Barton's

The Barton's Motel sign on Union Avenue in Laconia is regarded by some people as iconic. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo/Adam Drapcho)

LACONIA — Backers of a conceptual plan to tear down Barton’s Motel told the Laconia Planning Board that they want to build high-end condominiums of 2,000 square feet or more, each with a panoramic view of Paugus Bay, and day docks for residents’ boats.

The Planning Board on Tuesday approved the concept, meaning the developer will now draw up a specific site plan for approval after a public hearing. Such conceptual reviews are part of a new performance zoning system under which projects that meet certain city goals can be more easily approved.

In this case, the 32 units planned for the 4.25-acre site at 1330 Union Ave., would exceed the approximate 25 units that would be allowed for the property. Under performance zoning, however, the board can waive that density restriction for a project that would boost the tax base and the local economy.

There is not enough room to give residents overnight docks, but there are ample slips at marinas nearby. Under the plan, they could drive their boats over and tie up at the day dock to load or unload.

Jon Rokeh, of Rokeh Consulting, presented the project before the board.

He said this will have the same architect, engineer and developer as were on a project on Christmas Island on Weirs Boulevard. Developers bought the 1950s-era Christmas Island motel on Weirs Boulevard and built 16 duplex townhomes that sold for about $600,000 each.

The development proposed for the Barton’s Motel site would include four, four-story buildings, each with eight units.

Jason LaCombe, a principal with SMP Architecture, said the views on the site are outstanding.

“The Barton’s Motel site has almost a 180-degree view (of Paugus Bay),” he said. “Obviously lakeside living is all about the view and access to the lake.”

Planning Board member Charlie St. Clair recommended that the developer consider preserving the motel signage, which has been a fixture on Union Avenue for many years. The first part of the motel was opened in 1937.

Ralph Meissner of DHB Homes, the builder, said no short-term rentals would be allowed on the property.

“The people who are going to be coming up here are going to be coming up on the weekends,” Meissner said. “I think you’ll probably have 30 to 40 percent living there, 50-60 percent are going to be weekenders. They are going to be coming up here because they want to be on Lake Winnipesaukee.”

Peter Brunette, chairman of the Planning Board, said his only concern about the proposed buildings are their four-story height, which is permitted in the site’s commercial zone. The size and height of the structures will make them quite prominent when viewed from the lake and from other areas of the shore.  

“That is a valid concern that people have raised," he said. "Under the law there isn’t much this board can do about it. But if this board isn’t concerned about such things, what other board would be?”

Also before the Planning Board on Tuesday night was a conceptual plan to turn a commercial building at 111 Church St., into apartments. The conversion of the building, and the addition of a second building, would yield a total of 16 units.

The board approved the concept, which requires performance zoning as it may require certain setback parameters to be waived.

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