existing house into the director's residence and infirmary with a bath house addition, constructing a dining/meeting building and erecting five wooden tents, four on elevated platforms supported by sonotube piers and one at ground level for handicap accessibility.”
Guests, deliveries and most staff would arrive by boat from the Paugus Bay Marina, and one power boat would always be docked at the island. A 20-person pontoon boat would be used to transport campers to the marina for occasional day trips.
A loon nesting site on the eastern shore of the island is to be protected. Noise and visual impacts are also addressed in the application.
“In response to a neighborhood concern about potential noise impacts, a noise study was recently completed by a certified acoustical consultant who concluded that the estimated level of 30 dBA from children engaged in waterfront activity will be at or below the existing background sound level, and well below the average sound levels in the area,” the application stated. “The structures have been located in the open areas and around existing trees to minimize the amount of disturbance to existing vegetation.”