Developer appeals denial of Big Island summer camp


LACONIA — Backers of a proposal to build a girls camp and conference center on Paugus Bay's Big Island have asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment to revisit its decision against the project.

On Nov. 20, the board voted, 4-0, against a request by Scott Everett, owner of the 2.2-acre island, for a special exception to allow this use in a residential area.

Board members cited concerns over safety, boat traffic, wetlands impacts, light pollution and strain on city services. The overflow audience cheered when the proposal was rejected.

A rehearing request brought by Everett's NH-Big Island Co. will be considered by the board on Jan. 16. The request contends that:

  • Suzanne Perley, who was acting as chairman of the panel, should have been disqualified because she “prejudged the application, and was not indifferent in her review.” The request asks that an alternate be seated in Perley's place for further considerations.
  • The board erred in concluding that none of the special exception criteria were met.
  • The denial of the application is an “unconstitutional taking” in which the board failed to pay for a perceived public benefit of preserving the island in its present state.

Everett did not immediately return a call for comment on Friday.

Perley said it would be up to the board to determine as to how to proceed and declined further comment.

Planning Director Dean Trefethen said that, if the board grants the request for rehearing, the project would be reconsidered at the panel's meeting next month.

He said the request included substantive arguments.

“They have made some good points,” he said. “Some are in the category that everybody has a different point of view. Some are worth consideration by the board.”

He said a key issue is whether the project fits the loose definition of a conference center under zoning regulations. The board felt it didn't meet the definition.

“That definition is very broad and somewhat vague and allowing for interpretation,” Trefethen said.

Many neighbors strongly object to the proposal in its current and previous iterations.

They have mentioned the potential for noise, traffic and a loss of home values. They expressed concerns about public safety and the viability of loons that nest there. They questioned whether a nearby waste treatment center could effectively handle the extra load. They wondered whether Everett, who owns several other properties in the area, has a secret agenda.

Everett, who lives in Dallas and runs a nationwide mortgage company, says he has no ulterior motive and merely wants to give back to the community where he grew up. He has a 10-year-old daughter and wants girls, including the underprivileged, to learn about the outdoors and have a chance to enjoy the lake.

Tim James, Scott Everett’s brother, has said his brother spent $2 million on the proposal so far, including piping utilities underground to the island.

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.

A planner, an acoustics consultant and an attorney, all part of the team hired by Everett, have testified that any effects associated with the camp and conference center, which would be used only part of the year, would be less than if several homes are built there, as residential zoning currently permits.

They point to noise tests showing that the sounds from 40 summer campers would not exceed existing background levels and that there would be no amplified sounds. Conference activities would be indoors.

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