Big Island, seen from Weirs Boulevard. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Residents packed a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting Monday night, many to voice opposition to a proposal to build a girls camp and conference center on Big Island.
Scott Everett, the owner of the 2.2-acre island, is requesting a special exception to residential zoning to move forward with his proposal. The island, now home to a single residence, is about 400 yards east of the marina at South Down Shores and some 1,500 feet north of Paugus Park Road.
After several people addressed the board, many expressed concerns that the camp would be a noisy nuisance and harmful to the loons and the environment, the board ended its meeting at 10 p.m. and agreed to take up the matter again on Nov. 20.
George Flanders, who lives on Paugus Park Road, disputed a study showing noise from the camp would just be at a background level.
“Who is going to be there monitoring the number of boats, the number of people, the noise level?” he asked. “They could have concerts at night. Noise travels over the water and we hear it on the weekends from the Margate, which is over twice the distance. He’s a real estate guy. He develops it. A couple years down the road, he sells it and makes a huge profit. The loons are gone by then.”
A few people also testified in favor of the proposal, saying Everett simply wants what’s best for the area and would like to create a place where girls could enjoy the lake and learn about the outdoors. He’s also planning to grant scholarships for girls who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.
Tim James, Scott Everett’s brother, said some neighbors have come to incorrect conclusions. The project is intended to help the community and young people, not to make money, he said.
The brothers grew up in Gilford. Everett now lives in Dallas, where he runs a successful mortgage company. He spends summers in Laconia on Paugus Bay.
“Really, the genesis behind this is not the nefarious plots that some of our neighbors seem to think it is,” James said. “He’s a single dad with a 10-year-old daughter. She goes to a private school and at that school they give out a lot of scholarships and they do a lot of giving back to the community, and that was kind of the genesis behind this.”
James said his brother has spent almost $2 million on the proposal so far, including piping utilities underground to the island.
“It’s probably going to cost him another $1 million to get this done, so from a businessman’s perspective, this is not an investment. Sometimes I feel bad for him because he’s taking the shots when he’s really trying to do something good for the community.”
Everett missed the meeting to be with his daughter on her birthday.
If the Zoning Board approves the request, it would still need to be considered by the Planning Board. If this proposal doesn’t move forward, as many as seven homes could be on the island under current zoning.
In September of last year, the City Council rejected a request to rezone the property from residential to commercial after neighbors expressed concerns.
The current request seeks to allay some of these concerns by maintaining residential zoning and being more specific in how the property would be used. It would host a girls camp during the summer. For part of the year, before and after the summer, small conferences could be held.
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.
Big Island is, appropriately enough, the larger of the two islands in Paugus Bay, 400 yards east of the South Down Shores development. It is being considered for development of a girls camp and conference center. (Courtesy Google Maps)