City OKs structure, then backtracks

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This storage shed at 145 Daisy Gardner Road in Laconia was given approval years ago with the understanding it would house a lawn tractor and be a temporary structure. Now Laconia officials say it violates zoning rules. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Zoning panel refuses to grant variance


LACONIA — Three years ago, the city told Linda and Dennis Wright they didn't need a building permit to erect a temporary structure to cover farm equipment.

Once it was built, a code enforcement officer found no problem with the Quonset hut-like building, which uses two large storage containers as walls to support a rounded, 32-foot white plastic roof.

Now, the city says the beige shed violates zoning rules that prohibit storage containers in the area and violates setback requirements. This week, the Zoning Board of Adjustment denied the couple's request for a variance to allow the building, which will likely now have to be removed.

Those involved with this case say it speaks to larger issues involving the prevalence of shipping containers, the way buildings are assessed, the definition of temporary structures and the city's responsibility to make things right after erring in an initial finding.

Good faith

Philip Brouillard, the couple's attorney, said the Wrights, who live in a home on 9 acres of land at 145 Daisy Gardner Road, never intended to do anything wrong and communicated with the city early in the process to make sure they were acting appropriately.

They wanted a structure that could house a tractor used to mow their property and some nearby state land, he said. The shed is partially screened by trees.

Brouillard said he thought the couple had a good chance to get a variance because the city had no initial objection to the structure, but he understands why the board acted the way it did.

“These containers are popping up all over town,” he said. “The board wanted to take a hard line on these containers, except where they belong, and they didn't want to set a precedent.”

Setback rule

He also described the violation of the 40-foot setback requirement as a good-faith error. Part of the building meets the requirement, but the road curves, and a portion of the building extends a little too far.

The Wrights' property is next to Swain State Forest and about a mile from homes on Leighton Avenue North on the shore of Lake Winnisquam. Two people who live along the lake urged the board to deny the Wrights' application.

Art Abelmann questioned whether the structure was truly temporary. The Wrights said the roof was welded and bolted to the shipping containers and noted that it would be difficult to move to meet the setback requirement.

City zoning rules are silent on the question of whether a “temporary” structure becomes permanent after a certain amount of time.

Tax assessment

Abelmann said there are tax ramifications.

“If this building has been there and now we call it permanent because of the welding, has it been assessed as such and are the owners paying the appropriate taxes?” he said. “If I'm paying my share and we're going to call this a permanent building, let's have it assessed as such.

“I don't say this against the Wrights. I say this about every property in the city. To my understanding, there are plenty of these kinds of situations where people have built temporary structures, which means the tax revenue is not there, impacting all of us by the fact that we still need to have that revenue come from somewhere.”

He also questioned the Wrights' contention that the setback violation results from a curving road. Aerial images seem to show the road is fairly straight near the shed.

Abelmann also provided the board with photographs showing cranes in the structure, which he said is far taller than would be needed to store a tractor and other farm implements. The couple run Reliable Crane Service.

Rural area

Dave Greski, who lives on Leighton Avenue North, said the cranes are not in keeping with the rural nature of the area.

“We're very concerned about the change of the neighborhood from being a farm area where the applicants own property from being turned into a commercial property,” he said.

Planning Director Dean Trefethen said the Wrights' company meets the requirements for operating at that site.

Brouillard, the couple's attorney, said they haven't decided whether they will appeal the board's action. Another option would be to build a permanent structure without storage containers and with a proper setback from the road.

“A couple of abutters at the end of the road had a hair across their posterior, but the Wrights could have the same building with a permanent foundation and permanent walls a couple feet away from where the current structure is located,” he said.

Paugus Bay Marina grows


LLACONIA — Paugus Bay Marina, which was recently sold, will break ground in June on a two-phase expansion at an eight-acre site it has purchased near the Gilford Home Center on Gilford East Drive.
The first phase will see two boat storage buildings and a workshop building erected this year with two more boat storage buildings planned in the near future.
“It’s a new era. We’re so busy at our current location that we’ve run out of space. We already have Planning Board approval for the project,” said Kori Keenan of Paugus Bay Marina. He said the company stores 700 boats a year and needs additional space for storage as well as maintenance and repair.
Keenan, a former fourth-grade teacher at the Bessie Rowell Elementary School in Franklin, is the new person in charge at the marina.
In recent years he has served as general manager of the marina and has spent 18 years learning the business from the ground up under the tutelage of his uncle, Kevin Keenan, who opened the marina on Sheridan Street in Lakeport in 1995.
The marina was sold last month to Kevin Keenan’s brother, Gregg, the retired vice president of manufacturing for Freudenberg-NOK in Bristol, for $2,850,000.
“I started working here in 2000 as a utility guy, running the forklift, selling boats, working on repairs and helping out in the office. He taught me everything, from soup to nuts, about the boat business,” says Keenan.
A 1993 graduate of Gilford High School who earned a degree at Plymouth State College in 1997, Keenan got his start, just like his uncle, working summers at Channel Marine at the Weirs.
“He asked me to start working for him in 2000 and this has been my job ever since,” said Keenan.
He is looking forward to the challenge of being in charge of the marina as it works on a major expansion.
Paugus Bay Marina has two locations, the 4.14-acre Sheridan Street property with four buildings as well as dock space, and a second showroom at 1258 Union Ave. where the former Fitzgerald Motorsports building, that it leases, is located.
Keenan said his uncle is retiring from the business and that his father, Gregg, plans to limit his role in the business to that of providing the finances for the purchase and expansion.
He said the business has undergone rapid growth, especially since becoming the only Formula dealership in northern New England eight years ago. Keenan said he has learned valuable lessons from his uncle and plans to continue to maintain the same friendly atmosphere and community involvement that
“We’re going to continue on the same path and keep the same people who have brought us to where we are. We’ve built a reputation for service first and foremost and that won’t change,” said Keenan.
Laurie Fox, who has been with the business since it opened, will continue to be the office manager and Tommy Oliver, a master certified mechanic, will still be there, while Eric Van Steensburg, will be in charge of the service department.
The marina has raised over $100,000 for charities in recent years through its annual golf tournaments and every year hosts a large customer appreciation event that features food and live music.

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Kori Keenan of Paugus Bay Marina says the business will be expanding its boat storage and maintenance and repairs operations to Gilford East Drive. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

Gilford native’s visit to Aruba leads to life’s work promoting island


NEW YORK CITY — When Ed Malone was transferred to Aruba in 1987, he thought he would be there for a period of time measured in months. The island was then a sleepy outcropping with a nascent hospitality industry, and it got under his skin. Today, though he lives and works in New York City, Malone’s head and heart are still in Aruba.
Malone, a Gilford native and member of the Laconia High School graduating class of 1972, works for the Aruba Tourism Authority as the area director for North America, a region which represents the majority of visitors to the south Caribbean island. And, since tourism has grown to dominate the Aruba economy, Malone is responsible for a significant part of the nation’s gross domestic product.
But this weekend, Malone will be back where he started, in Gilford. He will be joining a co-worker to represent Aruba at Penny Pitou Travel’s “Passport to the World” Travel Show, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at Contigiani’s Event Center, located at 140 Country Club Road in Gilford.
“I lived a stone’s throw from where this trade show is at Pheasant Ridge (Country Club),” Malone said. He grew up on Glenridge Way and attended elementary school in Gilford, then, because Gilford Middle and High School hadn’t yet been built, went to high school in Laconia.
As a young man, Malone wasn’t sure what was next for him. He went to UNH for a year, then came back home to regroup, but soon was back at UNH.
“Somehow, I’m not really sure, I ended up enrolling in the business school, hotel administration.” He graduated in December of 1977, and got a job in upstate New York.
“By education and profession, I am a hotelier.”
For the next decade, he worked for various hotels around the country – Iowa, Tennessee, Texas – and he was working for a hotel company in Minnesota when he was asked to take a temporary station in Aruba, where the company had purchased the Americana Aruba Beach Resort and Casino.
“I was there for two months and they said, ‘Do you want to stay here and run this hotel or go back to Minnesota?’” Malone ended up running that hotel, a 200-room beachside property, for 12 years.
“After I had spent many years there, I said, this is where I’m supposed to be,” he said, though the Aruba of today is different from the island of 30 years ago.
When he arrived, Aruba had a few hotels and limited contact with the bustle of the outside world. Perishable goods arrived on a container ship, once each month. Over that time, Malone has seen hospitality flourish into the island’s biggest and most consistent businesses. Aruba’s location, less than 20 miles north of Venezuela, is outside of the hurricane path, and its low crime rate and calm, sandy beaches have made it the preferred destination for many island vacationers. And, on the strength of the hospitality industry, Aruba now has the highest standard of living in the Caribbean.
After the Americana, Malone worked for several other hotels in Aruba, while also consulting with business associations. Since 2014, he has worked for the Aruba Tourism Authority.
His new job came with a catch. Since he was tasked with selling the island to the U.S. and Canada, he would have to leave the tropical paradise for its polar opposite: New York City.
“When they asked me to come here, I said, wow, if I thought moving to Aruba from Minnesota was culture shock, moving from an island in the southern Caribbean to Manhatten?... It’s just a whole different kind of life.”
There are about 750,000 visitors to Aruba from the U.S. and Canada each year, not including cruise ship passengers. That represents 65 percent of all visitation to the island, and most of those visitors are from Boston, New York or Philadelphia.
Malone lives and works in the city, though he continues to own a home in Aruba, which he visits whenever he can.
It’s worth it for him, because he can continue to promote and grow an industry that he has helped to foster for the past 30 years, for an island to which he has become devoted.
“It’s been great to be part of it, quite frankly. Great people, I developed a sense of passion and love for the island,” he said. “What I really enjoy is promotion of the destination, the fact that I can tell the Aruba story... I love telling that story because I have lived it, it’s a unique opportunity to be able to do that. I have seen Aruba grow from a small island that welcomed a few tourists 30 years ago to a major player in the Caribbean. I get a great sense of satisfaction out of it.”
Malone’s visit this weekend will be the first time home in more than four years.
“I’m looking forward to driving around my old stomping grounds. I always find, when I go back, as much as it changes, it doesn’t change. It’s changed so much, but it’s still the feel of a neat little New England, New Hampshire town. It brings back great memories.”

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Ed Malone