LACONIA — A developer is seeking a zoning variance in order to build a 90-unit apartment complex in the South End, arguing the waiver is necessary to make the project profitable.
Del R. Gilbert & Son Block Co. Inc. is seeking the variance to build a cluster of three 30-unit apartment buildings on 9.4 acres off Province Street, which abuts St. Lambert’s Cemetery, and the Happy Tails Dog Park.
A public hearing on the proposal is set to take place at the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s next scheduled meeting on Jan. 19.
The proposal requires a variance from the zoning board because 90 units exceeds the number allowed under the current ordinance. City's zoning regulations say between 57 and 58 apartment units are the maximum number allowed on that amount of acreage, city Planning Director Dean Trefethen explained.
Phillip Brouillard, a local attorney who is acting as the agent for the applicant, said the density limitation should be relaxed in order for the project to be economically viable.
“Only a 90-unit apartment complex is economically feasible from a cash flow standpoint due to increased construction costs of between $160,000 and $190,000 per unit. … Also a smaller (number) of units would not support on-site management which is desirable,” Brouillard wrote in the application.
Trefethen said each of the three buildings would be 2½ to three stories tall, and contain “market-rate” one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The land is located in the Residential General zone where multifamily dwellings are allowed by special exception. In order to receive a special exception, an applicant needs to show that the project will not create serious traffic congestion, not overload the city’s water, sewer or drainage systems, and not create excessive demands for emergency services, or seriously impact the city’s public school system.
The application states that the project meets all of those conditions.
The project does not qualify for consideration under the city’s “performance zoning,” initiative, which allows local boards to waive rules in order to pave the way for a project deemed helpful for the city. Those more flexible zoning rules currently apply only in the Downtown area and parts of Lakeport.
Trefethen said the land proposed for the apartment complex was a gravel pit for many years. Much of the neighboring area is occupied by single-family homes, he said.
The most recent market-rate apartments to be developed in the city are the 48-unit Apple Ridge development on Provencal Road that was completed in 2016, and the 30-unit Perley Canal Mill building at Beacon Street West in downtown.