By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A proposal to build a girls camp and conference center on a 2.2-acre island in Paugus Bay will return to the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday, where backers will seek a special exception to residential zoning to move forward with the project.
The last time the plan for Big Island was before the board, on Oct. 16, many neighbors expressed concerns over the potential for noise and harm to loons. A few spoke in favor of the project. The panel ran out of time and continued the matter to Monday's meeting.
Scott Everett owns the island, which is 400 yards east of the marina at South Down Shores and 1,500 feet north of Paugus Park Road. A horizontal drilling operation brought utility service to the island through the rock under the lake.
Everett, who runs a nationwide mortgage company based in Dallas, grew up in Gilford and spends summers in Laconia on Paugus Bay.
He said Friday in a phone interview that he wants to give something back to the community and provide girls, including the underprivileged, a chance to learn about the environment and enjoy the lake. He has a 10-year-old daughter.
“I hope that we don't let four or five people on one street curtail what would otherwise be an absolutely enriching experience for people for years to come,” Everett said.
“There's no nefarious behavior, no crude intention.”
He said his intentions are philanthropic. He provided the island to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a visit by a young brain cancer survivor.
He thinks his proposal would foster economic development.
“When you bring families to the area, they use hotels and restaurants,” Everett said. “Laconia needs to think about economic redevelopment for the entire city, and one of the ways to do it is like this, bring people in.”
Those who visit might want to make investments of their own in the region, he said.
To address community concerns, Everett sent invitations to neighbors and came to Laconia two weeks ago for a meeting. Only two couples showed up.
He said a study has shown that the sounds generated by the camp would essentially be at the level of background noise. There would be no outdoor speakers. All attempts would be made to protect the environment and wildlife, he said.
Neighbors have disputed that study, saying sound carries over the water and that the noise from the camp would be above background levels.
Everett said that if this plan doesn't go forward, existing zoning allows five homes on the island, where there is only one now. He said adding these homes would have a greater impact than a camp and conference center used only part of the year.
If the Zoning Board approves the request, it would still need to be considered by the Planning Board.